Tarsnap pricing change

I launched the current Tarsnap website in 2009, and while we've made some minor adjustments to it over the years — e.g., adding a page of testimonials, adding much more documentation, and adding a page with .deb binary packages — the changes have overall been relatively modest. One thing people criticized the design for in 2009 was the fact that prices were quoted in picodollars; this is something I have insisted on retaining for the past eight years.

One of the harshest critics of Tarsnap's flat rate picodollars-per-byte pricing model is Patrick McKenzie — known to much of the Internet as "patio11" — who despite our frequent debates can take credit for ten times more new Tarsnap customers than anyone else, thanks to a single ten thousand word blog post about Tarsnap. The topic of picodollars has become something of an ongoing debate between us, with Patrick insisting that they communicate a fundamental lack of seriousness and sabotage Tarsnap's success as a business, and me insisting that using they communicate exactly what I want to communicate, and attract precisely the customer base I want to have. In spite of our disagreements, however, I really do value Patrick's input; indeed, the changes I mentioned above came about in large part due to the advice I received from him, and for a long time I've been considering following more of Patrick's advice.

A few weeks ago, I gave a talk at the AsiaBSDCon conference about profiling the FreeBSD kernel boot. (I'll be repeating the talk at BSDCan if anyone is interested in seeing it in person.) Since this was my first time in Tokyo (indeed, my first time anywhere in Asia) and despite communicating with him frequently I had never met Patrick in person, I thought it was only appropriate to meet him for dinner; fortunately the scheduling worked out and there was an evening when he was free and I wasn't suffering too much from jetlag. After dinner, Patrick told me about a cron job he runs:

I knew then that the time was coming to make a change Patrick has long awaited: Getting rid of picodollars. It took a few weeks before the right moment arrived, but I'm proud to announce that as of today, April 1st 2018, Tarsnap's storage pricing is 8333333 attodollars per byte-day.

This addresses a long-standing concern I've had about Tarsnap's pricing: Tarsnap bills customers for usage on a daily basis, but since 250 picodollars is not a multiple of 30, usage bills have been rounded. Tarsnap's accounting code works with attodollars internally (Why attodollars? Because it's easy to have 18 decimal places of precision using 64.64 fixed-point arithmetic.) and so during 30-day months I have in fact been rounding down and billing customers at a rate of 8333333 attodollars per byte-day for years — so making this change on the Tarsnap website brings it in line with the reality of the billing system.

Of course, there are other advantages to advertising Tarsnap's pricing in attodollars. Everything which was communicated by pricing storage in picodollars per byte-month is communicated even more effectively by advertising prices in attodollars per byte-day, and I have no doubt that Tarsnap users will appreciate the increased precision.

Posted at 2018-04-01 00:00 | Permanent link | Comments

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