The Arrogance of Success

General unhappy rumblings about 1Password.

I’ve today had to spend time moving my password management solution from 1Password to another vendor. I won’t say which vendor I’ve moved to, as the idea makes me a bit uncomfortable. Anyway, the reason I’ve moved got me thinking about other vendors I’ve used - and loved - in the past, but then ended up really, really disliking. The process is usually a similar one, and it goes this way:

  • Vendor produces a GREAT product.
  • I invest in it.
  • I tell people to invest in it, as it’s great.
  • Vendor basks in its success.
  • Vendor has idea to get more money out of that love.
  • That vendor implements things that annoys.
  • Vendor refuses to listen to its long term users.
  • Users get rage, move on.

The critical part of this seems to be that vendors almost get arrogant in their success - once they have that arrogance, things start to go wrong.

So what has 1Password done? Why has it annoyed me so much I’ve binned my investment in them, and re-invested in one of their competitors? Well - at a high level - they’ve got very arrogant in their position. Specifically, they’re pushing their user population to a subscription service, and yet seem to be completely disregarding their existing customers. Customers who have invested in their success. Firstly, one of the things I liked about 1Password was its ability to use local vaults that did not require uploading my stuff to someone else’s cloud in a way that that vendor could read your data. Other things I liked were it’s multi-platform support, and the fact that it in general worked well.

What’s so wrong with the subscription service? Well…not that much I guess. It moves the financial model from a platform related one - I.e. Paid version, then you pay to upgrade - to a regular monthly cost. Of course they say it’s ‘the cost of a couple of cups of coffee a month!’.. Sure, that’s true, but it adds up to a lot more over time than the investments in platform/version type investments. In addition, 1Password have made no effort to smooth the journey for people who have already bought the client on (in my case) Mac OS, Windows, iOS and Android. I’ve effectively just burned that investment - so hell, I’ll burn it and invest again elsewhere.

WAIT, you think - this doesn’t of course mean the existing clients will stop working does it? No, it doesn’t. In addition 1Password has stated they’ve ‘no plans’ to remove the support for local vaults. They shout about that, and the words they use tell me one thing - that they’re ignoring the key question most people like me are asking: Will the existing non-subscription client continue to be updated? The silence on that question, from multiple people, speaks volumes. I’ve spent way, way too much time getting them to answer this question today. They’ve answered everything except this specific question. Make your own conclusions from that. A lot of users - me included -
feel betrayed by them as a vendor.

So, it’s goodbye 1Password. I’ll take my investment elsewhere, and I’ll also advise everyone I talk to of exactly the same thing. This bit is interesting - as somebody who works in tech I get asked a lot about what to buy/use etc. I wonder what the effect of that is?

Just for clarity, I don’t expect to buy one product and expect upgrades for free forever. I’ve no issue re-investing in new versions etc. This method of pushing to subscription though just bugs me. I have to pay again, for something I already have, and that uses a sync methodology I don’t want to use, and the platform I've already purchased will no longer get any updates.

So who else have I dealt with that have gone this route? Well, let’s think:

  • MOZY - the backup service. Initially a great service, at a great price. Gets you invested, and then they whack the price up. Mine went up nearly 1200% for example. So bye then.
  • Crashplan - same thing, attractive buy in, then the service got massively over-subscribed, and plummeted.
  • TomTom - pushing everyone to their subscription model, negating my fairly substantial investment in the existing apps from multiple countries.

It just bothers me that companies get this success behind them, and then they go and crap all over the people that got them the success in the first place!

Professionally I come across this too. How many times have I worked with customers where existing providers, vendors, and partners have just taken that customer for granted? Margins start to go up, response times go up, the vendor/partners ‘want’ of that business seems to assume that they’ve already won the business. Then along comes a hungrier partner, keen to get some good stuff going, and boom, that original partner is now sidelined and struggling to get back in the door.

It’s a difficult thing to try and keep that hunger I think, in some respects anyway.

The push to subscription services is a golden opportunity for a lot of companies. A golden opportunity to turn business into a nice annuity - few vendors have done it well in my experience. Who has done it well? Well, Office365 I think is an utter bargain for what you get. Same with the Adobe stuff. TomTom? Nah. It’s WAVE or Google Maps for me now.

Such is life I guess. Become arrogant in your success, and your success will become a lot more difficult to maintain. Annoy one of your customers - whether consumer or business - and it’s not just that customer you’ll lose, it’s everyone else that customer gets to influence too.

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