App.net is a small social networking and microblogging service that’s quite popular among developers and tech industry people. Unlike other such services that are available for free but generate their revenue by showing ads or promoted content, and monetizing users’ information, App.net works on a subscription model for generating its revenue, and is completely ad-free. The network only recently announced free accounts but they are tied down to invite codes that are hard to come by. Joining it will cost you, unless you can score an invite for a free account. App.net Passport is an app released by App.net for discovering client apps for the service available on the App Store but in addition, for those who still haven’t been able to sign up for a free account, this app is your ticket into the network. Not only does it allow you to search for App.net clients, manage your profile, and discover new people to follow, it also lets you sign up for a free App.net account and gives you immediate access to it. No waiting lists, invite codes, or voodoo involved.
If you already have an App.net account, you can sign in and view a list of clients for the network, or wait just a bit and a ‘Need an account’ banner will appear at the bottom of the sign in screen. Tap it to proceed to the registration page. You will have to verify your email address in order to complete the sign up process, but you get instant access to the service.
If you’ve signed up for a new account, the app will guide you through setting up your profile and finding people to follow. If you already have an account, the app will show you a list of App.net clients available on the App Store that you can download. You can preview apps as they would appear in the App Store without having to switch to it. The apps you see here will not only include exclusive clients for App.net, but they may (or may not) support connecting with other social networks as well.
Tap the menu button at the top-right to open the slide-out menu. Here, you can choose to edit your profile or discover new users to follow. The profile editor lets you update your profile, and chose an avatar as well as a cover photo. You can also log out of the app if you like.
App.net Passport isn’t a client for the social network itself. While it does let you expand or reduce the number of people in your network, it doesn’t let you view your feeds or post to them. It is primarily an app for discovering App.net apps. More importantly. it can get you a much-coveted free account. The app has been released by App.net so there is little risk of the feature getting pulled, unless of course the response is overwhelming. Do note that the free account does have some limitations such as a maximum limit of 40 on people you can follow, and possibly others. Let’s just hope Apple doesn’t decide to target the app along with the other app discovery apps that it’s recently been taking down.