They typically signal to me that the service is in some kind of bad financial state (and hoping to prop things up with an influx of one-time payments).
On the part of the providers, they attract pathologically bad customers. Lifetime memberships set up all kinds of weird incredibly hard to fulfill expectations.
It's a truism in SAAS community that someone paying $5/mo will be 10x the support and onboarding nightmare of someone willing to pay $50/mo.
All that being said, Fastmail has moved aggressively away from them to the extent that I (as a paying Fastmail customer for the last 3 years) never even knew they existed. And while I think they're a bad idea, I do think that a promise is a promise and if they offered them they should abide by them.
Sure from, FastMail's point of view my father is a bad customer. Not that he's even aware who FastMail are though ...
But FastMail freely chose to make the poor business decision to offer that lifetime service for a one-time payment, and I freely chose to purchase that service for my father.
We had an agreement.
Now I would like them to honour that agreement.
On the topic of support - one thing that's hard for FastMail is that with customers who are paying every month/year/whatever, we have a billing contact which gives us a way to get in touch when their account gets locked. Non-paying accounts are just as likely to have their credentials stolen and used for spam, but they are even _more_ costly to re-identify the owner.
Refusing to try to identify the owner and just leaving locked accounts locked would get us just as much bad press as this, and be much worse for the affected users - since there would be no warning period before losing the account.
The Member service was always intended to be the same as Guest, but allow commercial use and not have ads. We decided many years ago that the ads business was not for us (it's part of why we left Opera, they were focusing more on the advertising business, and we wanted no part of it.)
We didn't actually use the term "lifetime", we said "one-time payment". I know it sounds like weasel words - but we chose to shut both Guest and Member down at the same time because they are basically the same. That payment was supposed to offset advertising revenue - it certainly doesn't offset the cost of keeping things deliverable in today's world where email accounts have become a really important part of people's online identities. Email account theft has become the way to send spam, as domain reputation makes it much easier to send through stolen accounts than just blast SMTP directly.
So we appear to be pretty horrible to the people who don't value their service enough to pay US$3/month for it, but as you noted - it became a choice between having our paying customers keep subsidising the support costs of stopping spam through those stolen non-paying accounts, or shutting them down and making our sending addresses more trustworthy for those willing to pay.
I can understand if I bought the lifetime plan and you go under or pivot to something entirely different and it ends, but it seems churlish if you're still in the same business and you renege on the first people who believed in you.
Seems much smarter to me to make these things "free for x months/years" etc. and at least cap your costs if this approach is the best way to get signups.
It's the equivalent of a "lifetime warranty" where you just fail to stipulate that it's the lifetime of the product and not the buyer.
Secondly, it seems odd to be pedantic about such a detail when the comment itself already defines the details relevant to the analogy, making it a self-contained statement even if you didn't know what warrantees were. An analogy doesn't have to map 1-to-1 to work, as that's what makes it an analogy as opposed to an equivalence. Saying that a dog is as big as a cat doesn't make it a flawed analogy just because the dog doesn't have sharp claws and pointy ears.
It's like if I'd invested $100 in Amazon at IPO, which is worth around $64K today but Jeff Bezos could now but my stock back for the original $100 as long as he offered me half-price on a new Kindle.
What? No. I don't see how those two things are at all comparable.
A lifetime service contract isn't an investment vehicle with variable valuation over time. It is a service contract.
Moreover, lifetime service contracts sold for a one time fee should always be regarded with a fiercely critical eye: without recurring revenue, how is the service provider realistically going to be able to provide that service at a profit indefinitely? At some point, they ARE going to drop it, or they've figured out a way to use that service to drive additional profits.
The fact that FastMail management at that time made the (very) poor business decision to offer lifetime service for a one time fee is NOT MY PROBLEM.
Now, I'll just repeat verbatim what I said in the other thread.
> FastMail made an agreement - $15 in exchange for a lifetime member account.
>Now they don't want to honour that agreement.
>And they've created work for me: What to do about my father's email account?
>I have his email address as part of the domain that I have associated with my (legacy) FastMail enhanced account. They've discontinued family accounts for new signups.
I do realize putting "lifetime" on anything brings heavy emotional weight. But in the end it's simply another contract which, even without any malintent, get broken all the time. If you are the damaged party you can use the legal system to seek damages, if you feel the inflicted damage warrants going through the trouble.
Besides FastMail is in Australia, my father is in the UK and I am in Japan ...
Also, would the court order FastMail to continue to offer service to my father, which is what I want. I very much doubt that. FastMail would just be allowed to make the offer of the $15 plus some half-price deal on another plan, which they have done already.
On the other hand, companies do seem to rather dislike bad publicity. So when they try and back-out of past agreements and contacts that no longer suit them, it is far more effective to call them out publicly on forums like this one.
Now, I don't know the details of the contract, but generally, the value this is about is not $15. The value is the damage caused by them failing to fulfill their contracts, which would be the discounted value of the market price of all future payments needed to replace their failure to perform.
There is no general legal option for one party to a contract to simply pull out and give you back your money. They owe you what they promised in the contract, and if they don't deliver, they are liable for the damage that that causes for you.
If this was about serious money, that's how my lawyer would argue it.
But for $15 I'm not going to try that in a small claims court in the UK say. I've been there once and the judge was one of the most condescending, pompous dimwits that I'd ever encountered.
Unfortunately, I have no idea whether you could make that claim in the UK, as you signed a document which sets Victoria, Australia as the venue for lawsuits. (And that there provides the reason to purchase services from a company that has an EU presence.)
Just wondering: Where did those $15 come from?
> A lifetime service contract isn't an investment vehicle with variable valuation over time. It is a service contract.
Well, then you are wrong, both legally and economically?
An "investment vehicle" doesn't really exist, in that sense. What exists is a contract of sorts where you agree on the terms of payment and other benefits (such as control over a company), and that both/all sides have to honor ... and a contract is a contract is a contract. Whether you happen to hold what amounts to a bond, specifically a perpetuity, that happens to pay its interest in the form of email service is kindof legally completely irrelevant to the question of whether the other party has to honor a contract.
Also, it's economical nonsense, as there obviously is a market rate for the kind of email services that fastmail provides, and that's obviously the valuation of that contract to the customer, and that valuation obviously varies over time with the market price for email service. Just because it's an illiquid asset (you can't easily sell the contract to a third party) doesn't make it not have a variable valuation.
Shares in publicly traded corporations exist. I can buy them. I can sell them. Their value changes over time. Their purpose is to provide funding to the corporation, in exchange for the perception that they'll provide a return to the investor. It is an exceedingly common thing to sell them to a third party - have a look at the volume on your favorite stock exchange.
A service contract, first and foremost, is a contract between a provider and a purchaser, for the provider to provide a service to the purchaser. It may or may not be transferable. It does have a value, but, much of the time, a B2C service contract isn't a thing that is traded or sold. It happens, but not anywhere near the scale of investment vehicles. For example, I purchased a service, a home warranty. I intend to transfer ownership of it to the purchaser of my house. It was expressly purchased with a third party transfer in mind, but this is a low-volume transaction. I certainly don't know anyone who is buying email service with the intent of reselling them for a profit, do you?
So, how is it nonsense?
Legally, you buy something under either express or implied terms, constrained by the legal system where you bought it. I'm not aware of any distinction made where a service contract doesn't need to be honored, but an "investment vehicle" is treated differently.
I mean that it's not a separate legal category, it's more of a colloquial thing. Legally, there is property and contract law, and people use that "for investment purposes", but it's largely the same law that applies whether you buy an apple that you want to eat or a share of apple that you want to hold to earn money: You become the (co-)owner.
> A service contract, first and foremost, is a contract between a provider and a purchaser
Yeah, and a bond is first and foremost a contract between a "provider" and a purchaser. And it so happens that bond contracts commonly specify payments in money, but that's legally not all that different from a contract that instead specifies payments in apples or email service or whatever.
> It does have a value, but, much of the time, a B2C service contract isn't a thing that is traded or sold.
Which is relevant to the distinction how? Can you sell a fixed-term deposit to a third party? Sometimes you can, sometimes you can't, but how does that change that it's quite obviously an investment?
> I certainly don't know anyone who is buying email service with the intent of reselling them for a profit, do you?
There is no need to resell for something to be an investment? But even if there were, that doesn't influence the legal status: Even if noone ever resold their bonds and there was no market to do so, that would not excuse the issuing party from paying interest.
I'm not convinced.
I see an argument to be made, to the effect that there's plenty of statutory ink on paper detailing rules for how various investment vehicle transactions may be handled. It seems clear to me that perhaps they do have a special space carved out in the legal system, at least in the US.
I do still feel like I need to emphasize - I'm not condoning any situation where a company offers lifetime service, and then goes back on their word. I do think a lot of companies try to extract value from the margin between a broken contract and the pain of enforcing that break.
Well, yes, there exist some special legal constructs just for investment purposes--but that by far does not encompass all of the things that you would commonly consider "investments". Most of the legal stuff around investments is regulation of market places and banks, to create a safe environment to do investment transactions in--but that's mostly orthogonal to the actual investment vehicles. Like, you can buy shares of a company in a regulated market place through your bank. But you can also buy shares in a one-on-one transaction from someone you know in cash, without the involvement of any bank or stock exchange. The laws that govern the resulting (co-)ownership are the same, whether you bought the shares this way or that way. And many of the laws are the same that govern the ownership of cars and shoes and bread.
And he has alternatives, he can use gmail, etc.
What you're describing is perfectly true under the terms of service of pretty much any email provider, but that's only because the contracts governing your interaction with those providers are written in a way that makes it true. Fastmail's lifetime plan has a different contract, and under that contract, it's simply not true that you're paying to use the account temporarily. You're paying to have perpetual access to that account as long as the company exists as a legal partner to the contract they signed.
FastMail is no more free to terminate the lifetime service contract while my father still lives than the pension company is free to stop paying his annuity backed pension.
Quit your bellyaching and move him to gmail.
And if you fail to do so you, you are suspect to legal consequences.
Now I'm having second thoughts, if this is how they treat paying customers.
There's a lack of critical commentary about FastMail in general. In my case, it's because I don't want to come off as being overly negative/contrarian, and I'm pretty terrible about leaving reviews for products and services, despite the fact that I rely heavily on reviews and making purchasing decisions.
I was a subscriber to FastMail for years and recently (last month) switched away. One of the main selling points you hear about FastMail is that, unlike the stories you hear about people getting locked out of Gmail and other Google services with no support line, then ostensibly support is part of the package you get from FastMail since you're actually a paying customer. Over ~4 years with FastMail, I filed two tickets, and I walked away both times feeling gross after nasty encounters with FastMail employees. (Honestly, quietly closing the tickets would have been better than the responses they left.) So I made a decision to walk away permanently by not renewing.
FastMail comes off as really well regarded in HN-like communities, but I can only help feeling like it's from those who set up an account years ago, had no problem sending and receiving mail, and have only ever coasted like that since, without ever interacting with the support that everyone feels warm and fuzzy about paying for but never using. The other thing is that there's a dearth of competition for FastMail, especially in the age of webmail, so they don't have to be good, all they have to do is exist.
I'm on Runbox now, which has a less sexy interface if you're using webmail rather than IMAP, but it turns out to be slightly cheaper for my use case, and I can attest that, based on my experience during migration from FastMail, at least the Runbox staff don't come off as jerks.
Yeah, that's my main actual service negative. The FM support staff are condescending, because they're the experts in email and you're just an ignorant customer.
I actually appreciate that they always give honest, straight, no BS answers and while FM is certainly not perfect, the support I got through the years is a large part of why I recently moved off my grandfathered plan to multiple (business/personal separation) more expensive plans.
- Their spam filtering is atrocious.
- In the next 5 years I expect my family to expand and part of what drove me to FastMail was their family plan. That no longer exists.
I have never heard of Runbox before your post and after a quick glance at their website, I am intrigued. What other services did you consider?
There wasn't much the support people could do, and I could see why someone might think I was just someone who didn't know what they were doing, but they didn't come off as unprofessional or anything to me.
That sucks you had that experience, but it does not seem to be the norm.
As recently as 3 years ago you could still sign up for 1 user. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4885538
> If you create a new Apps account going through the App Engine Admin Console you'll still be able to create a Standard Apps account for free but you'll only be able to get 1 user per account rather than the 10 you get today.
But per the referenced Google Groups discussion that has been shutdown sometime before January 2015.
> You'll now have to pay for a Google Apps account, there's no more freebie "1 user per account" provision.
I am pissed off that they want to renege on our agreement.
One concrete negative point for me: the current plans have a fixed price per user and are not very flexible if the users have very different use levels. (My father is a very light user, whereas I am heavy user.) Some of the legacy plans - family and business were more flexible in his regard, but they are not offered to new signups.
It receives mail and sends mail.
There is anyway absolutely no other competitor in the game b/c FM and GM are the only web mail services offering a reasonable 2FA solution. I checked 'em all and would have preferred a different provider as their servers are located in NYC.
My motivation was to avoid having too much of my stuff depending on and catering to the Google Datenkrake.
It looks to me like it's how they treat non-paying customers. Paying customers are their revenue source. I've heard good things from all of them that show up here.
It allows integration with IMAP-enabled third-party email clients (like Apple Mail, Thunderbird, Outlook) through an application now in closed beta only for paying ProtonMail users. You can learn more about it here: https://protonmail.com/bridge/
When I'm looking for something that I expect to invest in and rely on for a long time, "has a paid subscription" becomes an important consideration when evaluating different options.
Would you pay via a subscription?
I have no issue paying for apps/software. My iPhone homescreen is made up almost entirely of paid apps or apps for services I pay for. Some of these apps cost $10-20 and I happily pay that every 18-24 months for a new version. I use Drafts so much that I would gladly pay up to $40 every 18-24 months as an outright purchase for it.
That being said... if Drafts went to a subscription model for $5 a year, I would stop using it and find an alternative. Most apps are not services. Full stop. They are apps. Outside of the apps tied to a service (i.e. Dropbox, NewsBlur) I would find alternatives to every one of my paid apps if they went to a subscription model, even if that subscription was cheaper than buying a new version in a similar timeframe.
I have this stance for multiple reasons:
- I have subscription fatigue. I don't want to start managing dozens to use my computer/phone.
- I don't want to wake up one morning and find out a utility app isn't working because I didn't pay, forgot to renew etc. If I have a down month I don't want to choose between a working text editor and working spreadsheet software.
- I value owning software. Period. I know that if the state of my system doesn't change I can continue to use that version on tht OS for as long as I can make that OS function. That is important to me.
- Renting software decreases its value for me as a customer in a way that paying a comparable sum for an upgrade in a similar time frame does not.
The analogy I fall back on is a drill from a hardware store. If I am drilling for one project I have no issue renting a drill. But if I am drilling every weekend for a year and maybe a half dozen times a year going forward I want to own the drill. I don't want to go to use a drill and suddenly find it non-functional because I forgot to pay my rental fee. Most software is not a service. It is a tool. If you are providing a tool I will gladly pay to own that version that works on that OS and preferrably is guaranteed to work for 18-24 months after purchase (much like a warranty on a physical tool). After that timeframe, I can continue to use the tool in its current state on its current platform(s) and it should continue to work as long as it "physically" (i.e. no more updates or new features) lasts. If I want new features or continued support, I then have to buy a new tool.
To emphasize: I have no issue buying software and paying devs for the work they do. I do, however, heavily object to renting software, especially because most apps are tools and not services. I have dropped several pieces of software over the last 18 months as they moved to the SaaS platform because I wanted to own the tools that they wanted to rent to me.
But what about the problem the grandparent raised, which is that with one-time payments, after a while, the income from the app decreases to below the cost of maintenance, at which time the rational choice for the developer is to stop taking a loss, and instead abandon the app and build another one to try to get more revenue.
Whereas, a subscription incents the developer to continue investing in the app. Even if the total amount of money earned over the lifetime of the app is the same.
BTW, you don't expect new features to be delivered unless you pay more. That's perfectly reasonable. But many users expect regular updates. To which my response is: Sure, but pay me regularly.
I think whichever way we look at it, we don't end up with a good solution to this problem :)
As I stated above, I don't mind regular paid update intervals. I just loathe the idea of subscriptions. I want to own the software I buy. But the problem is that the average person thinks that $1 to $20 entitles them to a lot more than is reasonable. And the best way devs see to fight that off is subscriptions.
I know I am in a very small minority, but ownership is worth a lot more to me than price. I just hope that there are devs out there that will continue to build quality software and sell it outright.
I would like to see Apple give the ability for devs to handle pricing like JetBrains does. That to me is a subscription I would consider. I am not 100% sure, but it is about the only model I would be open to. https://sales.jetbrains.com/hc/en-gb/articles/207240845-What...
"Just fuck 'em" became one of Steve's favorite lines.
When he had taken over, he had inherited a program
called SOS Apple, which let people sign a contract
for unlimited customer support over the telephone
for a lifetime. It was a bad financial move for
Apple. Steve said to shut it down.
What about the customers who have a contractual
obligation? Jeff asked.
"Just fuck 'em," Steve said.
The Federal Trade Commission sued Apple over the issue.
Facebook, LinkedIn etc. have the same playbook when they play fast and loose with the privacy rules with respect to spamming contact lists. Any penalty is tiny compared with the gain.
I'm sure that's FastMail's current management's thinking in my case.
Not even close to the same thing. Apple agreed to a contract to provide unlimited support. Facebook/LinkedIn privacy policies explicitly state they can change them with notice, and they do.
LinkedIn in particular paid $13 million in 2015 to settle a class action lawsuit about their slightly misleading "Add Connections" feature.
IMO $13 million was a small price to pay compared with the $26.2 billion Microsoft paid to acquire LinkedIn:
Honestly, that a serious and depressing situation. Fines aren't license fees for unlawful behavior.
For example, the fines in the UK for violating spending rules with respect to elections are small enough to be considered just another expense:
>We're now contacting you again to remind you that from 31st July, 2017 our 'Member' level plans will be discontinued.
There is no reference to the fact that it was a life-time plan. Do FastMail think that people are just going to forget that fact? Are we supposed to be that dim?
Of course it sucks if you use this plan, but I think that giving nearly 6 months of notice after allowing you to use a plan for nearly 8 years after it was discontinued is generous. I think what they're offering, which is 50% off any upgrades and a credit equal to the amount they originally paid ($15) is a good gesture as well, and in the thread it seems they would be okay with refunding the $15 to those that aren't okay with this.
To that I'll quote what zAy0LfpBZLC8mAC posted just now:
>Now, I don't know the details of the contract, but generally, the value this is about is not $15. The value is the damage caused by them failing to fulfill their contracts, which would be the discounted value of the market price of all future payments needed to replace their failure to perform.
>There is no general legal option for one party to a contract to simply pull out and give you back your money. They owe you what they promised in the contract, and if they don't deliver, they are liable for the damage that that causes for you.
I contacted FastMail support: referencing this thread, explaining my situation, pointing out that the member accounts were lifetime and asking them to switch my (legacy) enhanced account to a (legacy) premier family account and include my father on that.
Technically they could do that, as they will still run the family accounts for legacy accounts.
But the technical support point blank refused, did not acknowledge that the member plans were lifetime, did not explain how I am supposed to make the existing domain that I have associated with my enhanced work with my father's account once I pay for an unwanted upgrade to a life-time account.
The reply is just a cut & paste job from their existing support material:
Wed, 17 May 6:02 PM (5 hours 58 minutes ago) +0000 Admin : Shifana
>but you have emailed him to state that you are terminating the agreement.
Today FastMail is a service that requires multiple data centres and a 24 hour operations team, together with an ongoing commitment to continuing development, which is why a recurring revenue stream is essential for developing and maintaining FastMail for all of our customers.
We understand the inconvenience these changes may cause some customers. To assist existing users that would like to stay with FastMail we are crediting the initial cost of their account and also offering a significant discount on any new plan chosen.
So if you were to upgrade to the Basic account for one year from today, with the discount and account credit you are effectively getting FastMail at no charge for another 12 months. That's also with a massively upgraded 2 GB of storage (up from 16 MB).
In addition to this you also receive any remaining time until 31 July for free. That means at no cost to you, with even more storage, you can still keep your account active until 31 July 2018.
On top of this we are offering 50% of all upgrades made before 31 July 2017. This includes our already discounted multi-year plans which for the Basic plan are $55/ 2 years and $80/ 3 years before any discount is even applied.
> so none of the offers of your current accounts work for me.
>I would accept is for you to convert my Enhanced account to the Premier Family account
Sorry, we could only provide offers to the users who upgrade their member accounts to our new plan. Also existing users cannot upgrade to an older service level. They can only upgrade to a new plan.
We are happy to offer a full refund of the cost you paid for your service if you would like to close your account instead of upgrading to one of our current plans
>migrate my father's email to that under the domain *.
To migrate emails from your member account to your paid account, you can use the “Import & Export” screen in the paid account. However, before you do that, you will first need to create an 'app password' in the member account.
To learn how to do that, see the below link:
Once you have created the app password, login to your paid account and go the 'Import & Export' screeen. You can specify the following details there:
IMAP server: imap.fastmail.com
Username: your member username
Password: your new app password
Use SSL: Enable
Folders: <choose the desired option depending on whether you wish
to merge into existing folders or migrate into a separate migrate folder>
Hope that clarifies your question. Let me know if there is anything else that I can help you with.
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This thread started just after I went to bed last night, so I didn't see anything until this morning.
I have taken over that ticket and will continue the conversation there.
Please make sure to address the following points:
1. Acknowledge the truth: the member accounts were life-time - it's not FastMail's legal option to unilaterally terminate them.
2. Domain sharing: I have domain associated with my Enhanced account and I assign an email address from that domain as an alias that forwards to the email address of my father's member account. I require that feature continues to work as the email address from the domain is my father's public facing email address. I am also using various email addresses from that domain as public facing email addresses so that needs to continue to work too. That's why I suggested merging ur two plans into a family plan that you are still running as legacy.
3. My father and I are in different countries. He is in the UK - I won't be in the UK until August. I don't want to reconfigure his Apple mail (iMac) account with new login details.
edit: removed text duplicated from comment - maybe that was against HN guidelines ...
I don't know if it was against HN guidelines but it looked an absolute mess. One giant block of text.
Once there were life time "all you can fly" airplane passes for US$ 100k.
...Because you cannot trust the future of any business.
But this is a case of an email company (likely profitable) that still offers email accounts. It's likely that the only difference between the product that they're taking away and current offerings is that the 'lifetime' accounts have FAR lower quotas and features offered. The cost of computing, storage and bandwidth trend downward over time. No new lifetime accounts are being created, so they've got a fixed quantity of lower-usage level accounts. They can already forecast the maximum technical cost for these over the next 10/20/30/40 years. Now these accounts may have high costs in terms of providing customer support, and that would be unpredictable, and potentially costly. I doubt anyone would fault Fastmail for simply stating that outside of a few designated problems/issues (either on their side or the most important) that no technical support would be provided for these accounts. If they wanted to be nice, they might offer that non-crucial support issues could be handled at the lowest tier/priority.
That would be a sensible way to move forward.