How long is a lifetime? For Joyent, six years

How long is a lifetime? For Joyent, six years

Summary: How long should a "lifetime" subscription be honored? Cloud services company Joyent seeks to end an offer from 2006, angering customers.


If you buy a "lifetime" subscription to something, just how long should it be honored, really?

Three years? Five? Ten? As long as the company exists? Forever?

San Francisco, Calif.-based cloud services company Joyent is attempting to move holdout customers to its new cloud platform, in doing so ending the "lifetime" deal these customers entered in by plunking down $500 for a services bundle.

It all started when Joyent acquired web hosting company TextDrive, which sold lifetime subscriptions to its earliest customers as a way to spur investment. Joyent honored the agreement, and everything was hunky dory. Until now.

The outrage is palpable. Here's one from Hacker News:

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?

And another:

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.

And another from Google Plus:

Apparently by "lifetime" they meant until we get tired of supporting them....... 

The about-face on policy here is certainly undesired, but the situation raises a great question: if a company is bold (stupid?) enough to offer "lifetime" subscriptions to services, how long would you expect to have them before it's fair to pull the plug?

In a world where technologies replace technologies (and the companies behind them), how long is a "lifetime"?

[via TechCrunch]

Topic: Cloud

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • Until the subscriber, or the company, dies

    Is it really debatable?
    x I'm tc
    • I experienced the same thing with TiVo.

      Lifetime services for $199.00 when I purchased my first box. 4 years later and they changed the wording so that the service was hooked to the device. When it failed, you had to pay for lifetime service again. 2 years after that they discontinued lifetime services period. You now have to pay monthly in addition to buying the DVR box.

      So for me lifetime turned out to be 6 years as well. So the answer must be 6 years!
      • Hardware vs. Service

        If you buy a physical device, like a TiVo, or a GPS, or what-have-you, I do think the lifetime of the device is another interpretation.
        x I'm tc
  • I smell

    I smell a lawsuit...
  • Caveat Emptor

    I just checked, and it turns out there is no legal definition of "lifetime" in this context. The smarter companies actually define it somewhere in the fine print. TiVo sells a lifetime subscription, but defines "lifetime" as the life of the DVR you bought. Garmin does the same thing with map subscriptions: it's the life of the GPS receiver. Sirius XM once sold lifetime subscriptions; that one is now the subject of a class action lawsuit.
    Robert Hahn
  • How long is a lifetime?

    Joyent/Textdrive did a pretty solid job defining this on their original offer:

    How long is it good for?
    As long as we exist.
    • So it doesn't anymore

      The lifetime subscription was offered by Textdrive, so when Joyent bought Textdrive that company ceased to exist legally, therefore their lifetime offer also ceased to exist, I would think.
      • Not as cut and clear

        Future rounds of funding were performed while Joyent owned TextDrive.

        Checkout the footer from the web archive:
      • No... Buyers of organizations assume the contracts of the previous org

        Basic contract law...

        You buy another company, you assume all the obligations of that other company, including any existing contracts.

        Contracts here would be broken if the company went out of business, and maybe if the company went bankrupt. But that didn't happen here.

        This seems to be a pretty open and shut case. If anyone takes Joyent to court over this, Joyent is going to have to offer them either actual lifetime accounts, or some monetary equivalent.

        In other words, oops!
        Matthew J. Borcherding
  • ... lifetime of what?

    I suppose, unless it is defined in the user agreement or contract, if it is associated with a device the lifetime is the time that the device is in use by the original owner. If it is a service agreement that is not associated with a device it would be the lifetime of the two original parties in the agreement. If one dies or goes out of business or stops providing or using the service, that's it. So, frankly speaking, Joyent was generous to honor any of the existing agreements in the first place. They did not make those agreements or contracts, so I wonder what language in the purchase addressed the issue. That is what it comes down to... that language, if it exists. If it was not specifically addressed, then I guess both parties had better be ready to listen to a judge. :o)
  • The Cloud

    Another great reason to not trust storing things there.