Twitter Challenger Inches Toward the Mainstream With Free Beta

By Cameron Scott, twitter, microblogging, social networks, social took another step toward becoming a serious competitor for Twitter by rolling out a free membership program.

The membership is available to those invited by paying members. (An individual membership costs $36 a year.)

The service launched in July after Twitter warned developers it would restrict use of its API. It raised money promising to offer a better experience for users and third-party developers than most other social networks by relying on a fremium revenue model rather than advertisements.

Since then, has been fine-tuning its offerings and building out its catalogue of third-party apps.

“We wanted to take sufficient¬†time to build a¬†robust and powerful API,” the company said in its announcement of the free beta. has endeavored to recapture the many possible use cases that Twitter long ago abandoned, offering messaging and cloud storage.

The free subscription allows users to follow up to 40 others, store up to 500 MB of data and upload files of 10 MB.

The company said it will be “closely monitoring how the invitation system is working” and may adjust availability accordingly.