For the past 7 years, I've hosted all of my websites at Joyent. Over the next 7 weeks, that will change. It wasn't my choice, but this is my story.
In 2005 I was a college senior. At that point, I'd already had the wordflood.net domain name for at least 5 years and I'd been using various web hosts that entire time. As I'd learned more about the internet and hosting, I'd switched providers frequently, to take advantage of what I was learning.
In March 2005, I found TextDrive. TextDrive was founded by Dean Allen, first and foremost a writer, as a web host for people who cared about writing, who cared about good design, and who didn't want to deal with corporate headaches. The first 200 users provided the funding for the initial servers and the entire setup was community driven and funded. I quickly switched my hosting to TextDrive and felt at home.
TextDrive had a great community of users. The founders (Dean Allen and Jason Hoffman) were the first two users and first two financial backers. They were very active in the forums and in almost every way were just two more members of the community. The community learned from each other, laughed together, and encouraged each other. Like almost every community, we had a host of inside jokes and our own cultural references. I loved it.
TextDrive offered a "VCIII" lifetime hosting plan, in September 2005. I would have to pay $399 for it, but it would guarantee me an account on their servers for as long as TextDrive existed. Given the existing community and the active participation by the founders, I wanted in.
I had graduated from college in May 2005 and gotten married in July 2005. For me, $399 was a lot of money. My wife wasn't really enthusiastic about the purchase. I convinced her by pointing out that it was a lifetime deal. It would get the current hosting amount off of our monthly budget and it would give me a "free" place to tinker, experiment, and learn for a long, long time.
In November 2005, a company called Joyent purchased TextDrive. The TextDrive customers were extremely nervous about this acquistion. We had a great company, a great community, and a great host. Would Joyent ruin it? Would they kick us out? Were our lifetime hosting accounts over now that TextDrive no longer officially existed?
David Young, Joyent's CEO, acted quickly to demonstrate good faith. He not only promised to honor the existing lifetime accounts, he doubled down by offering the Mixed Grill lifetime package, for $499. It included TextDrive hosting, Strongspace for file storage, and Joyent Connector for small group email. And, "how long is it good for?", we asked. "As long as we exist", David told us.
My wife and I had recently been talking about the need for online file storage, for backups. Strongspace would be perfect for that. And Joyent's Connector product looked like a good idea for email too. When Dean Allen decided that existing VC customers could upgrade to the Mixed Grill lifetime package for just $199, we were in. We scraped up the money from our budget and sent it in.
Since then, I've had nearly seven years to enjoy my hosting package and the Joyent community. Over time, most of the discussion migrated from the TextDrive forums to Twitter. But we all (mostly) stayed in contact, linked by our appreciation for Joyent and the early community we'd shared.
I learned a lot too. TextDrive gave us command prompt access to the servers. We had the freedom to install, configure, and manage our own software. I learned Ruby on Rails and hosted my own app on my account. I compiled my own copy of nginx and used it for my own PHP web apps. I installed multiple versions of Wordpress and learned how to create and manage a Wordpress multi-site server. I ran my own websites and those of my family on the server. It was a great time to tinker and learn.
Along the way, Strongspace was sold to ExpanDrive, but Joyent ensured that our lifetime accounts would stay intact and endure. The Joyent Connector was discontinued and the hosting servers were migrated from FreeBSD servers to shiny, new Solaris servers. Joyent grew, expanded, and moved into enterprise hosting. Joyent discontinued Shared Hosting for new customers but continued to honor their agreements with their lifetime customers.
The Break Up
Thursday morning, Joyent gave their loyal, lifetime customers a nasty surprise.
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.
For many business reasons, including infrastructure performance, service quality and manageability, these early products are nearing their End of Life. We plan to sunset these services on October 31, 2012 and we'd like to walk you through a few options.
We understand this might be an inconvenience for you, but we have a plan and options to make this transition as easy as possible. We’ve been developing more functionality on our new cloud infrastructure, the Joyent Cloud, for our customers who care about performance, resiliency and security. Now’s the time to take advantage of all the new capabilities you don’t have today. Everyone that’s moved to our new cloud infrastructure has been pleased with the results.
We appreciate and value you as one of Joyent's lifetime Shared Hosting customers. As this service is one of our earliest offerings, and has now run its course, your lifetime service will end on October 31, 2012. However, we believe that you will enjoy the new functionalities of the Joyent Cloud. To show you our appreciation, as one of Joyent's lifetime Shared Hosting customers, we'd like to offer you a free 512MB SmartMachine on the Joyent Cloud for one year. Use this promotional code to redeem the offer.
Promotional Code: xxxxxxxxxxxx
Please review the Terms and Conditions for the Joyent Cloud One Year Free 512 MB Machine Promotion by visiting this link.
To find out more about the Joyent Cloud and your options, please follow this link to our migration center for additional details.
Founder and CTO
It was surprising to get this message at all. It was shocking to get it from Jason. He was one of us, he'd been there since the beginning, and he'd helped so many of us. More than a few customers had been promoted to TextDrive or Joyent employees. More than a few people had visited San Francisco and had beers or tacos with Jason. It was a personal relationship that we trusted. And, suddenly, it was over. Our lifetime accounts were no longer good for the lifetime of Joyent.
We would have been willing to migrate from our existing servers to new servers, using Joyent's latest infrastructure and products. We realize that servers get old and architectures change. We'd already migrated once before and we were willing to do it as many times as needed, over the years. But that offer wasn't extended to us. Instead, we were invited to "upgrade" to a paid, monthly account using Joyent's latest products. That offer seemed insulting, to say the least.
It felt like a kick in the gut. It felt like a sudden breach with an old friend. We were thrown out, with a token promotional code and a mere 10 weeks to migrate all of our sites to a new server. The news spread quickly, the outrage spread faster, and by the end of Thursday, Jason was negotiating with his customers, over the best resolution for everyone involved.
Jason has now offered everyone their choice of either 5 years free hosting on a Joyent SmartMachine or a full refund of their original purchase. I haven't decided which option I'll take, but I'll need to decide soon and then start migrating my own sites.
It's the end of an era for me and I'm saddened by that.