App.net has gone Freemium. The service that had been slagged off as Twitter for people who have fifty dollars now has thrown the gates open wide, though not wide enough for everyone to come in at once. Free users need to be invited by an existing, paid user, and are limited to following 40 people, and to 500 MB of storage, with a per-file limit of 10 MB. 
I’ve written about App.net before, and how unimpressed I am with the service. It’s great for certain things. The community is still small enough that a user’s post can be spotted on the global public timeline, and get a response. People on App.net that would drown in Twitter @-replies will actually @-reply you back. It’s conversational.
If Twitter is Times Square—a comparison that is increasingly apt—App.net is the prototypical small town square, for good and for ill. These are comparisons made before, and by better writers, but they bear repeating. The paid barrier to entry has, however, kept App.net from reaching critical mass. Marco Arment has noted that this may be the reason for the new direction. I’m inclined to agree, and that was the crux of my previous post on the service.
I’m glad to see App.net taking the service more open, and I hope the Freemium model works for them. It’s to everyone’s benefit for the service to get more users and have more engagement. On the adoption curve, App.net has most of the early adopter crowd. Though they probably don’t aspire to a large-scale, or at least a Twitter-scale network, they do need to do whatever has to be done to keep moving along that curve. It’s a question of survival. They need users, they need users to stick around, and they need users to pay to move to premium, which is more likely to happen when the service provides them more value.
Yet, I know that people are going to raise a bit of hell. As a paid service, App.net has the “geek elite” credibility that Twitter no longer has. Part of the motivation for its existence was, and I read this from multiple technology writers, that Twitter was being taken over by the “normals.” Problem is, that’s an inevitability of any technology or service, whether they’re a large-scale service or otherwise. If you really want a small network, free from the riff-raff, there’s always tent.io.
Good luck, App.net, and Godspeed.
Paid users get 10GB, though hell if I know how to use it. ↩