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[Video] Lessons to be Learned From Gandi's Death (Total Webhosting Solutions B.V. Shaking Down Customers)

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Dec 14, 2023

Video download link | md5sum 9e444ed66e96e08087da1873c93f84b1
Lessons From the End of Gandi
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Preview for Lessons From the End of Gandi

THE previous video (and corresponding/accompanying article) mentioned companies that are unable to make money but still exist.

3 days ago I saw this article about Gandi, with the key point highlighted below.

Before TWS bought Gandi, I paid about 11 EUR per year, for a .SE-domain. All domains also came with 3 free e-mail accounts, with 3 GB storage for each account. That all changed when TWS took over. My expenses for my domain and my e-mail, went from 11 EUR per year, to about 75 EUR per year. That’s a 681% (!) price increase.

I didn't even know it had been sold. Maybe they were relatively quiet about this, pretending it was business as usual. It clearly is not. As the above person put it "a 681% (!) price increase" isn't normal. No matter which "product" or "service"...

So we've decided to look into it and we've found this self-congratulating fluff claiming that "Gandi, the leading French domain name registrar, web and email hosting service, is joining forces with pan-European champion Total Webhosting Solutions" ("joining forces" is misleading!)

As noted in the video, I'm quite a Web person, having dealt for over 25 years with webhosts of various kinds (over 20 years with cPanel or VPS; I favour the latter these days, and never clown computing, which tends to be a proprietary trap vastly worse than cPanel). Gandi isn't entirely foreign to me, even if I was never a client of Gandi (I did check their prices and considered them several times since a decade ago).

People are gradually starting to realise the true cost of hosting on the Web. There's no free hosting and no cheap (not for long anyway) hosting. The other day this high-profile blogger said that he finally realised Microsoft and Google do not offer free hosting (it took years for the coin to drop), so he's migrating everything away from them. He said "the immediate motivation for the move is that Google has stopped allowing updates to "classic" sites.google.com, which I was using as my CDN for images. I figured that since I had to change my setup anyway, I may as well do a complete migration."

Microsoft (GitHub) is mentioned there too. This year there were several waves of GitHub layoffs, with entire teams culled and even a whole office shut down. Microsoft is cost-cutting, so code and Web page hosting aren't free or won't be free for much longer. Disregard the notion of "free hosting".

Going back to Gandi, what is the fate of existing (former) clients? Not good. Prognosis negative.

How much will it cost to move? That too should be taken into account when choosing a host. Don't fall into traps of "managed services", such as WordPress.com. Automattic, the parent company or steward of WordPress(.org), is trying to upload everything to "the clown" because it is modern [sic] and it is billing people for all sorts of things while putting ads in their pages, even against their will (unless/until they pay).

Not nice.

Remember: Nothing is free (gratis), especially when there are staff, hardware, electricity, and network bills. Someone needs to pay those bills. It's either temporarily "free" or you are the product.

Clown computing is the worst type of trap because after many companies, people and governments outsourced to it we see the prices going up sharply... all the time (never a price reduction, even when costs of hardware/storage/bandwidth go down). The bills for power sure go up, but not as fast as the invoices for "the clown" (this site's hosting will get 25% more expensive next year).

Going back to Gandi (again), in IRC we've learned that they deplatform easily (even denying access to one's own data, after shutdown without prior warning). Now they also rip off longtime clients, with nearly 700% price hikes.

So what will be left of Gandi's reputation? Why did Gandi sell? One person said to us: "It was one of the good registrars going back to near the beginning. Now it is vile."

The way we see it, the company operated at loss, then sold people to another company (customers sacrificed), just like GitHub did (it sold developers and projects to a very hostile Microsoft after running for about a decade without ever making a profit, only humongous losses).

Companies like Spotify are in a similar position, as price hikes may mean losing existing customers and thus not making up for the growing expenses. This means layoffs and other cuts become imperative. Netflix, like ClownFlare, is another example of this. ClownFlare is overall not profitable and one day ClownFlare will be put under pressure (from investors) to pressure all users, turning them into paying customers. How big would the backlash (exodus) be if that happened?

Assuming that (like ClownFlare) Gandi operated at a loss, how big a loss? Well, it's not easy to find this information for private companies (hard to check financial history, except in some countries where suitable registries exist).

Remember that if it is too cheap to believe (staff gets salaries, there are energy bills, legal bills and so on), then maybe the long-term plan is rather hostile. Or maybe it's a long-term bear trap, waiting to shut very tightly on your foot. Sometimes super-cheap is super-risky. Unless these firms live on borrowed time or some bank loan (or money from shareholders/pension schemes), they are "unofficially insolvent", not in perpetuity. I should know, as I worked for such a company... always losing, almost every year for the past decade or so. To the point of stealing money from the staff (pension fraud).

And Gandi?

Well, they suffered this deathblow in 2019. In their own words: "...we were reinvesting everything that we earned, that we didn't have debts or take out loans, etc. [...] and we have found a new investor in Montefiore Investment" (opportunist, liquidator).

And with webhosts, what typically happens when there's a shutdown is, they pass the servers to another owner, another brand. The original webhosts quietly vanish while the vultures see how much they can "monetise" what's left of the servers' tenants. They don't care about the customers; they have a plan to just "monetise" or shake the tree for windfall, attempting to squeeze out some more golden eggs from the goose.

Gandi won't be remembered kindly. People will remember what Montefiore Investment did to it (and to Gandi's customers).

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