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Joyent ending "lifetime" hosting accounts (plus.google.com)
283 points by kenmck on Aug 16, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 269 comments

For folks who are headscratching here, back in about 2007 (I remember it because I was getting into Rails) Joyent's precursor company TextDrive bootstrapped some hardware purchases by selling a (barely capable of running Rails, fairly rare for the time) shared hosting account. The kicker was that you'd pay about ~18 months upfront and it would be Lifetime. I don't trust my memory for numbers but somewhere between $150 and $300 if I recall correctly.

I actually used them as a hosting provider for a while, and followed the support forums. Supporting the Lifetime offering was a challenge pretty much from the getgo, because some folks were less than neighborly with their usage of system resources, partially out of ignorance, partially out of Rails playing very poorly with shared systems, and partially because you attract an interesting type of customer with this offering. The physical hardware had some faults and probably has not improved much over time.

Meanwhile, shared hosting for Rails is, well, not a very attractive option over the last couple of years, thanks to VPSes, Heroku, Amazon, etc etc. Joyent apparently wants to exit the business.

Of note: I remember somebody asking Slicehost to match the business model and Matt shot them down saying that it was too gimmicky for his taste and wouldn't be mutually beneficial. Slicehost eventually came up with a neat solution towards the same end: they were oversubscribed, so they sorted their waiting list by the amount of non-refundable deposit you were willing to make, giving them much-needed cash flow without committing them to service for forever.

There were actually a number of "VC" phases with TextDrive, starting with the "VC200" in 2004 that raised $40,000 from 200 pledges of $200 to acquire and set up the hardware--


That was followed by a number of upgrade offerings ("Mixed Grill", "3 Martini Lunch") in subsequent years, extending into the Joyent merger/acquisition, that required a larger lump-sum payment.

Their pitch on lifetime service? "How long is it good for? As long as we exist."


Now, you can argue in strictly financial terms that those initial customers (of whom I'm one) have probably got their money's worth, and that the hosting landscape has changed sufficiently that the lifetime products are peripheral to Joyent's main business. The counterargument is that Joyent not only acquired TextDrive's customers, but the goodwill surrounding Dean Allen's original venture, and has traded on that goodwill ever since. Clearly, they feel that's not worth much these days.

Furthermore, giving people who've had eight years of not having to think about hosting options just 80 days to migrate, with explicit notice that their servers will be shut down and wiped on October 31, strikes me as pretty cheap.

As far as getting one's money's worth, the "VC-like" pitching makes that odd. Obviously it wasn't an actual VC arrangement, but it had some similar aspects: you take a risk by giving $X now to buy a "lifetime account" with some startup that might be bankrupt next year. In return for helping to fund them and accepting that downside risk, your potential upside is that if they do succeed and exist long-term, you get what would in retrospect be below-market-priced service as a reward for your early support.

It doesn't make much sense to say that, hey, thanks for the "VC" investment when it was a risk to buy from us, but now that we're successful, you've gotten your money's worth.

I switched across to the Mixed Grill in May 2006 (right around when John Gruber quit Joyent to do Daring Fireball full-time, I remember). It cost $499USD.

Did I expect more than 6 years? Yeah, I took them at their word - "as long as we exist".

Their behavior here is embarrassing and labels them as not trustworthy in the future. Pacta sunt servanda. The other side ending up potentially getting the better end of the deal, a nowhere near certain thing here from a 2004-6 perspective where their customers took significant risk taking the deal, is not an equitable reason to terminate the services.

I am Matt from Slicehost. And yes, if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Matt, I was a very early slicehost customer, and just wanted to say thanks for the years of great service and straightforward business. I really loved what you did and hope you're continuing to do well. Cheers!

My pleasure, thank you for believing in us.

+1. Slicehost was my first VPS provider. Loved you guys.

Thank you, that means a lot.

I paid $1399 for my TextDrive/Joyent "Three Martini Lunch" hosting, about six years ago. Which works out around $20/month. In retrospect, paying that amount up front doesn't seem "too good to be true", unfortunately.

Unless we're talking about American Airlines' Lifetime Pass.

Except that those are being cancelled as well - http://articles.latimes.com/print/2012/may/05/business/la-fi...

For abuse, which seems somewhat reasonable. And for the other people, they offered their money back, which is probably the best way to solve this kind of thing.

LOL this was always a secret dream/inspiration of mine and they've shafted those poor folks too.

It was $500. Here's an archive of their site: http://web.archive.org/web/20060203030930/http://www.textdri...

>One-time payment of $499

>We're pleased to announce a special offer that combines three great products in our family — TextDrive, Strongspace and Joyent — available for a one-time payment of just $499.

>What do you get?

>TextDrive's spectacularly feature-rich web, mail and data hosting; oceans of backup room at Strongspace; early access to the future of web-based organization, communication and productivity through the Joyent suite of interconnected applications. Perfect for a smart small business or smart individuals of any size.

>How long is it good for?

>As long as we exist.

From the TOU (also at archive.org, linked from the above document): dispute is to be resolved by arbitration. More suckage.

First, arbitration clauses aren't always enforceable. Suing for the $250 allowed would still be a nuisance.

True. You'd have sue and first get the arbitration clause revoked. My understanding is that courts are getting more amenable to this.

Dittos restrictions on class actions.

My policy is that I will generally reject arbitration / class action limitations and/or take my business elsewhere.

Of course, it's always possible that the arbitrator would find for the claimant, but such clauses usually (didn't check here) disallow class actions, and arbitrators are historically biased toward the entity requiring their services (e.g.: Joyent in this case).

Nothing here specifically disallowing a class action.

The prices were considerably higher than you mention - $500 or $1000 - here's a post about moving between "lifetime" plans from 2007:


Which (if you signed up at the end of 2006 and just got cancelled) comes out to about $7.50 a month. That's more than a EC2 micro instance on a 3 year reserved plan.

At the time, though, most people were just happy to find an easy solution to Rails hosting. I think TextDrive was the first provider in that price range that actually supported Rails. (Remember, this was before Passenger and all that made it easy to host Rails.)

You can't project today's EC2 prices back in time; micro didn't even exist in 2006 and prices for all hosting were higher in the past.

Dividing a user's costs by the number of months of service they got isn't fair because it ignores the high risk they took on that the company would go out of business months after they dropped their $500 or $1000 or whatever.

Looking at my email I saw my Textdrive Lifetime hosting account was made in Sept 2005. I'm pretty sure I wasn't in on the first round either and I was second round "VC".

They also offered a lifetime package known as "Mixed Grill" and "3 Martini Lunch" that bundled the hosting, Strongspace (a file storage solution based on SFTP/rsync -- now spun off to a different company) and some collaboration suite (from Joyent).

I was (am?) also a TextDrive VCII customer. I signed up in March of 2005 and had a little home on a server called nelson. If my memory is correct it was around $450 or so and I hemmed and hawed over the decision. I was just getting out of the debt I had built up after the post-college/dotcom recession and it was a lot of money for me. However, I knew that I was going to continue programming for my career and so I saw it as an investment in them as well as myself. In 2008 I was asked to move to a Joyent shared accelerator (drake) and everything continued along.

I saw it as a genius business move for them: they got upfront capital in exchange for a promise to offer a commodity that their customers would naturally outgrow. Those customers would likely be highly influential and/or become power-users. Furthermore they would be able to grow bigger than they would otherwise without having to take VC money (which at the time was harder to come by and the VC had a lot more power/control). Now we have things like Kickstarter so the idea doesn't seem so strange anymore.

Thanks for the clarification Patrick. I was too busy fuming to explain.

"your lifetime service will end on October 31, 2012"

If you're writing that sentence and don't see a problem with it, there's no helping you. Look, many of us have been there and sold "free" things to early customers who become a pain later on, but you have to honor it. Better yet, never sell something "lifetime" without at least some kind of low recurring fee to cover nominal costs.

Thank you: just the idea of someone sitting down and typing that phrase in amazes me. Some kind of token refund and a slightly longer switch-over period could have turned this into a PR positive.

I paid the extra $$ for lifetime (and did it back when I was a grad student and had basically zero money) because I didn't want to have to think about hosting any more. Now I have to think about hosting again. Ugh.

Broken promises leave a bad taste in my mouth.

On a related note: where is good for hosting two small websites? I'd like to be able to log in with SSH and get an actual Unix shell (and not have to pay too much, as the websites are neither large nor popular).

You might be interested in prgmr.com . VPS based on Xen. The owner is also a member of HN and wrote "The Book of Xen" a couple of years ago.

Also since you mentioned UNIX, maybe arpnetworks.com . As I recall they run Linux KVM VPS but offer OpenBSD and FreeBSD if preferred over a Linux guest.

I don't think OpenBSD runs on Xen as a guest yet. They do offer NetBSD, not sure about FreeBSD

I host three sites on Linode, lowest plan at $20/mo. They're excellent, as just about everyone can tell you. It's a full install of a Linux distro of your choosing, any software you want. It's as good as having a Linux machine sitting in your office.

However, $20/mo might not be the lowest price you can find for two low-traffic sites.

edit - I should point out, I host three low traffic sites on one low-end Linode instance, so that' $20/mo flat for three sites. I also use it for compiling code (I can compile code anywhere from my phone!) and testing out new features for various bits of software, so it has more use than just hosting.

I use Linode for several low-traffic sites as well, and I'd recommend them.

However, there's one crucial aspect in which they're different than having a Linux machine sitting in your office (which I also have): for $100 I can put a 2TB drive in the local server. The equivalent space at Linode would cost $1000 a year.

If you have lots of data, Linode probably isn't a good fit. I'd look into Amazon S3 (which I suppose you could use with Linode hosting in front of it, but I'd probably just use AWS if I were relying heavily on S3).

Despite my post, I'm more into server administration than I am programming. Might be why I love Linode. I've helped a couple people set up their Linode sites, and tie it into S3 (and other services) for various uses. The thing I love most about Linode is that it's anything you want it to be.

If you're comfortable getting dirty, I'd check out http://prgmr.com/xen/

Thanks! This looks ideal for my needs!

I have two small servers from them. Highly recommended (if you don't mind getting your hands dirty).

I have a small one from them as a NS server and has no issue at all. However their bandwidth allocation (40G for 256m plan) is not enough for pretty much anything else.

If all you need is a shell plus LAMP, Dreamhost is pretty decent shared hosting. (Their Rails support apparently works, but Rails-using customers seem to have a tendency to suck up a lot of resources that other people could be using more moderately.)

As long as it's not terribly mission critical I'd suggest a VPS. Since you have a virtualized server you get everything you mentioned (and the responsibility of keeping the damn thin up to date). Take a look at http://lowendbox.com You're likely to find deals in the $20/yr range for small instances with ~128MB RAM. Expect 99% uptime and you'll be pleasantly surprised with the third nine.

The deals on lowendbox are a bit too low end. The providers often disappear after a few months.

If you chose a supplier at random, they yes, some of those will probably disappear after a few months. But if you spend some time digging around a little, you'll find things like "Best Provider of the Year" type posts (e.g. http://www.lowendbox.com/blog/best-low-end-providers-in-2011... ). These tend not to be fly by nighters.

Consider starting with that list, and look for recent offers by them. Also read the comments on each offer looking for irregularities. Lowendbox has a decent community, they know when an offer smells, or when a fly-by-nighter drops in. Granted it won't be perfect, but you can reduce the risk of a provider disappearing all of a sudden with a little bit of reading and digging.

Two in particular I find trustworthy: VooServers and Evorack

But beware, many low-end-box type providers use stock standard off-the-shelf tools and software, including WHM. So if you have a religious disagreement with passwords in cleartext emails, you should steer well clear of lowendbox/WHM combinations and go for a highend supplier instead.

Or perhaps a more practical method, don't use a secure password when you sign up, and make it more secure on the VM itself when you log in for the first time


In addition to the post you linked to, here are two additional lists of popular low end VPS providers that were posted at LowEndBox:



Here's a list of popular low end VPS providers at the LowEndTalk Wiki that is based on the same data used for the above lists:


Here are the popular low end VPS providers I made note of when I researched this subject recently:

http://buyvm.net/ (limited availability; see http://doesbuyvmhavestock.com/)


http://www.ramhost.us/ (owns http://tinyvz.com/ and http://tinykvm.com/)


In addition to LowEndBox and LowEndTalk, the following two sites had some good info about low end VPSs:



I didn't end up playing with any low end VPSs because none of the providers I evaluated offer users the ability to clone VPSs, which is one of my requirements.

That's the nature of the business I'm afraid. But I have found some reliable hosts through the site and some very established hosts used to make offers before the siteowner left.

I highly recommend Webfaction:


Yes, I just shamelessly put in an affiliate link, but the service really is very good. It's shared hosting but you get SSH, a smart admin panel and very reasonable prices for your memory. After a few years using it, I'm also happy to report that their technical support is excellent - timely, helpful and knowledgeable.

What I disliked about webfaction is that the connection is proxied behind an nginx. But it is true that they have an excellent support. They answer almost inmediately. Also their Q&A was migrated to a stackexchange clone.

I prefer Linode, a little more expensive but you get decide even your own distro. (Yay for Archlinux)

Webfaction is also good if you want to run a no hassle Django installation. I initially got an account when I was learning Django and there weren't many Django friendly shared hosts out there. I have kept it to this day as their hosting panel is still pretty useful. They also have a bunch of automatic installs for rails, cherrypy, pylons, pyramid, subversion and trac etc. I've since moved on to do it myself on VPS but I still think Webfaction offers something different with their "framework" application approach.

Thanks for pointing out WebFaction. Of all the mentioned solutions WebFaction seems to me to be the closest thing to the old TextDrive shared hosting. I'm getting too old to want to get my hands dirty with managing my own VPS for a few simple PHP sites, some email accounts and my subversion repositories (and I can even switch to git).

I have had the same experience.

NearlyFreeSpeech is very cheap and they even give you a shell with gcc (and I've run uploaded and run Go apps). They do require the applications to be static or CGI, though.

Happy with http://vpslink.com (XEN) for small services, and Linode for bigger things.

For VPS, I recommend burst.net, specifically their XEN 1Gb ram plan. Their price structure is kinda strange, 0.5G is $7.95, 1G is $12.95, 1.5G is 24.95. So 1G plan is a no brainer. I have 2 of these, one in their PA Datacenter, the other in CA.


Just to chime in with everyone else...I'm in the same boat. VC2/3 since Sept/2005. I started with them because they were the only host to offer Rails support. Now, my most pressing need is email support--transferring the main accounts, so that gmail can POP them off the accounts.

Edit: Obviously, any serious application would have been migrated off of Joyent long ago, but many of us have several small apps (Rails, Wordpress, etc) along with email accounts. I think it's more of an issue of migrating many small apps rather than a single large app.

I've used Slicehost (now Rackspace) successfully for a couple of years, but my pricing is probably terrible now. 256MB slice for $20/mth. I have a feeling I need to re-visit this...

I've been very happy with WebFaction for a couple of small websites.

I really like working with Bluehost (http://www.bluehost.com/). They are amazingly cheap shared hosting plans targeted at non-administrators, but if you are willing to provide a copy of your government ID (as insurance against naughtiness) they will provide shell access. Their admins are very accommodating about letting me run my own stuff as long as it won't impact other users of the server.

Seconded. I've been using blue host for years with no troubles. Only downside is they keep lowering their rates, so I've got to call them every year or so to switch to the cheaper plan.

nearlyfreespeech.net is perfect for this sort of thing.

MediaLayer is good, but I've never seen a reason not to shell out the extra $10 a month for a VPS.

Amazon EC2 on the micro plan maybe? It's free for the first year as a trial.

Does that plan require the cluster to spin up if you haven't had a visitor in a while? That's the reason I don't use Heroku for my personal site.

Regardless of where you host, if that's a problem for you, just set up a free account at Pingdom to hit it every 1 minute, and get uptime/response time monitoring as a bonus. Easy peasy.

Nope, EC2 is essentially a VPS host, unlike Heroku.

I bought a 3-year micro instance for my personal needs and it's been pretty good.

I'm really happy with asmallorange the service is cheap and customer support is great

Funny, we got in on VCII I think and had to think about hosting all the time. Our server never performed well.

I think we had one site on Textdrive that was live, and quite quickly moved to another host for obvious reasons.

I'm glad it worked fro some people, overall a poor experience for us.

I never asked much of it - all I really cared was that it was hosting that I didn't have to think about. Two WordPress sites, some backups of important files and the occasional scp around a stupid firewall or NAT box. And now they are canceling the lifetime service, or, put their ham-handed way: "your lifetime service will end on October 31, 2012."

Seriously. Someone in charge of PR actually wrote down and sent out an email with the sentence "your lifetime service will end on October 31, 2012."

Maybe they know something you don't know? Like perhaps they're planning on murdering you on October 30th. In that scenario, the sentence would make total sense.

Is this a promise, or a contract? It seems that if they want to renege on a contract that they ought to refund the entire amount.

Contract damages aren't the price paid, they are the value received had the contract been honored. In this case that's probably considerably more.

The customers don't want a refund (damages). They want "specific performance" -- ie that Joyent uphold their end of the bargain: lifetime service.


It's pretty easy for a promise + money exchanged to become a contract.

We had all of: offer, acceptance, consideration, meeting of the minds, capacity, and legality. It sure felt like a contract to me.

Yup. Now as for damages, though, even though indeed they are supposed to cover your lost value and not the original price, the original price is going to set a point of reference that will influence how much you could reasonably convince any judge your lost value is. But say we compute it another way. Suppose you can buy equivalent service from Amazon for $100 a year forever. The net present value of that perpetuity at a 10% interest rate is $1000. You can easily see why if you imagine investing the $1000 at the 10% interest rate and using the interest each year to buy hosting: your principal would stay at $1000 forever. Now plug in numbers you actually think are feasible. And subtract attorney's fees. Good luck.

I do not want to be a jerk here, but the only reason I joined was the promise of "lifetime" - they can NOT just cancel our accounts does it does not suit them. Please contact me webmaster @ opendomain ORG if you would like to join the class action lawsuit.

Wow! I have received over a dozen emails in the first hours that want to join in the lawsuit. We have enough to form an offical class and will be able to get Joyent to abide by the original terms. Please contact me soon if you want to participate!

best of luck, if I was in the situation I'd definitely sue in small claims court.

I wonder why Joyent thinks they can get away with this. "Q: How long is it good for? A: As long as we exist." seems to be a pretty good definition of "lifetime." I would think they could only get out of their promise via bankruptcy. Maybe Joyent is trying to substitute for legal bankruptcy with moral bankruptcy.

"I wonder why Joyent thinks they can get away with this"

"As long as we exist"

Possession is 9/10ths of the law.

Nobody is going to file a private lawsuit to enforce this (assuming there is even a leg to stand on to enforce it I haven't read the exact contractual promise..) And the other option would be a class action lawsuit where there would have to be enough class members to interest an attorney.

(Not relevant in this case but if a company was acquired the new company may have not acquired all the previous companies legal obligations but simply setup a new entity and assumed some of the assets, liabilities and obligations but not everything. When I sold a company that is how it was handled.).

Although it still wouldn't be a cost-effective use of time, a sufficiently peeved customer could file a small-claims suit for a return of the fee (or some portion of it).

Actually not a bad strategy assuming the venue is convenient.

A corporation has to be defended by an attorney while an individual can be pro se.

As a result the corporation would typically want to settle rather than spend money to go to defend in court. My guess is as long as the person filing the suit didn't blog about it and bring attention to the action beforehand there would be incentive to settle this out of small claims court. The amount settled for could easily be the value over time of the "lifetime" benefit. If the company choose to go to small claims court and lost it would certainly not be to their benefit as it would show others what was possible and set some precedent.

Keep in mind that even if the company feels their contract is airtight they might decide to settle simply to not have to pay legal fees in many cases.

Why wouldn't somebody sue? It sounds like this service cost a minimum of hundreds of dollars, which is enough to be significant, but still small enough to fit within small claims. If I were one of these customers I'd certainly consider it.

Agree and essentially realized that when responding to _delirium above with regards to small claims court which I hadn't considered on first glance.

Cool! With all the attention that big lawsuits get, it's easy to forget that small claims is there, and sometimes even effective.

If more than a few people file in small claims, it is going to be a super big hassle for Joyent.

Not necessarily. They could simply settle with those who sue and not let it get to court. I bet not even 10% would even sue in the first place, so they could still come out well ahead. I wouldn't be surprised if they accounted for that in their planning when doing this in the first place.

I really like what Joyent is doing with illumos, dtrace, and other similar projects. That said...

They basically have let their "legacy" customers languish for a while, and after a pretty bad migration process a year or two ago, it was obvious that they really wanted to discard these old accounts - those boxes are running a version of opensolaris that's over 4 years old (snv_67).

Most of us paid quite a bit for our "lifetime" subscriptions, just to have it ripped up into a bunch of different parts that either get EOL'ed or sold off to another company (as was done with Strongspace).

My account's server runs snv_121, so more like 3 years old, but still ancient. There was an attempt to upgrade us in December/January which was partially completed and finally "put on hold indefinitely". http://wiki.joyent.com/display/shared/Shared+Hosting+Mainten...

We're still developing Strongspace, and the lifetime subscribers are still being provided for by Joyent.

I'm not faulting Expandrive by any means - you guys are great.

Any intention to EOL the "lifetime" plans on your end?

Nope. Joyent is working with us to move the lifetime customers to some newer infrastructure, but they will be taken care of. Lifetime is a somewhat better story for storage, as you can consolidate 8U of power-hungry X4500 thumpers using 500GB disks down to a couple U of modern machines with 12x3TB arrays and a lot of RAM.

The fairest way to offer "lifetime" or "unlimited" plans is to include a simple warranty:

"If we ever cancel this plan, we will refund your money in full."

yup. I'd be suspicious of any "unlimited" plan which didn't offer such a guarantee - anything that doesn't put its money where its mouth is is just marketing, a polite euphemism for "lies" in this case.

or time-bound it, so everyone's clear - if I know I'm buying a 10 year plan, that's fine. I know I'm getting value for money, and the service provider knows they have a finite projected cost.

The other way to look at it is that the service provider is borrowing money from you and paying you in services instead of interest. They have the right to pay the principal of the loan back at any time.

If their cost to provide the service is below the market cost of loaning them money, the difference is their margin. They simply need to price the "lifetime service" appropriately such that there's a market demand for it. If the price the market will pay is too little relative to their cost to provide the service, then they don't have a viable "lifetime offering."

I'd think that such a warranty would be implied. It's a standard expectation that if you can't deliver what a customer paid for, you refund their money. If it's an ongoing service, then you can prorate the refund... but for a lifetime service, they've always used 0% of it and should thus get a 100% refund.

Or better yet, the current annual price of the plan divided by the current yield on British consols.

In the end shared hosting with Joyent wasn't very good. It was slow, it was clunky and had an air of neglect. I have one site remaining on it I think. Most of my sites are on Linode.

What was worse was that Joyent changed directions, decided its then current customers weren't profitable enough (my guess shared hosting = higher per head tech support costs) and basically stagnated the service while it introduced new services. I think they did this a couple of times, and it has always made me relunctant to recommend them to friends (even ones looking for cloud services).

Sigh I hope StrongSpace will still honour the lifetime part.

BTW for readers who think lifetime account holders are being greedy, the point of the accounts was that when TextDrive/Joyent needed extra capital to expand, they offered lifetime accounts in return for quite a bit of cash up front. In part, they are where they are due to this clever bit of fund raising.

Joyent will keep supporting their Strongspace customers [which we, ExpanDrive, provide the service for - Joyent provides the hardware for their lifetimers]

Thanks Jeff for clearing this up

I suspect this cuts right to the core of "why" Joyent would dump pretty low-overhead services and catch the flack over it. The hardware requirements to provide this shared hosting environment has plunged over the years; it's part of why I disagree with the "why did you EXPECT a lifetime deal" folks - because I always assumed that such a level of service would get cheaper and easier.

Except the one thing that doesn't get cheaper is the human power needed to administer the stuff and deal with the people. And as Joyent moves away from that sort of thing it becomes an unusual task and a drain on core business.

Which doesn't mean I think this is okay; the smart thing would have been to hand all of us lifetimers a lifetime bottom-tier slice. But I see why they'd want to be out of shared hosting.

The idea that the hosting would get cheaper over time is interesting. If you assume that the ongoing costs follow a Moore's Law type exponential curve (which may not be true, but seems like a decent rough approximation) then the total cost to provide a constant service for an infinite time is finite!

Computation will always require some energy though, so the cost will approach some nonzero constant. Still infinite.


The real issue is, to paraphrase a football player, "What do lifetime mean?" Is it the lifetime of the product (typical in consumer goods), or was it the consumer's lifetime (i.e.-until they died)? If it was the consumer's lifetime, if they had a site where someone died and another person was going to take over, would we then be upset if Joyent started charging the successor?

Lifetime typically means expected life of the product (see: lifetime warranties). Death is really, really complicated, so I can't imagine anybody would actually tie their products to a consumer's death.

If you look at the offer on the waybackmachine: http://web.archive.org/web/20060202181857/http://textdrive.c...

It has this Q&A item: How long is it good for? As long as we exist.

The footer states: a Joyent company

Nothing complicated, Joyent still exists. shrug

Yup, that's pretty cut and dry, and that's what I was looking for, so thanks. You guys that got hosed by this may have a breach of contract case if you'd like to take it that far.

The original product specified that it was good for "as long as we [Joyent] exist". NOT for as long as that product exists.

I wonder why they are this dumb. It's like buying bad press. Did they really think this wouldn't get out and make them a mockery? Would it really cost that much to continue providing something to these people forever, so they wouldn't have to say the lifetime is over? Dumb dumb dumb.

I assume they're giving everybody a refund of their purchase price, right? ...Right?

They should, but probably wont.

If you sell a service, but decide not to provide it you should refund the money. Judging from the comments most of HN assumes if you "attempt" to provide the service you can keep the money.

Yes, I get it's a losing proposition for Joyent to live up to their obligations. So what? You either live up to them, or refund the money, it's really that simple.

Yeah, the comments seem to be filled with people saying that it's not practical to provide "lifetime", and people buying it should have known they didn't mean it anyway.

I look at this the same way I look at "unlimited" internet service. Unlike a lot of the tech crowd, I have no problem whatsoever with metered bandwidth. My only quibble is that if you advertise "unlimited" you had better actually provide unlimited. If you want to charge for overages or enact caps, you don't get to call it "unlimited".

Yeah, the comments seem to be filled with people saying that it's not practical to provide "lifetime", and people buying it should have known they didn't mean it anyway.

And that fascinates me. There's a clear information asymmetry here, and therefore a clear power differential. But so many people are instantly willing to blame the weaker party for being trusting, rather than blaming the stronger party for abusing their customers.

Of course, they're only doing that after it blows up. None of them are saying, "Stop using Hacker News! There's no revenue model, so it will all end in tears! Quit now!"

It's an interesting question. If I make a promise I know I can't fulfill, and you know I can't fulfill, is it still a promise? Is there a breach of trust when I end up not being able to fulfill it?

I'd say that yes, it's still a promise and a breach of trust even if everybody knows I don't really mean it. But I don't think there's a single obvious answer.

If you know you can't fulfill it then I believe it's all on you, in that you're lying.

Some fraction of people will believe you, and even those that don't can't know you can't fulfill it. There are plenty of legitimate life-of-the-company deals. One of them is buying stock. And there are plenty of companies that offer lifetime warranties. Only the person offering the deal has the information to know that they can't honor it.

And in this case, Joyent can honor it; it's not like keeping these servers running would put them out of business. They just don't want to honor it, so anybody who took this deal is so far correct in thinking that Joyent made a promise that they could fulfill.

Personally, I think it's much more likely any random internet companie's life is a lot shorter than my own.

If they were discharging this responsibility through bankruptcy then it wouldn't bother me.

Yet, Joyent still exists.

Some customers don't want a refund. They want Joyent to perform its half of the contract.

Yes, but slavery is illegal.

Where do you get the idea that asking someone to uphold their end of a contract is equivalent to owning a human being?

Asking them to do it is fine, but you can't obligate them to do it. A contract can never force you to perform work, because that is slavery. It can force you to perform work or suffer some kind of penalty. In this case, I think the appropriate penalty is a full refund for all of the affected customers.

Are you a lawyer? I'm not, though I studied law for a while.

What you say may be true of common law. But I suspect the doctrines of equity may have other ideas. The return of funds is not the same as lifetime hosting. Those clients want specific performance and equity may yet grant it to them.

No, I'm not. And yes, the clients want specific performance, but do they have the right to get it? Seems like at most, the clients would be entitled to a refund plus whatever damages they could show (e.g. the cost of switching to a different service, plus any losses they take from other arrangements they made based on the promise of lifetime service). Could a court really order Joyent to keep providing this service against their will? Seems like restitution would be it.

Some people don't want damages or restitution. They want specific performance of the contract. In this case they may be in a position to get it.

We're not discussing labour laws here, the slavery argument doesn't apply. This looks to me like straight up contract + equity.

> Could a court really order Joyent to keep providing this service against their will?

That's what an order for specific performance is for.

I've emailed a self-described law nerd of my acquaintance. She geeks out on equity law, so this sort of case is right up her alley. I'll be interested to see what she thinks.

Of course ... IANAL, TINLA.

Please let me know what your law friend has to say, would really be interested in the reply.

I'm hoping to reap delicious internet points by posting it to HN when she gets the time to write it up on her blog.

Keep an eye on http://skepticlawyer.com.au.

Great, one company less to worry about next time I'm shopping for hosting.

Seriously. We are looking at hosting right now and are considering Rackspace and Joyent. In fact, I am one of the lifetime hosting people screwed over by this move, but this makes it an easy call. No way we are trusting Joyent with anything.

Rackspace are amazing. The only gripe I have (which isn't minor, I might add) is that you can only buy machines in tiers. If you want a machine with high network throughput (say, like a proxy), you need to purchase lots of cpu, ram and disk space that you have no need for.

Yes, I really like Rackspace. Great customer service! And the tier setup makes sense to me. It's Smith's Division of Labor principle at play. Sure, it's technically possible to adjust each feature separately, but you add so much complexity at every layer that it's a wash economically.

In the same vein, I can buy a Honda Civic for $10K, but a car with custom specs isn't $12K, it's $some_orders_of_magnitude_more, even if it's equivalent to a Civic in almost every way.

I fully agree with that. It's just something to keep in mind before building on their platform. It's not for me to decide how Rackspace should run their business, but for me it simply means I can't use them even though I want to. If only they kept a few "asymmetric" configurations as options, like Amazon does. But, alas.

Joyent just offered me 50% of my original investment back as a payout. Anyone else hearing this? Might be more lucrative than whatever a class-action lawsuit would return to each of us.

Might take them up on it as it's better than the hosting deal they are offering (given that i want nothing to do with them, anyway... dollar for dollar it seems about equal).

VC here...How did you get this? Did it come in response to a support ticket? Did you ask them for a full refund? Is half of your original investment $100 or more like $1000?

I asked for a full refund. They came back with "half".

Should be more like "triple" or some other multiple, given the risk the early adopters took. Joyent used that capital and expanded it many, many times.

I have obtained 50% refund also (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4396503)

Retrace your footsteps back to your original upgrade and cross-grade package. http://textusers.com/wiki/Lifetime_plans

One disgruntled VC200

Seems a little odd, surely with the cheaper RAM, far more powerful CPUs and inexpensive disks these days, they could spend a few $$$ and burn a couple of U , keeping their customers happy?

I don't know how many servers they would have needed in 2007 to provide the services they sold, but surely now they could consolidate all those users onto 1/4 the machines?

What is this negative press costing them?

I think the real issue is that Joyent no longer provides any form of shared hosting and they don't want to. So they have no equivalent service to migrate the old lifetime customers to. They'd probably lose quite a bit of money if they migrate lifetime customers to their cloud.

I bet they're going to lose more in bad PR. People here usually do not forget fuck ups.

Here's the answer you'll get if you write to their support complaining about the change:

Hi Obie,

As often happens in the software business, vendors “end of life” older platforms and migrate customers to new versions or platforms. The service you purchased a “lifetime subscription” to will no longer be supported or available from Joyent. On the other hand, we appreciate and value your business as an early customer. As such, we have created special offers specifically for you to make this transition as easy as possible. Details and promo codes were provided to you in the email.

I hope you will be able to take us up on the offer and see the benefits of our new platform.


------------------ Peter Yorke Senior Solutions Architect JoyentCloud.com

In that situation I might write back:

Dear Peter,

Thank you for your "message." I find your breach of contract totally "unacceptable" and I will see you in "court."


That's the boilerplate that the support desk is sending out to everyone.

I suppose the question to ask is this: "Were you lying back in 2006 when you said the offer was good '[a]s long as we exist', or are you lying now? Or did you decide to renege on your promise somewhere in-between?"

You'll get the same boilerplate response, but it'll be on record.

I have obtained 50% refund from the support desk by replying to the sunset email and asking for it.

This morning I found this Jason Hoffman post about the EOL and a possible refund here and added to my response email: http://discuss.joyent.com/viewtopic.php?pid=240955#p240955

In my case and theirs, I consider this partial refund ok because I have been using his service 8 years and now I will move my small sites to a cheaper host.

I wrote back several words with a link http://discuss.joyent.com/viewtopic.php?pid=64656#p64656 as well as a screenshot like http://cl.ly/image/2y3k0x3p3a0v. Let's see where that brings us.

As annoyed as I am with all of it, I'm more interested to know how to move off of their products and services now.

My lifetime account is where I have several important email servers, and I don't know how to migrate them. All the email says is to contact Joyent about getting migrated to one of their other product offerings. However, if I am only given 2.5 months to sort all this stuff out, I DO NOT WANT to use Joyent services. I'd love to use GMail for Business, Linode or what have you, but I don't know where to start.

I tend to just use an IMAP mail client (like thunderbird) connect the old server, and new server, then copy from one to the other... this doesn't take care of multiple users and their accounts/passwords though.

I too switched to FastMail a year or so ago for my email, as I found Joyent email to be slow and didn't have any spam filtering functionality. They have an IMAP/POP email importer which will suck in all your email and folders from you previous provider. Worked like a charm.

Set up an IMAP connection, copy everything over to your local machine, connect via IMAP to your new mail host and move everything over to it. I usually use Gmail for Business but be aware that this now has a 10 user limit on the free account.

When Connector shut down, I switched to Fastmail, which had a nice little "fill in the credentials and press the button" migration process. Been with 'em ever since.

Dear Joyent

You got me:

"We've been analyzing customer usage of Joyent’s systems and noticed that you are one of the few customers that are still on our early products and have not migrated to our new platform, the Joyent Cloud."

So sorry about not appreciating enough your new platform because " Everyone that’s moved to our new cloud infrastructure has been pleased with the results".

About the whole "lifetime" ("As long as we exist.") thing ... Stupid me. I never get that. I mean that was meant metaphorically, right, like in marriages?

Ok then, you divorced me. Thanks that I can still sleep under your roof for one and a half month.

And yes: You keep the house. And the money. I keep my files.

I think, we can call this a true a win-win situation. Sorry, I mean "win-win".


Two and a half months, actually. Which is still a lot less than the lifetime we were promised (unless you're a fruitfly or something, I guess) but you have a little longer to migrate your stuff.

> "...and noticed that you are one of the few customers that are still on our early products..."

One of the few? Cool. It's not costing you that much to keep them on their lifetime plan. Surely its not worth the negative PR?

Not sure what Joyent is thinking.

It's always amusing when companies (or people) contradict themselves to rationalize their decisions. The ongoing costs of this service are too large for us to sustain! By the way, only a few obscure people are using it so it will impact virtually nobody!

They try to make it seem like we are a couple of dozen duffers who never really use the service anyway. What a gimmick.

The service may have high fixed costs. If they have one person maintaining something that's used by very few customers the cost per customer would be very high.

Had an account with them back around then because their site made them seem technically proficient, but dealing with their customer service was like dealing with bad sys admins - grudging help and lazy. There were also a lot of unfinished nooks and crannies in their system. An overall lack of craftsmanship and care. The email brought back not so fond memories and is indicative of their attitude in all their interactions. Partly you are paying for company culture and theirs is not good.

This was the same service that had an outage last year which took over two days to recover from, for which their answer was basically "what did you expect, we're neglecting that server"? Sad thing is, putting the bottom line before responsibility is probably an effective strategy because the market does not penalize it sufficiently.

Funny you mention that. My server with them (shared hosting, lifetime account) just had a two-day outage Monday through Wednesday and still isn't totally recovered.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people "fall" for this "lifetime" pricing model. In fact I said the exact same thing three months ago [1].

The fact that the service provider is not getting any future revenue from you, even if they've fairly discounted your lifetime value, gives them the incentive to get rid of you.

Additionally it gives the wrong incentives to users to "abuse" their "unlimited" service. You saw this with AT&T's "unlimited" wireless data plans recently [2].

I know why people do it: as an alternative to raising capital. Businesses do Groupons for the same reason. In fact, I'm feeling like a broken record here [3].

The problem with Groupon (and similar "offer" sites) is they create the wrong incentives and attract the worst kind of customer. The best situation for Groupon and for businesses is for lots of people to buy the offers and then not to use them.

The lesson here is that if you want to create a sustainable and liked business, you need to align your incentives with those of your customers [4].

As a customer, stop falling for this charade.

As a business, stop taking short term cash flows for perpetual liabilities just to raise capital.


EDIT: regarding "unlimited" (in Karunamon's comment), he is correct: we do need to hold companies to a higher standard. For example, Australia's ACCC (I guess equivalent to the FTC but with a heavy focus on consumer rights) has cracked down on the use of "unlimited" (eg [5]).

But that just reinforces my point. In Australia pretty much all Internet plans have stated quotas. With unlimited plans you create the wrong incentives to throttle users, impose nebulous "fair use" conditions and generally whittle away at what's really "unlimited".

It's the wrong incentive system.

With Internet quotas at least you know you're getting what you pay for and your plan is priced for your usage, not some median or 95% usage that will constantly have the provider trying to throttle "power users".

[1]: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3936701

[2]: http://mashable.com/2012/03/01/att-limits-unlimited-data/

[3]: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2649739

[4]: http://www.accountingweb.com/blogs/ronaldbaker/firms-future/...

[5]: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2010/12/accc-taking-tpg-to-cour...

I was one of the original 200 to back TextDrive in with the VC200 accounts. The risk, of course, was that the venture wouldn't be successful and we'd be laying out $200 for less than $200 worth of hosting. If they were successful, $200 would buy a reasonable shared hosting account for life.

Far from being naive and "falling" for the pricing model, my assessment was that

1) 200 shared hosting accounts (one server?) is a completely plausible lifetime offering for a successful hosting company, 2) $200 is a low risk punt, and 3) these are good guys and I think they can realistically make a go of it

TextDrive was a success, now continues to be a success as Joyent, and 200 shared hosting accounts (the state of play when I signed up) should be trivial for them to provide - even if they outsource that obligation to another provider.

I know I wasn't wrong about them being good guys (they are), but that's why I'm bewildered by today's announcement.

It may not be economically viable for them to provide these services now, but it wasn't economically viable for them to start a hosting company until we backed it. That was the deal. Joyent has an obligation to keep these services online, and if that means they need to take a bit of a hit to do that, then that's what they need to do.

Otherwise, I'm unclear how anyone would trust them again.

> Otherwise, I'm unclear how anyone would trust them again.

You are giving the average customer way too much behavioral credit. Companies abuse confidence because they can get away with it, of course.

Exactly. I can and will be moving elsewhere. My three puny sites can hardly be making their servers tick over the most active only gets ~2000 uniques on a good month.

I'm guessing from http://textusers.com/wiki/VC200 this $200 hosting offer was in 2004, eight years ago. $200 up-front comes to a bit above $2 a month.

In 2004, shared hosting with PHP/MySQL was the standard hosting package. A good quality Cpanel account at that time was about $15-$20 per month. So you've gotten an exceptionally good deal.

Around that time Dreamhost became the place to be. quickly followed by a series of lengthy outages that utterly destroyed it's reputation. Other Cpanel-powered hosts popped up, went under, merged, acquired, disappeared, reappeared, went down, never came back out.

Fast-forward to today, shared hosting is just a race-to-the-bottom barrel scraping. Margins are practically non-existent. Every kid with a bedroom computer has their own Reseller account and pretend they have their own hosting company. Pricing on that seems to be about $4 a year, but the quality is absolutely dire, and that's when the server is actually online.

Shared hosting is largely a dead industry today, it bottom-feeds because their top-end audience grew into dedicated servers, and their average and above average end customers are comfortable running their own cheap VPS. Safe in the knowledge that it's very much harder for another customer to take down everyone's website.

Shared hosting is no longer a sustainable business model. You got a great ride for your money, you got a very good deal. Now it's time to move on.

Grab yourself a VPS, and take a step up to the next curve on the online hosting technology stack. It's well past time. Good quality shared hosting, with great support is getting more and more expensive, because the market for it is dwindling down to people who can't or won't take the step up towards VPS/Dedicated servers - that means the support cost per customer rises. And that isn't a sustainable process.

If the average monthly price you paid for good quality hosting on TextDrive/Joyent is under $10 because of these packages, well done, you got a tremendously good deal. How would you have rated the service you received before you received the email/message? Think about that - consider if the support/service you received related to the per month price you've paid.

Now go out and find a web hosting offer that will give you the same quality of service, for the same monthly price - and switch to that. I get a feeling, apart from special offers that will surface because of this, you'll be hard-pressed to find an equivalent.

But seriously people, "lifetime" and "unlimited" are the two emptiest words in the language of web resource offers. You know that. I'd feel sad for you if you only got 1 years hosting for your $200 for such features.

But if you got 8 years for your initial outlay, and you still feel you deserve more... that's a text-book example of bottom-feeding. Quite the sort of customer a web hosting company wouldn't miss.

A class action? That would be amusing.

A few corrections.

Dreamhost isn't and wasn't ever cPanel. It got hot back in '01 / '02. The outages in 2004 weren't lengthy, were mostly DoS and got blown way out of proportion by people who thought $10/month was a kingly sum that entitled them to dedicated-server quality. The quality of Dreamhost's shared hosting hasn't really diminished over the years and it's still perfectly adequate for low traffic PHP or even Rails sites.

TextDrive by contrast was founded on the principle of combatting the race to the bottom by charging a fair price and offering unparalleled power and flexibility. This vision was sold to us by Dean Allen who had an enormously positive reputation as one of the very best early bloggers. Funding TextDrive with these lifetime accounts was not just us chumps buying into some bottom-feeders marketing scam. There was real intention and integrity behind this.

The problem was that they couldn't actually deliver this quality service despite charging a lot more for it. I mean there was flexibility (webmin instead of cpanel, etc), and TextDrive was the first shared host supporting Ruby on Rails (in fact it was the "official" rails host for a while), and they were always working on awesome new tech (huge Solaris boxes, ZFS, bla bla bla). But in the end, Jason Hoffman did not know how to build a stable hosting service.

Eventually after the Joyent acquisition/merger I think they figured out how to run a business, but it was our money that allowed them the time to learn how to do that. The actual experience of hosting with TextDrive was always shit, and it never cease to amaze me how many hours Jason Hoffman spent posting in the forums when there was obviously a lot of urgent work that needed to be done.

At some point in the early history, Dean Allen went dark and largely disappeared from public view. You'll notice that now Jason Hoffman is the Founder and there's no mention of Dean Allen, but if I recall, it was definitely a partnership, with Dean bringing the name recognition and web experience, and Jason providing the system architecture (business/technical co-founders if you will). I don't have any inside information about what happened there, but I do know that Jason Hoffman and Joyent burnt their bridge with me and I'll never trust anything they do.

If there's a class action lawsuit I'm in.

Great summary. Yeah, TextDrive was presented as an alternative to Dreamhost that, although seemingly much more pricey, was not oversold (you can use all the space/bandwidth they give you), had better support, ran more smoothly, etc etc. By and for people who love the web, or something like that.

But there were tons of reliability problems from the start. It didn't help that Jason Hoffman handled criticism very poorly. I vaguely remember one incident where someone complained on the TextDrive forum and, taking it as a personal insult, he deleted the person's (hosting, not forum) account on the spot. There seemed to be always an excuse or a promise that some exciting better thing was around the corner to solve all the problems.

ZFS was one such exciting thing as you mention. There was also supposed to be a new administration interface called TextPanel, and it was constantly being talked up on the forums, how great it was going to be. Complete vaporware. In 2012, the crusty super-slow Webmin interface that was claimed to be temporary is still all that's available.

The shared hosting eventually became reasonably stable and reliable, but I suspect that's only because it wasn't being touched at all, and anyone doing anything nontrivial there had probably moved it to another host. Last fall I tried to set up a WordPress blog. Couldn't, because the PHP version was too old, and when I checked, it turned out (in 2011) the version of PHP being used dated to 2006.

My server just had a multi-day outage starting August 13th due to hardware failure, and is not fully restored even now (a bunch of emails are missing). I suspect this is what precipitated Hoffman's announcement. Apparently lifetime hosting was supposed to mean zero maintenance on Joyent's part.

Honestly, they should've done what Google Fiber recently did for its free internet deal: just say it's "guaranteed for at least 7 years". Many would still have signed up and they'd be within their rights to shut down most of those accounts by now. But what happened instead was a lot of us paid for "lifetime" hosting that lasted only 7 years or less, which was actively maintained for only 1 or 2 years, and during that time never lived up to the quality advertised.

But who knows, maybe Joyent and Hoffman have learned some lessons since 2005. I do expect they'll be good enough to give me a full refund, obviating the need to join any lawsuits.

"TextDrive by contrast was founded on the principle of combatting the race to the bottom by charging a fair price and offering unparalleled power and flexibility. This vision was sold to us by Dean Allen who had an enormously positive reputation as one of the very best early bloggers. Funding TextDrive with these lifetime accounts was not just us chumps buying into some bottom-feeders marketing scam. There was real intention and integrity behind this."

* principle over actual experience

* a blogger over someone with actual knowledge and technical expertise

* an undefined "fair price"

* an expectation that comfortably exceeds the current delivery levels

* intention and integrity

And what you ended up with is a typical shared hosting company experience, one that lasted a whole lot longer than a large number of other web hosts.

I can't help but feel that a large number of people would be happier if Joyent went down in a big ball of flames suddenly, rather than an orderly and planned 60-plus day notice of a shutdown of their service, in favour of focusing more on a better and more sustainable business model.

Businesses grow, industries grow and change. There's not much of a sustainable business in shared-hosting, the margins are too razor-thin got that, the middle and top end has been chomped off by affordable VPS offerings. Lifers seem appalled they are effectively paying the same price as everyone else.

The rest of your post seems to be on a personal crusade against the technical "co-founder". Why not the original blogger co-founder who promised a service he could not work with someone to deliver?

It was anything but typical. Seriously, you shouldn't comment on it as if all your stereotypes perfectly explain everything. They don't. You weren't there.

Regarding Dean Allen, I have no beef with him, because A) he wasn't in the forum daily talking about all the awesome stuff they were doing that never actually panned out for years on end and B) I suspect he disagreed with the way the company was being run (the instability, the poor customer service) and either was forced out or left of his own volition. But either way it would be bad form for him to air his dirty laundry, so I give him the benefit of the doubt.

Also FWIW, I'm not on a crusade at all. I haven't thought about TextDrive or Joyent for years. I've written them off. But I do see it as a public service to make my opinion of Jason Hoffman's integrity known.

Everything you say makes sense, and yet... the reason it was called the "VC" plan is that the customers could expect to get many times more service than they paid for if Joyent was successful. And Joyent has been successful, although by pivoting into a different market. (I realize it wasn't an actual investment; no need to pedantically point that out.) (Edit: I see _delirium already made this argument.)

Would you call the Facebook mural artist a "bottom-feeder" for actually trying to cash in his stock because it's worth "too much"? http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/07/facebook-graffiti-a...

I don't expect them to keep providing a shared hosting service in general. They do, however, have a unique obligation to provide something like it to lifetime customers.

Yes, it was a good deal, for which I got far most hosting than I paid - that was the entire point of the promotion. They needed money up front, I provided it in return for a lifetime account. It was absolutely supposed to be a good deal worth far more than was being paid. I have received more than $200 worth of hosting in 8 years.

I don't disagree that shared hosting is crappy. In fact, Joyent hosting was always crappy, truth be told. After the first couple of years, I moved my sites elsewhere. It was slow and unreliable. I didn't care because it was a good deal, but I needed better hosting for my sites.

How would I rate the service I received before the message? Poor. I don't host anything with Joyent - the quality isn't there.

I don't care about the hosting, in practical terms. I care about the weaseling and dishonesty towards the very people who backed them from the start.

You're operating on incomplete information. The subsequent lifetime plans offered between 2004-2007 cost considerably more than $200, and most of the original VC200 paid more later on, following the Joyent-Textdrive merger/acquisition, to upgrade to larger lifetime packages and additional services. Scroll down and you'll find users whose per-month equivalent is comparable to a bottom-end Linode VPS.

Judging from Twitter and forum discussions today, most of the remaining lifetime customers use other hosts for many projects, but retain their Joyent packages for sites with relatively minimal requirements: non-profits, simple personal sites, etc. What they paid for wasn't server specs or even the quality of service: it was the explicit promise, in return for paying a chunk of change up-front, of not having to think about hosting options or plan a migration while Joyent remained in business. You can't simply apply a per-month calculation for that.

"Scroll down and you'll find users whose per-month equivalent is comparable to a bottom-end Linode VPS."

They are objecting to equivalently paying -- at worst -- bottom-end Linode VPS prices for web hosting. That's why I have this bemused look on my face.

Not really -- they're objecting to having invested in the early stages of a company in good faith that the company would keep its promises. If they wanted dirt-cheap shared hosting, there were plenty of other ways to get it, even at the time (1and1's three-year free deal comes to mind). Most of the people I know who still use their lifetime accounts use them for hosting small static sites, e-mail, et cetera, with the specific goal of "not having to think about hosting".

That's what they were buying. And they're getting screwed out of it.

Exactly. The founding story goes something like this: Dean Allen had built a CMS (TextPattern) and he, along with other TextPattern users, wanted a hosting provider that would support it in a no-hassle way. He couldn't find one that fit his needs, so decided to create his own; after discussing and rejecting formal VC methods, he turned instead to his userbase with "an opportunity to acquire a piece of TextDrive at its inception, and to benefit from its future success in perpetuity."

Jason Hoffman, Joyent's CTO, whose name appeared at the bottom of today's "sunset" emails, was there when all that happened.

So as an investor, you'd prefer that the company you invested in continued offering a loss-making service until they went into bankruptcy? Rather than allowing them to just shut it down and concentrate on more sustainable business offerings?

That strikes me as the kind of investor a company wouldn't want.

Great, you bootstrapped a company, and they used those funds to grow. And in return all you got was a shared hosting account that's lasted about 8 years. You should have gone with the options - that's where the real money for investors comes from.

And VCs know the vast majority of startups fail. Some spectacularly fail or succeed, some run out of funds, some pivot, some change direction, and some just grow into sustainable businesses. This is one of the latter.

Blame both founders for their lack of vision - in not seeing shared-hosting as a dead-end business model, which was clearly evident round abou 2006. But don't blame the business for making the right decision to close down a non-performing service.

I dispute your premise that the lifetime plans somehow threaten Joyent's existence as a going concern; if the infrastructure of the lifetime services is difficult to support within Joyent's current business, I'd prefer that they honour the spirit of their promise instead of pretending that they promised something different and hoping that lifetime customers go away.

And again, I'd suggest that you get working on that time machine, because your powers of 20/20 hindsight are truly remarkable.

You don't get it. TextDrive was founded and sold on a vision.

Imagine what will happen if in a few years Dalton decides to stick ads all over App.net and send threatening letters to developers in the name of "curating the user experience". That's where the righteous indignation is coming from.

Correct, I don't get it. You bought into a vision that clearly makes no sense today, but didn't make much sense back in 2004. The reward for that investment was a shared-hosting account, which has kept running for 8 years.

There seems to be a confusion about whether you lifers have paid up-front for a long term shared-hosting account or whether you are investors into the business. If you are investors, you should probably have taken options, rather than a free shared-hosting account.

"Imagine what will happen if in a few years Dalton decides to stick ads all over App.net and send threatening letters to developers in the name of "curating the user experience". That's where the righteous indignation is coming from."

Then I don't renew my $100 a year developer account and walk away. I'm not investing in the company, I'm paying for a service that's on offer. When I'm not happy with the service I decide to no longer spend any more money there.

Whether it makes sense or not is beside the point. How much value we got is beside the point (the quality was such shit I wrote it off a long time ago incidentally).

The point I was trying to impart to you is that this was not just slimy bottom-of-the-barrel shared hosting marketing. The promise really was made in good faith and should be honored.

And wrt to App.net, fine, you are a stoic Buddhist individual. But I guarantee you that if that happens, people will fucking crucify him.

The law isn't unreasonable. If you have a cash-flow sustainable business but you've taken on too many obligations you can restructure in bankruptcy. Of course that'll wipe out your equity holders but they are supposed to be behind creditors.

As for laughing at lawsuits, I think you will find that most companies don't. I hate to tell you but being a hip new economy company doesn't impress judges.

"I hate to tell you but being a hip new economy company doesn't impress judges."

Neither does insisting on a full refund after 8 years of consuming their services.

As I mention downthread, the usual measure of damages in contract is expectancy - i.e. what value would party B recieved if party A had fufilled its part of the bargain.

In this case the bargain was akin to a undated bond (the UK issued some of these), in exchange for a payment up front and infinite stream of payments. The net present value of such is straightforward to calculate; one interesting property is that their nominal value is not dependent on the time since issuance, thought their real value drops with inflation.

The law is not unreasonable, it allows for efficient breach. No court is going to order specific performance (i.e. that Joyent actually carry out its promise) but it will have to make good via monetary damages.

US courts are sophisticated enough to understand such bargains (at least since Posner was appointed to the bench in 1981).

So, what is it? I'm hearing different amounts in these threads, $200, $500 and further down even someone saying they paid $1399 for a hosting contract?

Reposting a dead reply from otneusnocuh because it took the exact words out of my mouth:

> "As a customer, stop falling for this charade."

No, theres is no reason not to take them at their word.

"lifetime" and "unlimited" need to be protected advertising words. There is no reason whatsoever to tolerate straight up lies in marketing because they are common lies.

The word was not just used as "lifetime of the product".

    TextDrive, Strongspace and Joyent
    One-time payment of $499

    We're pleased to announce a special offer that combines 
    three great products in our family — TextDrive, 

    How long is it good for?
    As long as we exist.
See http://web.archive.org/web/20060203030930/http://www.textdri...

Jason Hoffman is not embarassed to rewrite history to his advantage.


Lifetime service can be really useful for a company to sell, too. It's basically a way for them to borrow money at a cost potentially below what other capital markets may provide. If you have customers who will buy and are wiling to take the risk that you'll go out of business, it can be a good way to raise money without becoming indebted to banks or VC.

I imagine Joyent benefitted from this when they were starting out. Now that they're done reaping the benefits, they no longer want to hold up their part of the bargain... but why should we let them get away with that?

Letting companies get away with this is bad not only for the buyers, but also for the companies themselves. If you scare customers away from "lifetime" purchases by making it known that companies can get away with breaking their side of the agreement, you'll make it more difficult for them to use this useful tool.

Just thinking of a specific case, but what do you think about subscription games that promise a lifetime membership (e.g. Star Trek online), then end up going F2P anyway?

I would postulate that this is a similar issue, as you are now being charged for the game _again_ via the F2P model. That said, it seems like it would be a harder one to solve; would the paid content have to be available to the lifetime subscribers for free? Would you stop the game from going F2P to uphold the lifetime/unlimited advertising limitations?

In the latter case I'm sure companies would just stop offering unlimited plans for games like this. I think it also sends the wrong message: if you're offering "unlimited" plans at launch, you obviously don't have that much faith in the longevity of your subscription game.

I agree that companies need to stop offering unlimited use of a product or service where their costs keep scaling with use. Companies always need to base this sort of pricing on the maximum possible natural lifetime of the product, not on when they can pull it if they get into hot water. We had the same thing here in New Zealand when the incumbent ISP offered "unlimited" ADSL plans. Their network of course got clobberred, and they backtracked on it and paid out all customers who'd been on the plan after a complaint to the government about false advertising (they started surreptitiously shaping traffic after some months). They later bought the plans back, but with much more fine print, and much more traffic shaping and regulation on the connections.

Interesting question. I'd say that a game that goes F2P should exclude their lifetime members from whatever revenue model they have. If they're supported by advertisement, don't show ads to the lifetime members. If they're supported by selling premium content, let lifetime members have access to it all.

It seems like, in that case, lifetime membership could actually make for a decent ongoing revenue model. Want everything in the game, or want to go ad-free forever? Buy a lifetime membership for only $BIGNUM! Price it right and you could still make more money from those people than you'd make from having them buy bits and pieces over time. If you're F2P, presumably you've already structured the service to be very cheap to provide.

The customers should be careful, however this does not absolve people who claim "our lifetime account will be good as long as we exist" (http://web.archive.org/web/20060203030930/http://www.textdri...) from responsibility to uphold their end of the bargain. They got the $500, they have to deliver. If they can't, it's a breach of contract. Of course, as a customer, you should be aware that your supplier could breach the contract and have plan B - but that still means they are in breach, however high incentive they have to do it. I wonder if the lawsuits will follow...

I am not a lawyer and the following is my oversimplified understanding of the law as an economist who has taken some law&econ classes. But...

Just because you have a cause of action for breach of contract (the law recognizes the other guy should've kept his promise) does not mean you can get the remedy of specific performance (where the other guy is actually ordered to make good after all). The standard common law remedy is _in specie_ damages (the other guy has to pay up). The exact rules about when the court can compel specific performance are messy (written by lawyers), but it seems to me that basically what they all come down to is that no judge is going to say "I compel performance" if there's no feasible, relatively hassle-free way to actually, physically, compel performance. And that, in practice, tends to mean cases where the promise was title (legal ownership) to property: the judge can make the promise be kept by simply awarding the title to you. Actually getting the other guy to give you the cow or get off the land that's newly yours is a matter of property law, which has procedures such as replevy (where the Sheriff waves a gun around while you take the cow) and ejection (where the Sheriff waves a gun around telling them to get off your land.) These things can get messy enough as it is, and no judge wants to be responsible for having a sheriff waving a gun around to, say, compel somebody to give you a haircut. (And a GOOD haircut too, or else I'll shoot!) In such cases, the tricky specific performance business is transformed by the law into a straightforward money debt of the sort that can be enforced using, you guessed it, Sheriffs with guns, as well as garnishment of wages and the like. (I'm pretty sure that in the US, though, debts arising from judgments in breach of contracts cases are dischargeable in bankruptcy. Don't trust me on this, but I think it's pretty much only tax debts, student loans, and judgments for "intentional" torts that aren't dischargeable.)

All right, so after that long paragraph full of chattels and replevies and Sheriffs, if you are still reading, let's just assume that what could be had in court was monetary damages.

How much?

Oh, I would say about $500. Maybe a small multiple of that, but how are you going to convince a judge that you paid $500 for something that is worth much more than a small multiple of $500 to you?

Lots of companies including government do lifetime memberships and they aren't scams. I cat get lifetime fishing license with the state of california instead of paying $50 a year. I can get a lifetime pass to legoland here in california. REI has lifetime membership model, restaurants in my area offer lifetime drinks if you by a glass from them. These aren't charades and why do we always blame the victim?

And let's forget buying stock. Unless a company goes bankrupt, thereby sinking all the shareholders, then every share sold must be honored.

With REI, I think you need to re-buy the lifetime membership if you do not purchase anything at an REI store for an extended period of time (IIRC, it was a year)

You cease being an "active member" if you don't spend $10 for a year, but you don't have to pay the membership fee again to become an active member again. Just spend at REI.

Well, thanks for all your recent wisdom. Now all you need to do is travel back in time to 2004 and warn everyone that backing Dean Allen's little cottage-industry hosting venture will end in tears.

The ACCC is like the FCC, but they are backed by a very hardcore piece of legislation, which bans misleading or deceptive conduct - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misleading_or_deceptive_conduct

Not just lying, but anything the court consideres "misleading or deceptive".

It's a consumer right's lawyer's wet dream - they can argue that basically any company which screws consumers is being misleading or deceptive; and it's going to be up to the company to convince the court otherwise.

they can argue that basically any company which screws consumers is being misleading or deceptive

Er... good? Misleading and deceptive companies get prosecuted. Good.

The customers have only 'fallen for it' if they decide not to enforce the contract.

Wow! Seriously? Look at what you wrote:

>> It never ceases to amaze me how many people "fall" for this "lifetime" pricing model. In fact I said the exact same thing three months ago.

>> The fact that the service provider is not getting any future revenue from you, even if they've fairly discounted your lifetime value, gives them the incentive to get rid of you."

If you ever start a company, let me know so I can be sure to NEVER bring you any of my business. The fact that you think it's okay to lie to your customers, and then blame THEM for not providing "additional revenue" is absolutely horrible. Looking at your profile it appears Google's "Don't be evil" motto would have made something of an impression on you, but I guess not.

Simple facts:

    * Joyent made a promise for a service
    * Joyent broke that promise
And yet you blame the customer?

I didn't see any customer blaming, nor condoning of this behaviour. Just an accurate analysis of why when you see "lifetime" or "unlimited" advertised, it's generally best to run the other way.

The issue is counterparty risk, generally.

Don't buy something, especially something with an ongoing or operations component, from someone you don't trust. I think J.P. Morgan's famous quote is instructive.

There's nothing wrong with using long-term (perpetual is very long term) liability to finance growth. That's what happens when you sell equity in a start-up -- it's dead anyway if you can't launch, so that you'll eventually be paying dividends to shareholders (or otherwise returning capital to them) is often a reasonable trade. Financing early customers the same way makes sense; if you have to sell a unit of product now at a perpetual loss, you can compute the lifetime cost of that; for instance, giving pg a free lifetime email account ($500/yr) if that brings you 10k customers at $500/yr is probably a worthwhile strategy for a new high-end email hosting service.

> It never ceases to amaze me how many people "fall" for this "lifetime" pricing model.

While I agree that a "lifetime" or "unlimited X" pricing model will nearly always end up unsustainable, I think you've got your conclusion the wrong way around:

It never surprises me to see how many business end up shooting themselves in the foot, offering a "lifetime" pricing model early on.

Because really, you can't seriously take the business' side in this, when they don't make up on their promises. Doing that is wrong and dishonest.

The customer might not have been very realistic in their expectations, but the business actually broke their promise.

IMO the former is merely not very smart, while the latter is actually wrong.

Meh, it is nothing new and even governments do it. For example, my mother had a "lifetime visa" from the USA, which lasted maybe for 10 years. Some years ago she had to change her "lifetime" visa for a 10 year visa (standard Laser visa).

I guess "dishonoring" contracts might be a cultural thing.

Reminds me of Google Fiber offering free internet forever for a $300 install fee. I would trust that more if they would charge $5/month.

Except Google Fiber doesn't offer that. The $300 fee covers "at least 7 years", a much more honest proposition.

Also, this is not the 1Gb/1Gb service you get for $70/month, it's only 5Mb/1Mb. So, it's not so costly for them to provide it, and there's plenty of room for people to talk themselves into upgrading to the faster service.


I've been warning people about Joyent for a few years now. A few years back I was using them for some hosting and they were dishonest about their shared filesystem issues.

The fact that I got a good deal for hosting in retrospect is irrelevant. Joyent offered lifetime service in exchange for a large payment up front. It wasn't just a one time deal they regretted. They made lifetime offers on numerous occasions. It was their business model at the time, no one forced them.

Here's a very easy solution for Joyent.

Refund my money. My payment was for lifetime service. Pay me back and we'll call it quits.

Joyent seems to be doing some general housecleaning... I received a similar notice (same first paragraphs) related to the closure of their http://no.de/ Node.js hosting service:


Joyent is retiring the No.de service. If, as a Node.js developer, you prefer a Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering, we suggest that you consider our third-party partner, Nodejitsu, who offers a Node.js PaaS that runs on Joyent. Joyent continues to provide an ideal cloud infrastructure to run your Node.js applications, with performance and debugging tools that no other cloud provides. Sign up for a free trial on Nodejitsu (www.nodejitsu.com) or take advantage of Joyent Cloud's 30-Day Free Trial using this promotional code.


Every company that offers "lifetime" anything, seems to mean their lifetime, not yours.

I once had a lifetime free checking account, I still have the advertising flyers from when I got it.

Well they took that away from me last year too.

I guess they just count on you getting a lawyer and lawsuit being more of a hassle than you just walking away.

I'm another Mixed Grill customer, currently on a shared Solaris box.

When I bought it, I knew it was a gamble, and with the $500 spread over 6.5ish years, it's not a terrible ROI.

I assumed I'd lose out due to the company eventually folding, though. "As long as we exist" seemed pretty straightforward, and what I knew about them didn't leave me believing that they'd just pull the plug like this.

I've updated their Wikipedia page with a short section that I believe summarizes the situation accurately and factually, without letting my emotions creep in too much - if anyone cares to edit it, have at it. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Joyent

Joyent, I'm disappointed. You had a few memorable tech disasters, but never before did I personally experience ill will from you. I had begun to trust you guys.

Looks like Jason Hoffman has stepped into the forums to explain the reasoning behind their decision and do some damage control:


They probably should have done that on the original letter.

Someone already started a Google group for people to discuss where to move their hosting: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/ex-joyeurs

For anyone who's interested, a "Money back or five free years of your own virtual server" offer has been posted by Jason Hoffman: http://discuss.joyent.com/viewtopic.php?id=33682

It doesn't come close to honoring the "as long as we exist" that we bought in for, but it's a lot better than the starting position, and Jason is talking a little about why we're being cut.

(From what I can see, it looks like cutting the lifers may have been a requirement of some of the recent VC investors. That's me reading between the lines a bit, though.)

This actually seems fairly typical for most free or lifetime plans for things. Are there counterexamples of site/services that offered lifetime access that are still doing so 5 years later?

American Airlines started selling a lifetime pass in 1981, and is still honoring them today, although they're starting to crack down on certain abuses of the system.

For anyone interested, there was an interesting article on this subject published earlier this year.


Tivo has Lifetime subscriptions, where the lifetime is of the hardware but they transfer if you sell the hardware. They aren't always selling them as an option, but they always honor them, and have been for 10+ years.

I bought an original Tivo with lifetime service in 1999 and I still use the subscription today. 6 or 7 years ago they offered a promotion that allowed you to transfer your lifetime service to a new HD unit and that device is still running. The service has cost me an average of $1.28/mo.

I had one of the original Tivos in the UK, and I bought a lifetime subscription.

They ended this service in 2011.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TiVo#United_Kingdom

They no longer honour this deal in UK (which sucks, because I loved it).

Yeah, not much you can do about the service ending.

I bought a lifetime gym membership long ago. The gym is (amazingly) still in business and still serves me.

Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, Hotmail, etc.

They don't have lifetime accounts -- everyone pays the monthly fee ($0)

Same thing. Just look at the front page of Facebook "It's free and always will be"

This reminds me I bought a lifetime license for Visual Studio in the 90's. Less than a year later they revoked it ans esent q cheque for $50 and a copy of Visual Java

Split the company in two, one with lifetime accounts one without. One with lifetime accounts goes bankrupt immediately. Promise kept, goals achieved!

Seriously though, the printout I have from March 29, 2006 of their Mixed Grill offer says "One-time payment of $499" and "How long is it good for? As long as we exist."

That constitutes a contract which they are clearly trying very hard to ignore. It seems so petty given their success, available resources, and the very manageable limited bandwidth and quota'd storage space us lifetime customers are allocated.

I think lifetime should mean lifetime.

They should of given you at least 15 years free I think.

It appears that lifetime means lifetime of the product rather than lifetime of the customer. Is anyone really that surprised?

The folks who read the offer are probably surprised.


Q: How long is it good for? A: As long as we exist.

According to michaelhoffman, the FAQ said this: "Q: How long is it good for? A: As long as we exist."

Seems pretty clear cut to me.

(Not sure this is accurate, though. I did find it repeated in a forum discussing Joyent in 2006.)

Linked from other comments in this thread:


This is pretty common with consumer products. If something has a "lifetime warranty," that "lifetime" is typically a defined period of time (e.g.-seven years), not until you die.

Joyent specified the length of "lifetime" as "as long as we exist" in the offer.

Yes, apparently so.

Wow. Either Joyent is financially doomed on its own (and is trying to cut costs), or is just really stupid.

EOLing an old lifetime product with high support costs makes sense. What they should have done was moved the "small number of customers" using Lifetime service onto a new lifetime platform using their shared hosting platform. The plan they're offering for a year seems like an adequate replacement -- the cost of providing that low tier of service forever is probably not much more than the cost of providing it for a year.

Maybe make it opt-in, so inactive accounts don't spin up on the new platform, and provide some higher level of service at a discount (so, instead of a $50/yr cloud plan for free, you could optionally get a $250/yr plan for $150/yr.)

They did the same for their perpetually paying customers too. When I signed up for my TextDrive account it was billed as one price ($10/month) forever. Then Joyent bought them and things were OK for a while but I figured that was the end of my price guarantee.

My biggest issue with Joyent is they seem to change their services every year or two while letting their legacy customers languish. I used to have an account on a shared host. Now I have a Smart Machine, or maybe a Shared Accelerator. I'm not sure anymore and they keep changing the support website.

Now I just use them for mail but, I'm dissatisfied with that so I'm looking to move.

What I want is to pay for a service and not worry about it. It's too much work being their customer nowadays.

Class action law suit?

Much suckage. Lifetime means lifetime. It wouldn't be too much out of the way to provide a small host for "lifetime" users. I have complained to joyent.

This is fraud, no contest. The real question is what's the best way to deal with it. 1. Social pressure to re-instate equivalent service (1.5gb for me) 2. numerous small claims court applications (full refund + migration costs/damages) 3. Class action (similar to above).

To make any of them work to full effect, we'd probably have to band together? Any argument as to which method is preferred? CCT

I believe I also have a "lifetime" account, I have not received this email. Though I did switch over to the solaris machines a few years ago.

I received the email. Felt unpleasant. It wasn't much financially, just the feeling that it is wrong.

I switched to the Solaris hosting some time ago as well.

Same here, still haven't got anything.

TextDrive was a great host back in the day (I signed up around 2004) and I was also happy with Joyent as well. They've obviously changed target markets since then, which is unfortunate, but I think the offer they made is certainly palatable and a sign of good will. All good things must come to an end, and then you go on to the next good company.

If you are a VC/MG/3ML like me, I think you can ask support for a partial refund. I did it, now let's see...

Jason Hoffman says that and other interesting things about the EOL here (read all of his posts):


Had a similar experience with an old host, promised "lifetime price freeze". A couple of years later they started charging me more as they had 'moved me to a new server' which I fiercely contested. In the end we settled for a compromise.

Ridiculous, since the reason to get a new server is that it's cheaper per cycle/byte/watt.

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