Until now, one of the defining aspects of App.net's upstart social network has been the fact that it costs $36 a year (or $5 a month) to belong. The price of participation keeps droves of new members from flooding in — and that may be a good thing if the main thing you care about is the quality of the conversation, since people who pay up are more likely to be thoughtful, fully-engaged members of the community.
Now the service is introducing a free level of service. But as CEO Dalton Caldwell explains, it's not throwing the doors wide open:
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
The services which App.net offers — a Twitter-style discussion network and online storage — have plenty of free, freely-available competitors with less restrictive policies. So anyone who uses App.net's free version will do so because they believe in its community and its philosophies, which include encouraging the creation of third-party apps (there are now over a hundred of 'em) and avoiding ads and other forms of monetization which bring third parties other than users into the equation. It'll be interesting to see if the free option has any fundamental impact on the service's scale and personality.