About.me, the online identity platform that spun out from Aol* at the beginning of the year before acquiring the one-time Digg spinout Wefollow, is now lifting the curtains on its plans to generate revenue, with today’s debut of About.me Premium. Via this new, paid tier to the service, the company is adding some of the more advanced features users have requested, including domain mapping, Google Analytics integration, the ability to remove the About.me branding, and more, for a $4 per month fee. And that’s just to start.
This is the first time About.me has charged users for any aspect of its service, co-founder Ryan Freitas tells us. With today’s release, the site will begin to offer features aimed at professional users, like the ability to display their About.me page on their own custom domain name – the most in-demand user request to date, he says. The site will walk users through the process of adjusting their DNS settings to map the new domain to their page.
To accompany this change, Premium users can also remove the branding on their page, which includes the “about.me” logo and the top navigation bar entirely. However, branding won’t entirely disappear. A small button at the bottom will still say “me,” pointing those who are interested to more details about the About.me service.
Users will also be able to check site statistics using Google Analytics, and jump to the front of support queues with priority email support. The company isn’t yet committing to a guaranteed turn-around time, however, because they’re currently unsure what user support volume will be. But Freitas says the company has always taken support seriously, and is now staffing up on the customer service side of the business.
The company also announced its future plans with Premium, which speaks to how it will integrate the technology acquired by the purchase of Wefollow, which today still serves as a discovery tool that helps Twitter users find others to follow by interest.
“There will be a secondary tier that allows for people who want to be discovered,” explains Freitas. “We’re going to be able to create a paid tier using the algorithms from Wefollow to promote [users] into a variety of different mechanisms that we’ll be unveiling over the next few months,” he says.
This will include a search directory, similar to the one Wefollow offers today, as well as tools that will allow premium users to pay for better search placements. “That will probably be one of the first things we roll out – improved search and promoted search,” Freitas adds.
About.me is working on improvements to its mobile application, which launched around a year ago. The app today serves more as a mobile-optimized way to use About.me’s service, by allowing users to create personal pages, discover and network with others, and similar to another startup called Highlight, it also helps you find nearby people. That latter feature – serendipitous discovery – hasn’t proven to be as successful a use case as originally thought, however. On mobile, the app needs to find a way to have a regular draw – something that would addict users to have them checking it or using it often.
What that might be is a little bit up the air, but when we asked Freitas if the company would ever want to inch into the “social contacts” space to compete with apps like Brewster or Cobook, for instance, he didn’t rule it out.
“I think there’s a defined space for mobile apps that try to handle contacts,” he says. “I think that if we were to do something, we would take a little bit of new tack on it…We know we have a little time to experiment, but we know we need to update the app.”
Premium tiers for the social service aren’t the only potential sources of revenue for About.me. Though the company today offers a variety of page customization tools, it’s in desperate need of complete themes where everything from font choice to background images is chosen for those users (ahem) lacking design chops.
Freitas agrees that’s an avenue they want to explore, noting that the WordPress theme marketplace model is “fantastic,” and that there is a “cohort of users who needs our help, and would love to be able to purchase those things.”
But that’s further down the road.
The new subscription-based Premium tier, however, is live today. You can sign up from the About.me homepage here.
Disclosures!: About.me’s previous owner, Aol, is TechCrunch’s parent company. CrunchFund, a fund backed by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, also invests in the startup.