Back in 2012, I interviewed for .net magazine a chap by the name of Dalton Caldwell. He was a man with a plan, with the aim to create a realtime feed platform that would become “what Twitter could have been”.

Now, I like ‘Twitter the service’ an awful lot, but ‘Twitter the company’ makes me edgy. It’s very developer hostile when it comes to clients, and it’s also well on its way to becoming a platform for pushing advertising. I very much hope it doesn’t become the mess that Facebook is these days, but Twitter’s customers are increasingly businesses, not you, the user.

Caldwell’s App.Net takes a different stance. Although in a sense broadly similar to Twitter (you post, follow, repost, ‘star’, and so on), it’s based around paid tiers of membership (one for developers, and one for everyone else). This means the users are the customers, and it also keeps out spam. (Say ‘iPad’ on Twitter at your peril; say it on App.Net whenever you like. Hell, say it often, just because you can—until people start asking if you’ve been hollowed out and replaced by an Apple advertising robot.) It’s also, in my experience, resulted in a quieter but clearly content and happy community.

There’s also a free tier, which at the time of writing requires an invite from a paying member, and that also has some limitations, such as the number of people you can follow. Possibly because I’m a journalist a reasonable number of people follow, but probably more likely because I in my press photo look a bit like Seth MacFarlane, App.Net have given me a pile of invites to the service. So if you’d like to join me on App.Net, get your free invitation here, while stocks last.

If you’d like to know more about the service, read Matt Gemmell’s excellent post, which explores account discovery and the clients available for a range of platforms.