It’ll end in tiers

[Note: The events and deals described in the post are currently in flux. I advise not acting upon the information contained within, for the moment.]

It looks like it’s happening again, in another venue.

One of my first posts here was on why apple-watchers/users have an overgrown sense of entitlement. TextDrive has much of that excited buzz about it, albeit on a smaller scale. The forums, featuring the founders’ regular commentary, attract a rabidly loyal following. Over time, people like Jason Hoffman have tuned back their announcements of what’s to come from explicit promises to somewhat cryptic allusion.

Earlier promises of what would come to customers (in the forums dominated by the hosting-for-life customers) often ran into implementation delays, and so there have been multiple instances of managing expectations with the delays. These have always been handled by Joyent/TextDrive with graciousness, generosity, and aplomb, but the journey to customer satisfaction has not always been pretty, mostly thanks to the enviable customer buzz and loyalty cultivated by TextDrive. Even announcements on when news will be made available have been greeted by customers with the solemnity of a contract.

So, while there have been no explicit announcements laid out on what the precise future of shared hosting is at TextDrive, there have been enough hints to set people abuzz with excitement and speculation. One current meme/worry now (most likely prompted by my “harmless” observation on the forums) is that the people who paid an extra $199 to upgrade their TextDrive lifetime accounts to go onto the MixedGrill plan will have nothing to distinguish themselves from the VCers who did not upgrade. Someguy embodies this fear in this Joyent forum thread:

It looks like the VC accounts at TxD have been bumped to 10GB quota which matches with the mid-level TxD shared hosting plan. Once the Joyent Core gets rolled out it would appear that the VCers will end up with the 25GB/25 user mid-tier Joyent and SS accounts.

Will the MGs also be in the mid-tier but get access to the soon-coming additional apps, or something else?

In other words, if I’m “special,” and pay TextDrive earlier/more, shouldn’t I always get the special goodies? While a part of me marvels at TxD’s loyalty to customers who no longer provide active income, and live off the increasing returns while the hosting company repeatedly pumps millions into its network, storage, application, and processing infrastructure, another part thinks, “yeah, we paid more, shouldn’t we get more?”

Here comes the irresponsible speculation, deliberately kept off the forums: I think MixedGrill customers will stay special, and receive Strongspace and Joyent Connector apps at the “Plus” level of service (25 GiB, 25 Users). I think VCs will join those users at the “Shared 2” level of TextDrive hosting, but will not receive the full “Plus” plans of the others. The Joyent Core upgrade will introduce Strongspace and Joyent Connector to the VCs at a lower level. “Startup” (or 5 users, 5GiB storage) seems too low, but if you double it to 10/10, it sounds just right, and still far enough from the MixedGrill users to show a respectable differentiation.

Here’s my prediction, though: no matter what is announced, someone is going to think it’s unfair, and complain loudly on the forums. Most people will see this as being craven entitlement, and will shout the person down. Life will be a little more exciting for some people for a while, then settle down afterwards. :-) (I reckon that’s a safer prediction than past ones on the blog…)