Transcript: Lost Episode 569

Daniel: Manton, I know you have pretty competitive pricing for, $5 a month. Remind me, you do a yearly plan?

Manton: Yep, you save two months free if you do it per year. $50 a year.

Daniel: Okay, so that’s pretty smart, pretty generous. But Automattic is trying to one-up you, or I should say 100-up you, with their 100-year hosting plan. What do you think about that? When is that coming to

Manton: It’s not coming, at least not in that form.

Manton: I actually love this idea. First of all, it’s 100 years, they take care of all the domain name renewals. It’s obviously designed to outlive you. It’s for either your site and, you know, other people in your family can take it over. Or I think one of the pitches they had for it was you have a kid and want to give them a domain name for 100 years. It’s $38,000, which seems like a lot.

Daniel: That seems like a lot.

Manton: Yeah. But then someone pointed out inflation and I did some quick math… It was a few days ago and I don’t have it in front of me, but if you consider inflation, it’s actually a… seems like an okay deal. But if you just think about the per-year cost of $38,000, it is a lot to just host.

Daniel: It’s $380 a year, I think. And then that adds up to about $32 a month, which is a lot cheaper than WordPress’s VIP hosting.

Manton: That’s true.

Daniel: But it’s a lot more than the regular hosting rate. And it might have even been me that mentioned the inflation thing to you. But that’s a pretty safe bet on Automattic’s part, I think.

Daniel: I like this idea. It kind of feels, though, who’s going to really buy this thing? And this idea of, oh, you have a kid and buy them 100 years of hosting. Who buys a kid anything for $38,000? You have to be a pretty rich family, I think, to justify that.

Daniel: And then the other thing that comes to my mind is having something that lasts for 100 years, and then stops, kind of defeats the point of being 100 years. I mean, why not just have it for 90 years then? Is that last 10 years going to really matter?

Daniel: And then you can go down the line, well, isn’t 50 years maybe enough? Can I get a special deal and just pay maybe $20,000 for 50 years?

Daniel: It kind of feels like a concept car in the sense that it’s really cool, but seems very impractical when you actually analyze how you would use it in your everyday life.

Manton: Yeah, I have a lot of questions about like, do you pay it all up front? I guess you do. I like the idea in concept because, as we’ve talked about before, I’ve thought about how Automattic and GitHub, I think were the two companies I listed, were the only companies that I could see surviving 100 years. And I still stand by that.

Manton: It was a few years ago I said that. I think that is still true, even more so with GitHub being acquired by Microsoft. But also, Matt Mullenweg, this is really in line with some of the things that he thinks about, I think, in terms of longevity. I love that, but it’s just not accessible to any normal person. Even someone who has plenty of money, it’s a big thing to ask to say $38,000 up front, write a check. That’s a lot.

Daniel: I’m really curious if they have sold even one. I mean, we heard about this a while ago. This news is about a week old. A little more than a week old. I wonder if they have sold even one.

Daniel: Because like you said, people who can afford this are probably planning on having their own company around in 100 years. If you can afford this, why not just set up a trust or something that’s gonna keep paying the bills?

Manton: Yes.

Daniel: You know what I mean? In a lot of ways, if you have $38,000 to burn, there are probably ultimately more reliable ways to ensure that, let’s say, a $10 a month site stays renewed every year.

Manton: That’s the thing, I don’t really know if there is without, like you said, just going through a lot of upfront, you know, talking to a lawyer, setting up a trust, figuring out who’s gonna maintain it, who’s gonna register the domain name.

Manton: Because that’s one of the issues with DNS is that the maximum is 10 years, right? And so, when I renewed last, I did 10 years. So, I still have some years to go on that.

Manton: But I’ve been blogging for over 20 years. There’s no way for me to say 20, 30 years, ready to go, ready to pay. It’s just technically impossible.

Manton: This is something I’ve actually been thinking about a lot. I’m not ready to say anything publicly, but I shared something with you actually a few months ago that was along these lines. I’m not sure if you remember. How do you set something up to be maintained after you or someone passes away? It’s a really tricky problem.

Manton: And the web, even though it is old-ish, you know, 30-plus years, it’s not old enough to have solved these problems yet. And I’d love to do something like this, but whatever I do, it’s not gonna be a $30,000 upfront thing because I can’t afford that. I can’t ask people to pay something that I can’t afford to do myself. That’s just too much.

Manton: And also, one of the things about… I’ve written this down, although I don’t think it’s formally documented in our help, but I’ve written this down to people is that once you pay for hosting, we will continue to host your website forever. You pay $5 to and as long as we’re in business, we’ll keep your site up and running.

Manton: So that is a way better deal if you trust that we’ll be around. But I think that’s how it should work. I think by default, unless you pull it off the internet, websites should last much longer than they currently do.

Daniel: That doesn’t cover any of the domain registration.

Manton: No, exactly.

Daniel: So if domains were free, then I think that would simplify this.

Manton: Definitely, that is the key problem.

Daniel: Well, I’m looking at the web page now for the 100-year plan, but they don’t even have a way to just buy it right now. You have a button that says “I want the 100-year plan” and then it brings you into like “connect with our dedicated team to learn more” and you have to kind of like put a name, address, blah, blah, blah.

Daniel: I’m not the kind of person who fills these things out just to find out what would happen if we do, but I wonder if somebody listening will do it and just tell us what happened.

Manton: Someone needs to do that, yes. And while you’re at it, listener, if you actually have that much money, you should subscribe to our members program. 🙂

Daniel: One of the interesting things they say is, they don’t really get into the details here, but one of those features of this is “enhanced ownership protocols”. And I think that means they’re going to help you preserve the legacy by handing control over to your children when they’re of the right age or whatever.

Manton: Yeah.

Daniel: So my little criticism about why would you register something for a hundred years if it’s going to go away on year 101? I think the implication there is there will be a renewal plan, maybe around 90 years and they say, “hey, your plan is running out, renew quickly before 10 years expires.” So that makes it a little more interesting.

Manton: And what will the next hundred years cost you?

Daniel: I kind of feel like if this is a viable business, the idea of basically taking $38,000 up front in order to guarantee hosting and domain registration for a hundred years, it feels like it should be a service that is already well served by entrepreneurs who recognize that as a viable business plan, and then would be in the position to also ensure that the service goes on beyond the coming and passing of services like, if they were to go out of business.

Daniel: You know, if this was like an institutional a company that doesn’t do its own hosting, that was just like, “hey, we’re in the business of ensuring that you will always have a hosted website.” Then they could just jump from to GoDaddy to whatever. But so maybe this isn’t a business-viable plan. Maybe this is just like you said, kind of like “Matt wants to do it” plan.

Manton: I think so. And I think they came up with that $38,000 because let’s say people do take them up on it, they can’t lose money on it. And with inflation, everything else, they do have to think about who is maintaining this thing 50 years if they’re making this promise.

Manton: But no, I think you’re right. I think a concept car is a great analogy. This is just something they are trying. And it’s probably I would guess scaled back significantly from all the crazy ideas they were brainstorming, if they’ve thought about anything like I’ve been thinking about. They’ve made like, how simple can this get? We’ll take care of your website. We’ll take care of the DNS. 100 years. Write us a big check. But you can imagine it becoming much more complicated with lots of little things.

Manton: I 100% believe that the web will be around for 100 years. And I don’t think it’s going to look like the metaverse. I actually think the current web is useful 100 years from now in terms of like we will always want to read text.

Daniel: Yep.

Manton: So obviously it won’t be HTTP, it’ll be version 15 or whatever, but SSL certificates will be something else. But the point is the idea of fetching and reading text on the web in some kind of browser, I think is here to stay. It’s just a really good, solid idea.

Daniel: I think you’re right. And the comparison comes to mind for me, our infrastructures, like roads, even even after the invention of the airplane, spaceships, roads are still here. We had roads in Roman times, right? And it’s every time a new innovation comes along, the roads just get kind of fancier.

Manton: Totally.

Daniel: And I think that’s sort of similar to infrastructure, like sewage and water plumbing. These are things that we need.

Daniel: But the other thing… The price is so extremely safe for Automattic, I think, because if you had $38,000, have a front, then I think you’d be pretty well set to bank the $30 in interest, you know?

Manton: Oh, that’s a great point. Let’s say I have this plan, you know, I’m small, I don’t have the millions and millions of dollars coming in, like Automattic does already. I don’t have 1000 employees. If I can just sign a couple people up to this plan, and just invest that money, yeah, it would be great. I would be thrilled.

Daniel: So let’s do it by the year. $32, back to $380 a year, obviously. 1% a year would pay the money back, let’s say. So they are going to take your money, and if they can make 1% a year then they’re going to break even, putting aside their loses.

Daniel: I dunno. It’s pure profit. It’s not a deal for anyone. If you have $38,000 around, put it in a bank and sign up for at $5/month. Write a note and put it in your security box, “how to renew”. Or how to renew the domain.

Daniel: And also, here’s the bank with $38,000 in it that will never get smaller. And in a 100 years, have fun with your $30,000 years, whatever.

Manton: It’s so fascinating when you start to abstract out the domain names. For example, with if you register a domain name on, we use the API. We are basically like a partner, even though we didn’t do anything fancy with them, we just use their API. We forward that off to, they manage the DNS servers. We tack on a little money on top of the normal fee just to cover our costs for doing all this, so it’s a little cheaper if you went directly. That’s fine, you pay for the convenience basically.

Manton: But the funny thing about it is that when you do it that way, we are basically buying the domain name with our credit card, in a sense, and then you pay for the domain name as part of your subscription. That kind of abstraction is interesting to me because it means… It’s more flexible. Like you could manage that how you pay for is independent of how we’re renewing the domain name for you.

Manton: I dunno, there’s so much I want to do with domain names. How old is the internet? And domain names haven’t changed in terms of how you configure them in 30 years? We should be able to do better for people.

Daniel: Well, this is fascinating. I’d be really interested if anyone has actually signed up. And if anyone out there in listener land wants to take us up on the offer to go the web site and try… Maybe if I get bored or drunk or something I’ll send a note into them and say “yeah, I want to preserve my legacy.”

Manton: You should do it. If no one else does, one of us should do it.

Daniel: Talking it through with you, not only is it zero risk to Automattic, it’s asking someone to give them a huge amount of money for not very much. Seriously, a huge amount of money right now and we will do kind of the bare minimum. We will charge you essentially 3 times as much as our normal cheap rate plans, and we need all the cash up front.

Daniel: Normally when you pay for things in advance you get a big discount. You charge $5 a month but if you pay for a full year in advance you get a big discount. Now that’s not accounting for the inflation that happens in a year. You pay for 5 years up front you often get a big discount on things.

Daniel: The value of money up front, kind of by default everyone understands that it is more significant than the inflation that will inevitable occur during the time period. So I think they are really just asking for too much money for this.

Manton: It’s really fascinating. I don’t think I could ever ask someone for that much money. I say this a lot, but I’m really proud of the fact that our plan is just $5 when everything else is like $8.95 or like $12.72. Ours is $5. Simple. It’s gonna stay like that. I just love it.

Manton: So I could never ask someone for a 5-digit amount of money. (laughing) But there are just so many things about this that are fascinating to me. And I kind of hope it’s successful for Automattic, because maybe some good ideas could be spun out of this.

Daniel: Yeah, I dunno. I’m very dubious.

Manton: So just to close this out Daniel… I think Matt linked to this. Derek Sivers who has written some great blog posts, books. He has a site that I had never heard of before: It kind of lays out the structure for let’s say you did want to do a not-for-profit, a trust, something that would keep your web site going after you die. How would it look? It’s not a company, but I guess it’s like a plan for a company? Anyway, super interesting. But I don’t know if anything has come of it except that one post.

Daniel: Yeah, interesting idea. Derek Sivers has always historically had lots of interesting ideas, and he acts on on many of them. But whatever Derek is getting at here, and he doesn’t mention any specific ideas about pricing or anything, I have to imagine that the vision is less than $38,000 all at once.

Manton: For sure. And he specifically says not for profit and that implies the bare bones. I’m actually a little conflicted on whether a for-profit company would be better at managing this than… I don’t know. You have to trust that the entity that is set up to do this will be around for 100 years. That is just very difficult. Most things do not last that long.

Daniel: I haven’t read this article yet, but I noticed he says that he says it will be something like a “purpose trust”. This is the Derek Sivers post. It’s a good idea to… Things that are established as trusts that have their own money and a plan for preserving their core finances. Those things can live pretty reliably for a long time because they’re often administered a regular person and a lawyer. And when the lawyer retires, they can pick someone else to take it over.

Daniel: But it’s fascinating. Definitely something to keep on eye on.

September 15, 2023 at 2:22 pm.