About 4,000 years ago in Internet time (so, about 10 or so years on the calendar), my wife signed up for one of the first free photo-storage-and-sharing sites. I can’t even remember the name at the moment. It doesn’t matter. She uploaded hundreds of photos, created albums, shared with friends. She was a happy camper. We talked several times about her willingness to fork over a few bucks for this service if it became necessary to do so.
Then one day she got an email. The service had been acquired by a for-profit company that shut down the company with less than 60 days’ notice. She was stressed, upset, even a little sad. But more than that, she felt betrayed. Ever since then, she has been distrustful of free online services. Even using Google Drive makes her twitch a little.
Today, word came that Presentation.io, part of Assemblage that had recently been acquired by Cisco, is going to close as of September. All data still on their servers on that date will be lost. The owners, having (presumably; no terms were announced) been greatly enriched by Cisco’s buy-out and now having good-paying jobs at a stable large company, kissed their users good-bye with a thanks and a “get your data off our servers.”
The ingratitude inherent in that treatment is a proper subject for a different post on corporate ethics (a term well on its way to the Great Heap of Oxymoron). The problem with this arrogance in the broader industry view is that other companies that are trying to sustain a freemium model suffer a credibility hit when one of their ilk decides simply to pack its bags and head for the hills. Prospective investors and users, without whom none of these companies can succeed by growth or acquisition, shy away a bit farther, hesitate a bit longer before becoming involved.
(As an aside, I wonder whether the startling similarities in the two companies’ logos, shown on the left, is a coincidence or indicative of a plan by the Assemblage founders from the beginning. Hmmmm.)
Assemblage is (was?) a Danish company. Perhaps business ethics and expectations are different there than in the United States. I don’t know. What I do know is that the founders of that company — obviously a technically very smart bunch — deserve whatever success they can enjoy as a result of having engineered a buyout by Cisco. But their users deserve better than rank abandonment. Without them, Cisco would never have noticed Assemblage.