We’re at about the midpoint of the LastPass remake of Breaking Bad, where its misdeeds are starting to be glaring and it’s hard to be sympathetic.
We’ve seen the show. We know how it ends. See, LastPass is following a path that was first blazed by its corporate parent LogMeIn. Over the course of several years, LogMeIn changed from a beloved free program to a wildly overpriced enterprise program no longer intended for us mere consumers.
Ever since LogMeIn bought LastPass in 2015, it has been teaching LastPass all of its dirty tricks so that LastPass can grow up to be just like dad.
At some point you’ll think about bailing out and switching to another password manager. Maybe this won’t be the time. Switching to another program is disruptive and you won’t save much money. It’s easier to suck it up and stick with what’s familiar. The owners of LastPass are counting on that.
For what it’s worth, I switched to 1Password a few months ago. (In addition to general distaste for LastPass business tactics, I also didn’t like the changes to the program design and I felt like it was slowing down my web browsing.) I’ll tell you some things about the 1Password transition in the next article.
What is LastPass doing that has me so het up?
Most of you use the free version of LastPass. Next month LastPass is drastically limiting the usefulness of its free version.
Starting March 16, the free version of LastPass will work either on your computer or your phone, but not both. You will have to buy the Premium version of LastPass if you want to use it both on your computer and your phone.
That’s not all. After May 17, free users won’t get any support – no phone support, no email support.
You can read about the details of the changes to the free plan here.
If you want to suck it up and buy the Premium license, there will be a bit of sticker shock – they’ve been laying the groundwork for this change by rapidly pushing up the price for the last couple of years.
LastPass Premium was $12 for many, many years.
In 2018, LastPass doubled the price of its Premium plan to $24.
In 2019, LastPass tripled the price of its Premium plan to $36.
If history is any guide, now the company will leave the price alone for a year or two, then start to jack it up even more unmercifully. Or it will completely kill the free version of LastPass. Or both.
A brief history lesson: how good programs go bad
The free version of LogMeIn had been an IT standard for many years when it was abruptly killed in January 2014 and LogMeIn began a series of punishing price increases.
The same formerly free program costs $349.99 today. LogMeIn effectively bailed out of the consumer remote access business and focused on large enterprises.
During the years of the price runup, LogMeIn used abusive tactics to slip each increase into a credit card charge without notice, then make it difficult to protest or cancel. Here’s how I described it three years ago:
LogMeIn’s standard business practice – which appears to continue today – is to quietly increase its subscription prices, then process credit card renewals at the higher price without any notice. I had it happen to me – no email notice before or after the renewal, nothing that might call attention to the gouging. Oh, and no refunds, of course. LogMeIn disputes this and claims that it sends company executives to each subscriber’s house for prayer meetings and counseling about the price increases. And yet there are hundreds of stories online about price increases without any notice, going back for years and continuing today. I think the company is telling a little fib.
LogMeIn bought LastPass in 2015, left it alone for a couple of years, then began slipping price increases into the Premium plans with no notice, leaving them like little time bombs on credit card statements.
Since there weren’t quite enough villains already involved in the story, last year LogMeIn was acquired by private equity companies with a record of milking existing customers to get a quick revenue boost, then spinning off profitable divisions.
The deal closed in August 2020. Less than six months later, the new owners are turning the screws on loyal LastPass customers.
Yuck! What should you do?
Maybe you sign up for LastPass Premium and go on with your life. The reality is that the best alternatives cost about the same as LastPass Premium, $36/year. In the next article I’ll tell you about 1Password, now widely considered the heir apparent to LastPass, which also costs $36/year for an individual plan.
There are dozens of password managers. There are free programs, cheaper programs, more expensive programs, there’s always the option of a password-protected Excel spreadsheet. The password manager built into Chrome is pretty good, even better now than when I wrote this a couple of years ago. It’s free and it syncs everywhere you use Chrome.
If you switch from LastPass to another program, you’ll have to deal with some technical bits to figure out about how to transfer your saved passwords to the new program, and you’ll have a learning curve because nothing will be in the same place. And you probably won’t save money.
There are, however, two pretty good reasons to switch:
- Distaste for abusive business tactics. The company doesn’t need to do this. It’s just a money grab.
- Fear that more price increases lie ahead. You probably have a year or two before they’ll try that.
If you use LastPass on a computer and a phone, be prepared to upgrade to a paid Premium license. If you don’t, one of them will stop working next month. And think about whether it’s time to learn something new and get away from a company that is breaking bad.