Homesteader’s Feedback Keeps Site Nearly Free

The members have spoken at free Web page host – if they can’t get it all for free, they want to keep the site affordable.

This after the Menlo Park-based company notified its customers two-weeks ago it would begin charging for some of its services. Homestead says it only considered the move to a subscription-based model after the collapse of the sponsorship market forced it to charge, or discontinue its popular personal service altogether.

The company ended up with around 115,000 responses to the first letter. Feedback ranged from impassioned pleas of “keep it free” to pricing suggestions for $5 per month, member discount

“I want to sincerely thank everybody who participated in the process,” says Justin Kitch, Homestead CEO in an e-mail to his customers. “I was especially touched by your many stories telling how Homestead has changed lives.”

Based on the feedback, Kitch Thursday says the company is creating a one-year Charter Membership for $29.99, which boils down to $2.50 per month.

“Plus, as a further reward for your loyal support, you can choose either an extra 25 MB of storage or an additional $10 off your first year,” says Kitch. “We are only making this generous offer to current members, and it will only be available for the next few weeks.

The company’s new service is called Homestead Personal Preview, which new or existing members can try out. Sites built with the Preview version will be restricted to three pages, limited customer support, 8 MB of storage space, no use of the offline SiteBuilder, and no option to remove Homestead branding.

By subscribing to the new pay services, Homestead Personal members will be allowed to keep an unlimited number of sites as long as they stay within the storage limit of 25 MB. Those who switch to the Charter Membership can increase their total site storage to 50 MB at no extra cost.

The new Homestead Personal is expected to launch the week of July 16, but current member sites won’t be affected until September 30. After that existing members not signed up with the new subscription method will be asked to either pay up, switch to the Preview version or get out.

Kitch says the changes are difficult to make, but he appreciates the support.

“Reading your messages, I was encouraged by the incredible number of you who understood and supported our decision,” says Kitch. “Some of you voiced concerns and confusion about why we have decided to charge. I want to reiterate that our intention was always to keep Homestead Personal a free, sponsorship-supported service.”

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