Introducing a free tier

As of today, App.net is a freemium service

Although App.net has had only paid account tiers thus far, we initially conceived of  App.net as a freemium service. It took some time to get to this point, but we are now ready to make this vision a reality.

Some background

On July 13, 2012, the App.net project was announced. From that announcement:

…a site called Github came out. It was good. They had no advertising, but charged money for certain features. They quickly became profitable because the service was so good and so important, people were willing to pay. Github has become a much-loved brand and service, and many would agree that it is a key piece of infrastructure in the technical renaissance we are currently experiencing. Github is apparently profitable, and it sounds like the people that work there spend their time trying to make the best service possible, as opposed to spending their time trying to extract additional pennies out of their users.

Contemplate for a moment how scary a theoretical purely ad-supported Dropbox would be. I can easily imagine the overly-cheerful corporate blogpost explaining why placing ads in my personal documents, or selling the file-listing of my music collection to the music industry, or shutting down IFTTT API access is “important to the health and welfare of the community.”

It’s worth quoting the initial App.net announcement to remember that Github and Dropbox were explicitly cited as models for the (then hypothetical) App.net platform. Both of those services are “freemium”, i.e. they have both free and paid tiers of service. The fact that the App.net announcement argued that these freemium services are better aligned with the interests of users than ad-supported ones are was not an accident.

Why now is the time to introduce a free tier

App.net was created to support and empower a vibrant ecosystem of applications built by 3rd-party developers. However, in the very beginning there was a significant chicken and egg problem: there were no 3rd-party apps. The good news is that at this point, the chicken-and-egg problem has been eliminated: there are now over 100 3rd-party App.net apps in existence, available on a wide range of platforms.

We wanted to take sufficient time to build a robust and powerful API. One of our explicit goals is to help empower different types of applications, not just microblogging. We have now completed the Message and File APIs, both of which enable a multitude of possible applications.

We wanted to build a pleasant out-of-the-box experience for new users. We have since introduced a 3rd-party app directory, dramatically improved our signup experience, and have constantly tweaked aspects of the service based on feedback.

Remember, a very short time ago App.net existed as an idea proposed in a blogpost… not a functioning service. As stated at the time, the goal of the backing period was to determine whether a paid market existed for our platform. Since there are numerous examples of freemium business models which didn’t succeed, we wanted to be very careful in our approach to pricing. We have been spending the past few months learning and analyzing data in order to come up with a plan for a sustainable and beneficial free tier.

Free tier details

To get access to the App.net free tier, you must have an invite. These invites are being distributed to current App.net members on paid plans.

Free tier accounts are similar to paid tier accounts, but with a few limitations. These limitations are as follows:

  • Free tier accounts can follow a maximum of 40 users
  • Free tier accounts have 500 MB of available file storage
  • Free tier accounts can upload a file with a maximum size of 10 MB

More about the invitation system

As an added bonus, members can earn additional file storage by inviting friends. Both the inviting member and the invited member will receive 100 MB of additional storage if both of these things happen:

  • The invited member follows at least 5 other accounts
  • The invited member authorizes a third-party app

Accounts that were previously invited to a 30-day free trial are now automatically enrolled in the free tier, no action is necessary. Additionally, any existing invites that have been sent and unclaimed will also function as invites to the free tier without needing any additional action.

The road ahead

We’d like to thank all of the existing members of the community for being part of manifesting something amazing out of thin air in just 6 months. The rate of innovation and participation in the nascent App.net ecosystem has been astounding. We look forward to seeing this pattern continue!

In the coming days we will be closely monitoring how the invitation system is working, and will adjust the availability of invites accordingly.

Don’t forget: invitations aren’t the only way to create an App.net account. Anyone can go here to get instant access by signing up with a paid plan.

Thank you,

Dalton & the App.net team