Today, launched its freemium model to the world, allowing paid users to invite people to sign-up for free accounts.  The launch caught many people by surprise, me included, since the original idea behind the social networking platform was to build out a network that focused solely on the user and wasn’t beholden to advertisers.

Now if you’re not going to use advertising, typically you need to sell something, so that’s what did.  In an effort to build a sustainable business, first charged people $50/year, then when the initial infatuation with the service wore off, they lowered it to $36/year.  The problem as it appears is that even that didn’t work. traffic has been declining steadily since the Kickstarter campaign ended, leading me to question whether or not people would renew their subscriptions when the time came.

But now, the company has dropped this whole freemium thing in our laps.  I never got the memo, and its certainly not why I signed up for originally.  I thought everyone would have to pay to get in, it’s sort of like a final club, you know–it would be exclusive (to quote The Social Network movie).  But no, in the blog post by Dalton Caldwell today, that all changed.  Dalton wrote [emphasis my own], “Although has had only paid account tiers thus far, we initially conceived of as a freemium service. It took some time to get to this point, but we are now ready to make this vision a reality.”

Again, that’s not what I remember from reading the original marketing materials.

Regardless, now paid members can invite new people to and they can sign-up for free (with limitations) to a service that was once paid-only.  So why isn’t anyone angry about this?  Well, to be honest, I think it has to do with the fact that the service has been so “dead” for so long now.  People just aren’t using it.  By inviting people, you get more of your friends on the site and therefore are more likely to use it (at least, I’m thinking that is what hopes).  You have to figure that the people who already paid for the service just want to get the most value from it, so if that means inviting friends who can sign-up for free then so be it.

At least that’s why I’m not angry about the freemium announcement, and because of the news of free accounts, the service experienced a huge influx of usage today, so much so that they had to roll out performance improvements and fixes.

Will the traffic stay this time?  It’s hard to tell.  I hate to see companies fail, so I’m hoping succeeds here, but it’s really anyone’s guess.

My subscription isn’t up until March 2014 (the first subscribers will see their subscription up for renewal in April 2014), so there’s still plenty of time for to turn it around. Let’s just hope it can.