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GitLab removes its 'starter' tier: Users must either pay 5x more or lose features

Customer: 'It feels like a bit of a kick in the teeth'


Cloudy DevOps company GitLab has removed its $4.00 user/month Bronze/Starter tier, giving users the choice between paying for Premium at $19.00 or downgrading to the free tier and losing some features.

GitLab CEO and co-founder Sid Sijbrandij said yesterday: "The Bronze/Starter tier does not meet the hurdle rate that GitLab expects from a tier and is limiting us from investing to improve GitLab for all customers."

Hurdle rate? This is investment jargon. Sijbrandij linked to a definition which describes it as "the minimum rate of return on a project or investment required by a manager or investor." In other words, GitLab decided it was not making enough money on the $4.00 user/month subscription.

The company's pricing handbook states reassuringly that "when in doubt, we will default to moving features to a lower tier" but the effect of the change is that any features in Bronze that are not in the free tier have been moved up.

How many features? "Each PM went through the buyer based pricing model referenced above for each feature in Starter to determine whether they should be part of Core or Premium going forward. The issue is not public right now, but the output was that all but one feature will be in Premium," said GitLab in response to a question.

Move up ... or back to free?

Sijbrandij said the price hoist will be mitigated by a transition offer. Existing customers with up to 25 users can renew for one more year at the existing $4.00 rate, or get a free upgrade to Premium along with a staggered discount at the next renewal: $6.00 on year 1, $9.00 year 2 and $15.00 for year 3. Larger customers get the mystery "contact your sales rep" treatment.

Some may manage with the free tier. Sijbrandij said that it has 89 per cent of the features in Starter. GitLab offers the free tier "for a single developer" and as an alternative to GitHub's free tier.

Starter, in the now-deleted description, was for single team usage. Features in Bronze that are in free include requiring approvals on merge requests, pipeline code coverage rates, iterations, assigning multiple people to issues, iterations, assigning weights to issues, repository mirroring, code quality reports, code review analytics and more.

The discussion on GitLab's forum is as you would expect. "There is little explanation as to why a 5x increase in costs to maintain starter features on-prem is justified, beyond gaining additional premium features. It feels like a bit of a kick in the teeth" said one customer.

We will definitely change to Github because there is no reason to pay 19$ for the few features we really need. Maybe [we] will hit the hurdle rate there

Another added: "We will definitely change to Github because there is no reason to pay 19$ for the few features we really need. Maybe will hit the hurdle rate there."

Others were more constructive. "Wouldn't it make more sense to have a base user pricing (dunno 4€/month) and add feature bundles?" said a user.

One complication is that GitLab requires that all users in a group are on the same plan. "My department of 40 does the vast majority (90 per cent plus of all commits/MRs) of the coding in the company, but we enrolled everyone within operations as well so that they could contribute on occasion. The rest of those users are never going to be worth spending $19 a month on, but it really sucks having to put up barriers from people who do like to contribute on occasion," said a user on Hacker News - though the company said it is looking at this use case and may "iterate the pricing".

GitLab is in part an open source product, but the open source version is the same as the free tier, so it is not a way to add features unless developers fancy forking the code.

Nobody expects .... the fivefold augmentation

The company does have a generous free tier, but the disturbing aspect of this is the uncertainty it introduces: price increases are expected but not fivefold increases. Source code is easy to migrate from GitLab to an alternative, but migrating all the other parts of a service that presents itself as a complete DevOps platform is difficult, so there is an element of lock-in.

GitLab is second only to Microsoft-owned GitHub in this market. GitHub is tough to compete with in part because of Microsoft's financial clout and the fact that GitHub is more a strategic asset to win developers than a profit centre.

GitLab intends to become a public company and states in its handbook that "the strength of our business model enables us latitude in selecting a favorable public offering environment and not be beholden to a specific date" – though there was a proposed date of November 2020, which it missed.

It is therefore possible that the company is endeavouring to improve its business model ahead of a public offering. In that light, forcing unprofitable customers either to go elsewhere or to pay more may make perfect sense, though it is not so good for the way it is perceived by the developer community. ®

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Florida man accused of breaking Mastodon's open-source license with botched social network launch

Golf enthusiast given 30 days to cough up code

A Florida man has been accused of breaking the copyleft license of Mastodon by running an online instance of the software without providing its source code as required.

And not only that, the real-estate baron and wannabe tech tycoon has been told he has a month to fall in line with the fine print or put himself potentially at risk further action.

Mastodon is a Twitter-like microblogging service that you host yourself. Servers running this software can form a larger, decentralized social network.

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Antitrust battle latest: Google, Facebook 'colluded' to smash Apple's privacy protections

Amended Texas complaint alleges backroom efforts to maintain ad dominance and more

Several years ago, to deal with the competitive threat of header bidding – a way for multiple ad exchanges to get a fair shot at winning an automated auction for ad space – Google allegedly hatched a plan called "Jedi" to ensure that its ad exchange always won.

And in 2017, after Facebook announced plans to support header bidding, Google, it's claimed, struck a deal with Facebook – dubbed "Jedi Blue" – in which the two internet behemoths would "work together to identify users using Apple products," and set up "quotas for how often Facebook would win publishers’ auctions."

The Jedi project is described in an amended complaint, filed Friday, that expands the December 2020 antitrust claim against Google, brought by Texas, 14 other US states, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

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Microsoft under fire again from open-source .NET devs: Hot Reload feature pulled for sake of Visual Studio sales

Windows giant has a funny way of 'loving' Free software

Microsoft has enraged the open-source .NET community by removing flagship functionality from open-source .NET to bolster the appeal of Visual Studio, not least against its cross-platform cousin Visual Studio Code.

The two key pieces in this latest unrest are this pull request in the open-source .NET SDK repository on GitHub, in which 2,500 lines of code implementing a feature called Hot Reload are removed from a tool called dotnet watch; and this blog post in which Principal Program Manager Dmitry Lyalin revealed "we’ve decided that starting with the upcoming .NET 6 GA release, we will enable Hot Reload functionality only through Visual Studio 2022."

Hot Reload is a feature whereby developers can modify source code while an application is running, apply the changes, and see the results in the running application. It speeds the development process because it is quicker than rebuilding the code, stopping the application, applying the changes, and then firing it up again.

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It's 'near-impossible to escape persistent surveillance' by American ISPs, says FTC

Watchdog finds dubious data gathering, illusory solicitations for consent

The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said many internet service providers are sharing data about their customers, in defiance of expectations, and are failing to give subscribers adequate choices about whether or how their data is shared.

The trade watchdog's findings arrived in the form of a report [PDF] undertaken in 2019 to examine the data and privacy practices of major US broadband providers, including AT&T Mobility, Charter Communications, Google Fiber, T-Mobile US, Verizon Wireless, and Comcast's Xfinity.

"[T]hese findings underscore deficiencies of the 'notice-and-consent' framework for privacy, especially in markets where users face highly limited choices among service providers," said FTC boss Lina Khan in a statement [PDF].

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While the iPhone's repairability is in the toilet, at least the Apple Watch 7 is as fixable as the previous model

Component swaps still a thing – for now

Apple's seventh-gen Watch has managed to maintain its iFixit repairability rating on a par with the last model – unlike its smartphone sibling.

The iFixit team found the slightly larger display of the latest Apple Watch a boon for removal via heat and a suction handle. Where the previous generation required a pair of flex folds in its display, the new version turned out to be simpler, with just the one flex.

Things are also slightly different within the watch itself. Apple's diagnostic port has gone and the battery is larger. That equates to a slight increase in power (1.094Wh from 1.024Wh between 40mm S6 and 41mm S7) which, when paired with the slightly hungrier display, means battery life is pretty much unchanged.

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Better late than never: Microsoft rolls out a public preview of E2EE in Teams calls

Only for one-to-one voice and video, mind

Microsoft has finally kicked off the rollout of end-to-end-encryption (E2EE) in its Teams collaboration platform with a public preview of E2EE for one-to-one calls.

It has been a while coming. The company made the promise of E2EE for some one-to-one Teams calls at its virtual Ignite shindig in March this year (https://www.theregister.com/2021/03/03/microsoft_ups_security/) and as 2021 nears its end appears to have delivered, in preview form at least.

The company's rival in the conference calling space, Zoom, added E2EE for all a year ago, making Microsoft rather late to the privacy party. COO at Matrix-based communications and collaboration app Element, Amandine Le Pape, told The Register that the preview, although welcome, was "long overdue."

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Recycled Cobalt Strike key pairs show many crooks are using same cloned installation

Researcher spots RSA tell-tale lurking in plain sight on VirusTotal

Around 1,500 Cobalt Strike beacons uploaded to VirusTotal were reusing the same RSA keys from a cracked version of the software, according to a security researcher who pored through the malware repository.

The discovery could make blue teams' lives easier by giving them a clue about whether or not Cobalt Strike traffic across their networks is a real threat or an action by an authorised red team carrying out a penetration test.

Didier Stevens, the researcher with Belgian infosec firm NVISO who discovered that private Cobalt Strike keys are being widely reused by criminals, told The Register: "While fingerprinting Cobalt Strike servers on the internet, we noticed that some public keys appeared often. The fact that there is a reuse of public keys means that there is a reuse of private keys too: a public key and a private key are linked to each other."

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Microsoft investor urges shareholders to vote for a deep dive into pay gap and harassment policies

More transparency and reporting needed, says Arunja Capital

Updated Accusations of harassment and concerns over pay gaps continue to dog Microsoft as shareholders were urged by investor Arunja Capital to vote for the software giant to release transparency reports.

The form PX14A6G filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission is sent to shareholders outlining why the sender wants them to vote a certain way. In this case, for a proposal to release a transparency report regarding the effectiveness of Microsoft's workplace sexual harassment policies, and another to have the company report on median pay gaps across race and gender.

Investment management firm Arunja Capital put forward the resolution earlier this year, stating: "Microsoft needs independent and transparent investigation of gender discrimination, [and alleged] sexual harassment by former CEO Gates and others."

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US drops tariff threat against nations who dished out digital taxes to American tech giants as OECD members hash out new deal

15% tax minimum to hit tech firms

The US government and administrations in Europe have come to an agreement that will drop the threat of tariffs in response to policies on digital services taxes (DSTs).

The Department of the Treasury announced the deal would mean Austria, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom could keep their DSTs while multinational rules negotiated with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) were introduced.

Back in June, nations where digital services taxes were deemed to disproportionately affect the US tech industry were threatened with 25 per cent tariffs on up to $2bn of their goods by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR). At the same time, it announced an immediate 180-day suspension of the tariffs so G20 and OECD nations had time to complete their negotiations on a global tax law, which would also hit tech companies.

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Nobody cares about DAB radio – so let's force it onto smart speakers, suggests UK govt review

Britain's anti Amazon and Google war gets a second front

The UK may require smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home devices to broadcast UK DAB radio stations, over government fears that Brits aren't consuming enough of the unloved radio tech.

Under the guise of "protecting UK radio stations' accessibility" the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has published a report calling for smart speakers to rebroadcast domestic radio stations' output. The recommendation is as follows:

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IPSE: More than a third of freelancers have quit contracting since IR35 reforms

Exodus, movement of the people... to the Middle East or elsewhere

More than a third (35 per cent) of contractors in the UK have become permanent employees, retired, shifted to work overseas or are "simply not working" since IR35 tax legislation was revised earlier this year.

This is according to the Association of Independent Professionals (IPSE) which found 35 per cent fewer freelancers among those it surveyed since 6 April when the government pushed through the delayed reform.

"This research shows the devastating impact the changes to IR35 have had on contractors, needlessly compounding the financial damage of the pandemic," said Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE. "Now, just when contractors are needed the most - amid mounting labour shortages across the UK and particularly in haulage - government decisions have drive out a third of the sector."

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