A brief history of 100 year internet service plans

WordPress announced a 100-year plan. Two previous long-term online services plans didn’t last.

100 Years on a decorative background

Last week, WordPress (Automattic) announced a new 100-year product. It includes a domain name, hosting, and support for 100 years, all for a one-time fee of $38,000.

At first, I thought it might be some sort of meme or joke, so I filled out the inquiry form. A customer support representative got back to me quickly. It’s not a joke.

WordPress isn’t the first company to offer a century-long internet plan. Both of the other offers I’m aware of were for domains only, and neither are still available, which should tell you something.

In 2004, Network Solutions began offering a 100-year domain plan priced at $9.99 per year.

Writing about the plan at the time, NetworkWorld noted:

There’s a certain amount of chutzpah on the part of Network Solutions to assume that it will be around in the year 2104 to administer the names it’s selling today. After all, Network Solutions is 25 years old, and it’s on its fourth owner having been a division of both VeriSign and Science Applications International in the past.

Even funnier is the thought that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will last that long. ICANN, the quasi-governmental organization that oversees domain name registrations, is only five years old and is in a constant state of flux.

Both Network Solutions and ICANN have made it another 19 years, but the point is valid. (I don’t know how many more owners Network Solutions has been through, but it’s a lot!) Who knows what things will look like in a century, let alone a couple more decades? Think back a century ago, and technology was very different.

Network Solutions still has a page on its site detailing the terms of the offer, although I can’t find a way to purchase it. The maximum term currently available is 10 years, which is also the maximum time a domain can be registered with the registry.

Network Solutions’ 100-year offer was to register the domain for 10 years and then renew for an extra year each year.

Epik also offered a longer-term plan that it called Forever Domains. Revealed in 2018, Forever Domains carried a $420 price tag and promised to renew domains in perpetuity.

Rob Monster, Epik’s CEO at the time, looked at it as a financing deal. After paying the first 10-year fee, he’d be left with $326 to finance the next 90 years. He calculated that, based on the company’s weighted cost of capital, as long as the renewal price of a .com was $19.50 or less per year, the registration would be self-financing into perpetuity without even tapping into the $326 “deposit”.

I didn’t check his calculations. It’s worth noting that .com prices had been frozen for six years when Monster revealed his new product.

Epik’s terms allowed the company to back out of Forever Registrations at any time by refunding the purchase price. It’s not clear what happened with Forever Domains after the sale of Epik’s assets this year. I don’t see a forever option on the site anymore.

As I mentioned in 2018, I think it’s worth considering if ICANN should allow registries to offer a formal product to renew domains for more than 10 years at a time rather than relying on registrars to offer these products. Ten years is too limiting, but 100 years might be too long.

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