For as long as I remember, 1Password has been a popular albeit expensive password management solution. Before LastPass and Dashlane came into the picture, most password managers relied on an encrypted locally stored file that you could only open with a master password if you had physical access to the device it was saved on, with clunky manual syncing options between different devices. There were no subscription models (you just paid for the app), no cloud storage, and no security risks unless your device itself was compromised. 1Password kept that model for years, adding some cloud syncing solutions like Dropbox for those who didn't want to keep manually syncing their file, but sticking with the app-based pricing. But that's been changing and, as you can imagine, it's angering a lot of users and security researchers who were fond of the local storage single fee option.
1Password had introduced its cloud platform 1password.com last August as an alternative subscription model similar to LastPass: instead of storing your vault file locally, it's saved on 1Password's servers and accessible from all your devices. But at the time, the company said that it didn't have any plans to eliminate standalone licenses... which isn't true anymore. Users who have bought a 1Password license (think anywhere from $39.99 to $64.99 depending on when you made the purchase) are quickly finding out that these licenses have become obsolete. The outcry started last weekend as reported by Motherboard, though the move has been gradually happening for months now - we just didn't have it on our radar:
- Many months ago, the 1Password website shifted from offering the $64.99 license to only listing individual or family monthly subscriptions for $2.99 or $4.99, respectively, without any mention of the license.
- If you asked nicely, 1Password's team would tell you that the license is still available for purchase but you'd have to email them and discuss it with them so they can see if it's a good fit for you and provide you with a special link (likely this one, though I don't recommend buying it).
- However, they have been adamant about promoting the subscription and making the license seem like "it requires more technical skill and attention to configure and maintain." (Cue in many head shakes from anyone who has been using the app for years now.)
- Even worse though, it appears that the new Windows app doesn't support licenses anymore, so you can't use it after 30 days unless you go for the cloud option. The Mac app still supported licenses as of February, but the team didn't promise it would do so in the future. I'm not sure if the Android app has dropped license support yet or not, seeing as I don't use the service, but from the Play Store reviews, it looks like the subscription is starting to be heavily recommended inside the app, even for those that paid $9.99 to unlock the Pro editing mode on top of their full license. (Really?)
- Better yet, there was never any discount on the subscription for license holders, even those that had just purchased it. That's like saying, "thanks for the $65 donation guys, now we're just going to screw you over."
- And in case you're wondering, 1Password still supports syncing with different cloud services beside 1password.com, such as Dropbox and iCloud, though there's no telling if that will change, just like the plans to keep the licenses available have changed since last year.
The issue here is two-fold: price and security, though the end result is disappointment on both ends. 1Password can sing the praises of its security all it wants, security experts are up in arms about the move: a locally stored file requires the hacker to individually attack each user and device, whereas a cloud storage is a more attractive target because it contains everyone's data. Sure, that data is encrypted under many levels of security, but who knows what vulnerability could unlock it all. As a user, I am far more wary of giving my info to a cloud service (that's why I use Enpass) and crypto experts feel the same: they aren't recommending 1Password anymore.
As for price, you can imagine how you'd feel if your $64.99 license is now as good as dirty toilet paper and you'd have to pay a $2.99 monthly fee to keep using the service. For 1Password, this makes lots of sense: in 2 years, you'd have paid them more than 1 license, plus they get to market themselves as an easy to use solution like LastPass instead of explaining to people how the vault/file/sync system works. But for users, this was a series of egregious, greedy, and inconsiderate moves that started with the lack of clear communication over the fate of licenses, the slow and "silent" erasing of the license option in app updates, the complete absence of any good-faith move by offering a discount on subscriptions for paid users, and the drastic change in service from local to cloud without any regard to what their preferences are. I'm all for developers getting paid their hard-earned cash, but this isn't how you do it.
I have always thought that 1Password was one super mega ultra expensive solution with plenty of good enough, if not better, alternatives, but this? This takes the cake really. If you're comfortable using a cloud service, I point you to LastPass or Dashlane: they're not ideal, but as far as I know, they've never pulled a fast one like this. If you want something like the 1Password of yore, then go ahead and export your data into .csv and import it into another app. I highly recommend Enpass, where you pay $9.99 once for each mobile platform and get rapidly developed apps with more features than you can think of. There's also the slightly less powerful SafeInCloud ($5 one-time fee for Android or iOS) and the open source KeePass and its multitude of third-party clients for different platforms. Take a long look at each of those and make sure you're ready to move your 1Password data to one of them sooner or later because who knows when licenses will be completely unusable in any of its apps.