Free & Open Is Its Own Lock-in

A decade ago, one of the very first places I found that offering free websites gave everyone access to the same images directory. You could upload your own images, but then everyone else could use them as well.

Goofy, questionable, but free.

I’ve been hosting with Joyent for more than 3 years, purchased 3 different ‘lifetime’ accounts from them. I’ve played around with a hundred website ideas on those accounts, comfortable knowing I can do whatever I need to explore an idea.

Whatever the app; Rails, PHP, MySQL, Facebook, some other crazy technology sounds cool, I know Joyent’s servers are up for it.

At this point, a year after my last ‘lifetime’ purchase, I consider those accounts ‘free’.
Free, as in: I’ve got a crazy idea and some server space, let’s see if this thing has legs.

I suspect Joyent considers them free as well.
Free, as in: Here’s the pricing on our Accelerators when you figure out your idea has legs.
Not free as in: Sharecropping.

“If you’re developing software for the Windows platform, yes. Or for the Apple platform, or the Oracle platform, or the SAP platform, or, well, any platform that is owned and operated by a company. They own the ground you’re building on, and if they decide they don’t like you, or they can do something better with the ground, you’re toast. ” – Tim Bray, 2003

“Perhaps Google is thinking about acquisitions. How much would it be worth to buy companies without having to transition their technology to their platform?” – Dave Winer

“Try to leave App Engine. Or AWS. When you move can you install Bigtable? S3?” – David Young

From its very first iteration, Cullect.com was running on one of my ‘free’ servers. Late last year, I moved it to another, bigger, ‘free’ server. A couple months ago, ‘free’ didn’t cut it any more. The idea had legs and needed room to run. I opened my wallet and and purchased a 1GiB Accelerator.

While I briefly considered moving the app to a different host, I realized Joyent has me locked-in.

Not locked into their platform, but locked into their attitude. Locked into their community, and locked in because I know I can experiment for ‘free’ and when those experiments work, they sold another Accelerator.

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