Casual Phase-out, and What's Next
On August 1, exactly three years after launching our Casual plan, we'll no longer accept new Casual subscribers. Instead, we're going to focus on our Pro writers, improving our apps, and helping new WriteFreely communities start up and grow.
In this post I'll explain a bit more about why we're making the change and how exactly we'll provide another way forward.
As mentioned in the above blog post, when we launched Casual in 2016, we wanted to offer a core set of features at a very affordable price. Our hypothesis was that if the cost was low enough, as a user, paying for a useful and ad-free tool would be a no-brainer.
The Casual plan, by many measures, has been a success — just not as much as we would've liked to see. A few factors, I think, contributed. Our free plan is generous enough that most people used the platform for years without ever needing to upgrade. It also turned out that the moral obligation angle, asking payment for a user-funded service, wasn't quite enough. And through it all, there's the underestimated friction of pulling out a credit card in the first place.
While we could spend many more months tweaking things, limiting certain features, and increasingly nagging people to pay for Write.as, I think today we can provide a better way forward that doesn't compromise the simple platform we've built thus far, while keeping us sustainable as a business. Here's how we'll do that.
A Way Forward
I (Matt, btw) see a return to smaller communities as the future of the web. This thought has been bubbling underneath the surface for me since I joined a community called tilde.town in 2014 — and really goes back even further, to 2011, when I started building an unknown platform called LunchTable. It's the reason Write.as joined the fediverse with ActivityPub support last year, and when we went open source, a “multi-user” config option was included in the first release.
Today marks a culmination of all of that progress and thought. Particularly, now that we're open source, anyone can create their own “Write.as.” They can build a community that cares about privacy as much as we do (like this one) or start one about anything they want, as many have done. Our goals of more human connection, more creative expression are no longer constrained by our single service like they were in 2016 — now anyone can build these communities themselves on the same minimalist tool we've built. And that's what we want to encourage.
Going forward, Write.as will become more of a purely paid WriteFreely instance (more on this below). Our goal here is to ensure the long-term sustainability of our work, and to limit our userbase a bit, distributing more people across other WriteFreely instances — maybe even to one they start themselves.
As part of this, we'll continue evolving the “writing tool” side of this writing and publishing tool. Right now, for example, we're investing particularly in our desktop tools, from the command-line client we just updated to our Linux app.
Lastly, we'll continue making WriteFreely communities accessible to all, regardless of technical skill. We'll accomplish this with new services, from the business-oriented Write.as for Teams to the community-oriented WriteFreely.host.
As for the Casual plan, as with all of our pricing changes, all existing users will keep their subscription at their current price unless they cancel or switch plans. At that point, after August 1, 2019, they won't be able to start or switch to a Casual subscription. (So now is a great time to get on Casual!)
New free users will also see some changes. Unregistered, anonymous users will be able to continue posting as much as they want — the same goes for existing free, registered users. But users who create an account on August 1 or later will see new limits, likely in the form of a maximum number of posts they're afforded. With those limits, we might also bring some Pro features into the free tier, to make it more of a true “trial.”
On a final note, we'll be looking to put together a group of trusted WriteFreely instances we can refer users to. We'd like to work with reliable admins interested in running long-term instances, and ultimately, build up a network of independent sites. If any of this interests you, let's talk!
And as always, we're happy to answer any questions or concerns about these changes over on the forum.
(P.S., if you like what we're doing and want to help us move forward, we're hiring!)