Textamerica goes fee-only, will delete all old, free moblogs

Moblog hosting service TextAmerica.com recently notified some logged-in users (others complain they never got the news) that the company plans to shut off all existing free accounts on July 1st, and offer service only to users who agree to pay a yet-to-be-announced membership fee. A few months after that, Textamerica will delete all content related to those old "free" accounts -- the ones created by their earliest and arguably most loyal users. Snip:

Update to the TA Community insiders: Due to the complicated nature of the planned upcoming move to a private paid members only community, changes will not be formally announced until sometime in August. Current 'free sites' will be suspended starting July 1 with a planned deletion scheduled for the fall 2006. DO NOT QUESTION me about these changes as NOTHING will be said in advance of the official notices. THANK YOU for your consideration in this regard.
From *Janet on June 8, 2006 2:30am

"Do not question my authoritaaah!" What, is Eric Cartman running the company now? I try out lots of online services to see how they feel, and I maintained a moblog at Textamerica for some time, starting shortly after the company launched. But I stopped actively using the service when the user experience started to go downhill, right around the same time the company began to claim intellectual property rights over images that users shot and uploaded. That's no way to treat your users, and neither is this. Why is there no notification about the pending fee-only switch and account deletion on the Textamerica.com website, even if only for logged-in accountholders?

BB reader Joshua adds,

A couple of years back (see this previous BB post) when TextAmerica tried to assert ownership of the images their users were uploading, I created an application that let users pull their images out of the site and either save them locally or upload them to MoblogUK. The upcoming move to a private paid members only community seemed like a good reason to dust off the old importer and get it working again so that users who might be in danger of losing 2+ years worth of images have a way to save their data!

So, if that hand-rolled exporting app doesn't work (looks like it was Windows-only, anyway) and Textamerica isn't offering support/export instructions to users who don't wish to switch to "pay" but don't want to lose all their images -- looks like many longtime users will be screwed. None of my emails this week to Textamerica about this this or other issues related to the "free" shutdown have been answered.

Reader comment: Sean Bonner says Textamerica is violating the First Commandment of the Internets: you can't charge users for the exact same thing you've been giving them for free.

Looks like there's already a flickr group for ex-text america'ers: Link.

And it looks like it's run by ex-textamerica employee Shawn Honnick: Link.

According to the "welcome" blurb on the Flickr group for former Textamerica users, Textamerica plans to charge $99 a year for membership. I can't find evidence of the company having announced that publicly, and they haven't responded to any of my queries -- but if that's true, yowza.

Reader comment: Vidiot says,

Thought I'd share my Textamerica horror story with you, as posted in the Flickr group. An excerpt (full text here):

One day, I made an image with my Flickr photostream's URL, took a picture of it, and uploaded it to TA, intending to "park" my TA site and archive my old camphone shots there. Nothing derogatory toward TA, just something along the lines of "My new pictures can now be found at this address."

Within hours, my entire TA site was gone -- deleted, along with all of my old camphone shots that I'll never get back. Some of which I would have wanted to hang on to -- New York blackout shots, celebrity sightings, pictures of my girlfriend, and other shots I wanted to keep for sentimental reasons. No e-mail from TA, no warnings, nothing.

I actually thought about suing TA, as I'm pretty sure their TOS doesn't include permanent deletion of one's site for merely mentioning Flickr. But I decided it wasn't worth the hassle or the money. I've never been shy about telling this story, though; TA screwed me -- a loyal customer who'd talked up their site quite a bit -- for no good reason.

Reader comment: Caines says,

Hey Xeni, I'm pissed off about this. I found out about TA from your old Moblog and signed up. Eventually my moblog was included in TA's early press releases (I don't know why). Anyway, a friend of mine signed up for an account earlier this week and wasn't given an option for a free account. He could either pay $99 or receive a free temp 30 day acct. If you go to their registration page, you will see the $99 fee statement. It was fun while it lasted.

Reader comment: Kristie says,

Here's the new reg link for Textamerica, complete with $99 reg fee. Interestingly enough, they haven't updated their whole site; going to my moblog shows a link to "get your own moblog--FREE!"

Noah Lockwood says,

My friends and I all have TextAmerica blogs so we
can chronicle our trips and get-togethers - they're
mainly for each other, though they're technically
public, and our experience has generally been pretty
good with Textamerica.

Not anymore. After sharing our outrage with TA
via email amongst ourselves, some of my friends added
posts to their moblogs protesting the decision,
changed their profile images to protest images, and
linked to the Boing Boing post. The posts were
removed, and now their moblogs are GONE.

You can see a record of one of their messages at
the Technorati page for the Boing Boing post
(Link)
- note that the link to "Paul's Non-Lawn Care Blog"
(Link) now redirects to
textamerica.com!

We are all getting the hell out of Textamerica
because this is fucking ridiculous. Everyone should
back up their moblogs before they get deleted. Viva
Flickr!