I am a long time user of Mailchimp. I use it for my email list here on this blog. I use it at John Carroll to manage a very large RSS-to-email daily campaign that has run pretty much flawless for 4 years straight. It’s a great tool, even at a free level.
That said, I was excited when they announced in 2012 that they were opening up a transactional email service, Mandrill, as a stand-alone compliment to the mail Mailchimp product. Mandrill had a good API, WordPress plugins to make sending transactional email better, good documentation, and a generous free service level. What I very much liked, as a paying Mailchimp customer, is that my paid plan at Mailchimp gave me a very generous amount of free transactional sends at Mandrill. We changed most of our transactional sending from SendGrid1 to Mandrill and everything has been working great.
Then, with no warning, on February 24, everything changed. Mailchimp sent out an email about Mandrill to customers and made a blog post about detailing changes they were making to the Mandrill service. It said:
Going forward, all Mandrill users will be required to have a paid monthly MailChimp account. We want to give everyone plenty of time to research their options and decide whether they’d like to create a MailChimp account, so here’s the timeline and important details:
- Starting March 16, all new Mandrill users will create accounts through MailChimp.
- Also starting March 16, Mandrill users can merge their existing Mandrill account with a MailChimp account.
- Current users will have until April 27 to merge the accounts.
This is a big change, so I’d like to provide some context for our customers who want to know the “why” behind strategic decisions like this one.
To recap: Mandrill is transitioning from being a separate product and will be integrated into the Mailchimp product. It will now be a paid addition for paid Mailchimp accounts. If you were using Mandrill through service providers like Heroku, you are basically out of luck. Sorry.
I don’t know if I’d call 60 days to change or pay for 2 new accounts “plenty of time,” but that’s me. I fail to understand why Mailchimp would take a product that had a lot of users, a “$12MM run rate,” and a stable platform and decide to compete with other providers not on cost but on features.
What users like me were faced was that we’d need to change our plans and pay possibly more per month, or switch to a different service. Luckily for us, we already were set up with another service, SendGrid, so the challenge for us has been finding all the website, web apps, and more that were sending transactional email through Mandrill and making the switch to SendGrid.
While that sounds easy, for many of our webapps, it’s meant forking code, making the change, testing the changes, and deploying them. That’s all well and good, but having to refactor a bunch of code on top of my regular job at a busy time in higher ed is not always the most fun thing to do.
It’s been interesting to see the other transactional email providers like the aforementioned SendGrid do a bit of marketing to Mandrill customers. SendGrid has a banner on the top of their website for site visitors looking to transfer from Mandrill, leading them to this page. SparkPost is honoring Mandrill pricing. Those two companies are just a few alternatives. Others include Mailgun2 and products from industry giants like Amazon and their Simple Email Service (SES), one of their myriad of web services.
I also can’t tell if Mailchimp was surprised by the feedback they’ve received over this announcement. They’ve posted several updates on that original blog post, and on other platforms, with updates. The latest update said:
If you already have a paid monthly MailChimp account and merge it with an existing Mandrill account by April 27, your first million monthly Mandrill email credits will be free for a year.
That’s a nice concession, sure, but people are still upset.
— Joshua Walker (@joshuawalkernz) February 25, 2016
1. We are still a happy, paying SendGrid customer. I’m happy with their service as well.
2. Mailgun is owned by Rackspace.