My understanding of the agreement was that as a free user I and all of the others were basically beta testers for the product. And it was a pretty nice product. It had the ability to connect to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, your Gmail account, external pop account checking and message forwarding, calendar, todo, mail search, and many other features including file storage and sharing.
Frankly, it had more features than I needed but it was nice to know that they were there. As a new product there were naturally times when the product became a bit unstable and behaved unexpectedly. But this was to be expected in my estimation as a beta tester.
Oh, and did I mention that I REALLY liked my email address?
However, on January 27, 2010 I received an email from the Zenbe team informing me that I had until February 28, 2010 to either upgrade to their paid service or clear out my files and vacate. They were nice enough to offer email forwarding from the zenbe address for another year, though there would be no access to the account.
And they claimed to have set their servers to facilitate migration to a host of other free services and desktop clients. I pondered the possibility of ponying up the fee for their service until some quick math suggested that for a little more I could register my own domain and host a site of my own with my own email system.
So, I set out to retrieve my data from their servers. What a headache! None of it worked as they said it would. In fact, I tried for almost 5 hours to migrate my data before I finally succeeded in getting it downloaded to my own machine. But it simply would not migrate to another server at all.
I followed their instructions to the letter on multiple accounts to no avail. Their instructions are located in this post. But the only thing that worked was to download the files to my own machine using the imap protocol with my email client.
I may seem a little fussy about a product that was actually free. But I don't feel too alone in my discontent. Some, actually MANY other users are downright pissed off! If you'll scroll down to the comments section of the announcement you will find some pretty strong language. And there are more than a few who are having difficulties in migrating their data.
And this post is not even listed on their regular blog! You must have a direct link to find it. It is almost as if they are attempting to hide the discontented rage that they must have known would be engendered in the beta testers that they hung out to dry! Very sneaky. Very sad.
As for myself, I feel like it was a poor business decision that will likely hurt Zenbe.com in the long run. The angered and alienated users will disperse to the winds. Gmail, Live, Yahoo and several others might notice a slight bump in new accounts (but likely not). And the users will eventually settle in to a different routine and their righteous indignation will subside. But it will not disappear.
Zenbe will gain a handfull of drones who will pay to keep their address and have someone else deal with the headache of managing the server.
And more than a few of us will take on our own domains and manage our own mail for about the same price. But the majority will simply move to another free server and feed the advertising beast with their own browsing habits.
They tried to take my data and my zen. But all they did was give me a slight headache and alienate themselves from us little folk who helped them to build what they are now selling. I find their behavior unconscionable for someone who appears to be marketing "Zen".
Very sad indeed.
My intent with this blog was not to be overly critical of any product. But this one deserves the lesson be recounted.
The first rule of business is not to screw over your clientell. But the first rule of life is to not mess with Zen!