Wednesday, May 17, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

FastMail “Lifetime” Member Plans

brong (via Hacker News):

FYI, we’re finally closing off guest and member accounts entirely. […] We have already not allowed new signups at those service levels for quite some time. We are offering very generous discounts for upgrades.

In 2002, the member account promised a lifetime mail account for a one-time $14.95 fee.

David:

The member accounts were introduced at a critical time in Fastmail’s development, when they needed serious funding (when they first went paid).

[…]

That Fastmail have honored their commitment (to keep these accounts valid, over all these years) I consider impeccable.

Now they are reneging on that deal, although obviously anyone who signed up 15 years ago got a tremendous value. I don’t really understand why FastMail is doing this, since it seems like the 16 MB storage quota on the old plan would be enough to entice most users to upgrade. Anyone remaining wouldn’t drain their resources much—except perhaps for customer support. Is it really worth sullying their reputation? If the situation is so dire that they’ll go out of business if they keep their word, then as a satisfied non-lifetime customer I’m glad they’re not going down in flames to prove a point. On the other hand, it is worrying that either they’re simply choosing not to honor their commitment or that the business I’m relying on is that close to collapse.

The bottom line: customers should never count on anything actually being lifetime, businesses should only offer such plans as a last resort, and anyone who really cares about their e-mail address should get their own domain.

7 Comments

I signed up not long ago to get out of Gmail. I didn't last a month. Once you are in, you realize how their policies don't match up to their promises, and dealing with customer care isn't great either. I'll keep searching.

@Anonymous I’ve heard other new customers say similar things. On the other hand, I’ve been a paying customer for years and have had a great experience with both the service and the support.

As somebody who has been on a Member Plan, I am not too disappointed with this development (thought I have been only using FastMail's SMTP server recently). With domain registrations and email hosting being cheap (the registrar I use provides registration and email hosting for $16/year), it makes absolute sense to have your own domain and be flexible to move if necessary.

DressTheMonkey

I signed up for one of these low-cost "lifetime" accounts about 10 years ago (that's far from exact, it was definitely in the dim and distant). A couple months ago, I got the e-mail saying it was being canceled and all that and I was a bit surprised and disappointed. One thing they stated in the e-mail was something like: they never intended people to stay on these accounts forever, they intended people to convert to paying accounts after a certain period.

As I couldn't find any contracts or legal documents or anything for what I signed up for, and as the price for signing up _was_ a good deal, and as I'm completely confused by the plethora of domain registering and email hosting options, I signed up for a paid account. Even if I had found some legal documents and all that, I figured I had had a good free ride, and they probably deserved some dough.

Other than this issue, I've been satisfied with the service. But I've only used it to forward mail automatically to another account; it isn't like I've had a wide experience with the it.

I do hope they're not in serious trouble. I have my own domain name, but I've been using FastMail for years, and have quite a lot of server-side rules built up that I'd be sad to have to move/convert to some other system (I know they use Sieve and I could roll my own server, or whatever, but any change of mail server provider is a pain in the arse!)

I also like their reliability, and their honesty when things go wrong. They and Backblaze are in a very small category of "service providers whose blog posts I actually really enjoy for the technical details", if nothing else...

An interesting comment from https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=brongondwana, who seems to work at fastmail.com:

"On the topic of support - one thing that's hard for FastMail is that with customers who are paying every month/year/whatever, we have a billing contact which gives us a way to get in touch when their account gets locked. Non-paying accounts are just as likely to have their credentials stolen and used for spam, but they are even _more_ costly to re-identify the owner."

"Refusing to try to identify the owner and just leaving locked accounts locked would get us just as much bad press as this, and be much worse for the affected users - since there would be no warning period before losing the account."

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14364351

@peter That is interesting, and he makes a good point. However, I don’t understand why they keep saying they didn't use the word “lifetime.” I distinctly remember that from the time, and it’s confirmed by the Internet Archive.

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