WordPress.com is now selling a 100-year plan, one of the longest available in the industry, for a one-time payment of $38,000. It includes managed WordPress hosting (whatever that looks like in 100 years), multiple backups across geographically distributed data centers, submission to the Internet Archive if the site is public, 24/7 dedicated support, and a domain that doesn’t need to be renewed by the customer for a century.
ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, limits domain registration to a maximum of 10 years. Auto-renewing after this time requires the customer to renew on time and keep their payment method updated. A 100-year plan removes these uncertainties but still hinges on the registrar staying in business into the next century.
Customers who buy into the plan will need to have superior confidence in WordPress.com, coupled with the belief that domain names will still be important to the fundamental architecture of the web decades from now.
Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg commented on the difficulties in pricing the 100-year plan during his presentation at WordCamp US 2023, while simultaneously discouraging WordPress product owners from offering lifetime licenses. The distinction here is that the 100-year plan has a finite length of time, even if its future support seems unfathomable at the moment.
“It also got me thinking about lifetime licenses, which I think we should stop doing in the WordPress world,” Mullenweg said.
“If you’ve ever worked with an accountant or an acquirer they don’t like when you have those because it’s essentially an open ended commitment, including often with support. How do you recognize that revenue? Offer a 20 year plan or something. I think when you’re saying ‘lifetime,’ it sort of cheapens the word. If we’re really thinking long-term, what promises we’re making to our customers, I think we should re-examine those practices.”
Mullenweg also said he was inspired by the Long Now Foundation, a non-profit established to foster long term thinking. The organization’s first project is the “Clock of the Long Now,” a mechanical monument designed to keep accurate time for the next 10,000 years:
It is still being assembled deep inside a mountain in west Texas. The Clock provides a rare invitation to think and engineer at the timescale of civilization. It offers an enduring symbol of our personal connection to the distant future.The Long Now website
WordPress.com is building something parallel to this in the digital world, enabling people to create their own virtual, lasting monuments and preserve their homes on the web.
Embedded in the new offering is also a poignant reminder that WordPress.com is a domain registrar, as the company recently made a bid to capture Google Domain customers ahead of their domains being sold off to Squarespace. Even if the new 100-year hosting plan is too expensive for 99.9% of prospective customers, it gives the impression that the company is capable of hosting entrusted domains for the long term.
Nobody, not even WordPress.com, knows what that will look like in 50 years, but it’s an ambitious, thought-provoking offering. What resources will a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) point to 50 years from now? Or will URLs be discarded into the scrap pile of obsolete building blocks as soon as there’s a better, more efficient way to identify web addresses? What does longevity look like in the digital world?