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Summary:

Asking your users to buy lifetime subscriptions to a service is an unconventional way to build a business. But in 2004 that’s what TextDrive did. But after those lifetime subscriptions were cut short, TextDrive’s co-founder has stepped out of retirement to keep them alive.

Jason Hoffman

Earlier this month a small segment of customers of the former hosting provider TextDrive learned a frustrating lesson about the longevity of lifetime services on the web when Joyent, which had purchased TextDrive, said it would discontinue the lifetime hosting those customers had signed up for. On Thursday those users will learn a different lesson — namely that sometimes people and businesses keep their word and that, yes, their lifetime accounts will be honored with the formation of a new TextDrive.

The second coming of TextDrive is courtesy of Dean Allen, a co-founder of the service who left in 2007 roughly two years after it was acquired by Joyent. His other TextDrive co-founder Jason Hoffman is a co-founder and CTO of Joyent. Allen told me that after Joyent purchased TextDrive he knew that the lifetime memberships that users purchased in order to help fund the growth of the business, were likely doomed, but when the time came to kill them he wanted to step back up and create a hosting company that could still honor them.

“I knew fully well at the time [Joyent bought TextDrive] that one day it wouldn’t be possible to support lifetime subscriptions anymore, and I knew when the day came that it was no longer possible I would step back in and take care of those people.”

So when he saw Joyent email saying those accounts would be suspended, he said, “I think I kicked the cat and sweared a lot. And then I called Jason [Hoffman].” Allen flew over from France, where he lives, and spent the last few days working out the details of how Joyent would migrate the TextDrive customers on the older infrastructure over to the new TextDrive. Those customers will still be hosted on Joyent’s servers, but on the more modern infrastructure, and will no longer be direct customers of Joyent.

Allen plans to continue running TextDrive as a business, and the affected customers will transition over to TextDrive by Nov. 1 with minimal effort from then. Behind the scenes, however Joyent engineers and Allan are working hard to ensure the thousands of users are ported over to the appropriate hosting infrastructure.

“The thing we can attribute to Joyent is that they were creative and worked with us in finding a solution that gives people what they had,” Allen said. And perhaps we can also learn that sometimes, people do honor their word.

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  1. Reblogged this on Drew's Blog and commented:
    Good to see Dean step up… some promises are worth keeping.

  2. But how do you pay for it?

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