Wesabe is shutting down TODAY

July 31, 2010 by

Reminder: Wesabe’s Accounts tab and all related personal finance tools will be SHUT DOWN PERMANENTLY at 10:00pm Pacific TODAY.

(Wesabe Groups will remain online indefinitely, although there will be up to a few hours of downtime for Groups as we decommission other systems.)

You can download all of your Wesabe data from the snapshot page, until 10:00pm Pacific tonight. After that, all customer data and all stored credentials will be destroyed.

We have open-sourced many parts of the Wesabe system (under the Apache 2.0 License), now available on GitHub. Start here if you want to set up your own copy of Wesabe (warning: not for the faint of heart). More information about Open Wesabe is in this Groups thread. If you download a snapshot (above), Open Wesabe will import it, so you can keep using and updating your data.

Many other companies have done work to help Wesabe users transition to their services. Here are some links for those of you looking for a new service (we are not endorsing any of these, just making the information available):

Finally, one of Wesabe’s advisors, Trent Hamm, posted a note on his blog for people looking for alternatives to Wesabe. He echoes many of the values we have held for Wesabe in his recommendations:
http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2010/07/01/wesabe-shuts-down-what-are-the-alternatives/

Thanks for using Wesabe.

Marc Hedlund
CEO, Wesabe

Wesabe is discontinuing its Accounts tab as of July 31st

June 30, 2010 by

Dear Wesabeans,

I am deeply unhappy to have to announce that Wesabe will be discontinuing our Accounts tab, and all of the related personal finance tools we offer, as of July 31st, 2010. The Groups tab, which hosts discussions on personal finance topics, will remain online indefinitely. A FAQ about this shutdown is available below.

You will be able to download all of your data from now until July 31st by visiting our export page. After that date, we will delete all data and all credentials we hold for security and privacy reasons. If you prefer, you may delete your membership immediately or at any time before July 31st.

We are planning to offer additional tools for export and use of your data. Future blog posts will go into more detail as we have it ready.

In recent months Wesabe has been operating on a shoestring budget, with support from some of the developers and operations people who made up our core team. While the site has remained online and we continue to hear from people who find it helpful, we have not been able to provide the support people need to use it for something so central as financial management. I’ve felt especially terrible that some members have a good initial experience but then hit a problem, often after investing many hours, and aren’t able to get help with it. That’s obviously a bad experience, and not what we want to offer. Also, because Wesabe stores such highly sensitive data, continuing to operate the service with shoestring operations and security staff is not acceptable, and we do not want to continue accepting new accounts if we cannot guarantee the security level we believe our service requires.

Wesabe Groups is easier to host on a low-cost basis, and one of our customers has agreed to fund its continued service. I have always been amazed by how fantastic the conversations in Groups are — supportive, constructive, and unique. While many or all of the features of our Accounts tab are now available on other sites, our competitors have either dismissed the value of community, or have not been able to create a community as rich as Wesabe Groups, so I’m very happy we are able to keep that part of the service going.

I have had a wonderful time working on Wesabe and have been gratified by the many messages we get from members telling us how helpful it has been. The past five years have been an amazing ride. Of course I wish things had turned out differently and I would not have needed to write this post, but I’ve enjoyed my job for these years more than anything before it. The people we worked with, the people who supported us, the reward of helping even some people have better financial lives, all of that is irreplaceable. Thanks to everyone who has made Wesabe possible.

We will answer as many questions as possible about the planned shutdown in this Groups thread and update the FAQ as needed.

Marc Hedlund, CEO, Wesabe

FAQ

  • What is being shut down?

    On July 31st, 2010 (at 10pm Pacific time), we will turn off access to the Accounts and Dashboard tabs, as well as the iPhone application, Firefox extension, Desktop Uploader, Mac and Vista Desktop Widgets, and Twitter integration. Only the Groups tab will remain online.

  • What will happen to my financial data?

    Between now and July 31st, if you want to keep a copy of the data you have uploaded to Wesabe, you MUST DOWNLOAD YOUR DATA from the site (see our export page for instructions). After July 31st, we will delete all financial data from our database, delete all backup copies of that data, and destroy the hard drives on which that data was stored.

  • What will happen to my financial institution credentials?

    All users’ financial institution credentials will be deleted as of July 31st.

  • Will you sell or give my financial data or credentials to anyone but me before you close the Accounts tab?

    No, absolutely not, nor have we ever done so.

  • What can I do with the data I export?

    Any spreadsheet program, such as Excel, Google Spreadsheet, or Numbers, can read the CSV export files we offer. In addition, we are working on an added export option and an open source package that would allow you to read and use your own data from Wesabe. More details will be posted on our blog when available.

  • What if I need help with my accounts before I download them?

    Realistically we are not able to offer individual support. If you have a problem with export, please post about it in this Groups thread, and we will work to fix any wide-spread problems.

  • What if I have questions not answered here?

    Please post questions in this Groups thread.

Wesabe maintenance downtime tonight

May 29, 2010 by

The Wesabe site will be down intermittently from 11:00p to 2:00a Pacific time this evening, as we perform maintenance on our network. Everything should be back to normal after that. Thanks for your patience.

Site downtime (Updated)

April 29, 2010 by

Wesabe’s network provider has an widespread network outage right now, and http://www.wesabe.com (and all our related services) are down as a result.  We will provide updates via our @wesabe Twitter account as we get them, and we’ll update this post when the site is back up.

UPDATE: The site is back up and our network provider confirms that the problem is resolved. Thanks for your patience.

File your taxes with your iPhone?

January 29, 2010 by

I hadn’t heard about this — Intuit has released an iPhone app (awkwardly) named TurboTax SnapTax that lets you take a picture of your W-2 and file your taxes right from your phone, if you would file with a 1040EZ. Impressive.

SnapTaxThis app isn’t going to work if you have dependents (as one reviewer notes) or if you have anything but the simplest tax filing to do. I also can’t imagine you’re getting optimal tax advice for all situations from such a simple process. But, whatever! If you have a simple tax situation and especially if you might otherwise file late, you’re better off getting your taxes done as easily as possible.

USAA‘s iPhone app has a similar function to deposit checks with the iPhone camera, and I use it all the time. Such a great convenience over having to hook up the scanner. Compared with going to an accountant, SnapTax would probably be even more convenient.

I haven’t tried the app (my tax situation isn’t simple enough for it), but speaking as a direct competitor of Intuit, I’m impressed with this idea and would love to hear feedback from people who have tried it.

Protecting “Cloud” Secrets with Grendel

January 4, 2010 by

More and more web applications are storing sensitive data for their users, a trend of which Wesabe is certainly a part. Security breaches like the RockYou hack show what can happen when a popular web application stores sensitive data unencrypted and then has a lapse: millions of people can be affected at once. As some of the coverage of the attack pointed out, it was a good reminder not to store sensitive data unencrypted.

Wesabe has worked hard to come up with tools to protect our members’ data, both because the nature of our application requires that we ask for extremely sensitive information, and because we believe that all web applications should take security seriously. Today we’re open sourcing a piece of software, Grendel, that we think can help many sites (not just financial applications) protect users’ data from a RockYou-style mass disclosure in a simple way. Grendel is a new project that combines ideas we’ve used on Wesabe for years with other pieces we believe should be common infrastructure for web applications.

Nearly all web sites keep all of a user’s data unencrypted. In many cases this is a necessity, since the web site intentionally publishes that data; an encrypted blog wouldn’t have many readers. In other cases, though, the only time the data is used is when the user is logged in, such as in a word processing web application.

The idea of Grendel is to provide an internal (behind-the-firewall) REST-based web service to keep a user’s data encrypted and ensure its integrity when the user isn’t using it. Grendel uses OpenPGP to store data, with the user’s password encrypting an OpenPGP keyset. That model makes it easy for a web site to store data safely and only decrypt it when the user is logged into the site. Since only the user has their password, once they log out, their data is safe, even if the web site’s database is compromised or stolen. Of course this isn’t an infallible protection — there is no such thing — and in particular it doesn’t protect against web site developers acting in bad faith. It does, though, protect against an attacker getting access to all the secrets stored by users in one step.

Of course, data on web sites is usually shared with at least some other people in some way. Sometimes a user might want to share their information with the web site support staff, so the staff can help solve a problem or fix a bug. Or, the user might want to share their sensitive data with selected other users on the site, such as coworkers or family members. Grendel allows this, letting you encrypt data with multiple keys so that more than one user’s password can gain access.

It’s very easy to screw up when building a cryptography system — check out Nate Lawson’s excellent Google Tech Talk on common crypto flaws, or Matasano’s Socratic dialog on similar topics, for a map of the pitfalls available to you, and us. We’ve been fortunate at Wesabe to have a number of people who think very carefully about security, and they’ve put a lot of effort into designing and building Grendel. That said, we have two goals in open sourcing Grendel: first, to make a tool available to others that could help make “cloud” applications in general much safer for everyone, and second, to open up what we’ve built so others can review and help us improve it. We would love comments on any aspect of Grendel, security or otherwise.

Grendel is available on GitHub now, thanks to the efforts of Coda Hale (also the author of bcrypt-ruby) and Sam Quigley, who designed and built it. If you’re building a web site that stores sensitive data for users, go check it out, and if you’re of a mind to, help us make it better. We’d love to see “cloud” applications have an easy time treating users’ data securely, and we hope Grendel will be a useful tool for that purpose.

A great first week

December 1, 2009 by

I wanted to post a quick thank-you for the fantastic first-week reaction to our new site for banks and credit unions, GetSpringboard.com. I somehow expected that the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. would make the first week slow and easy. I was wrong!

George Pasley perfectly nailed why we’re excited about GetSpringboard.com:

Wesabe is doing something that is unheard of in the financial industry. They are offering an online, consumer facing banking product that a FI can have up and running in HOURS. Think about that for a moment. Your FI’s CIO could go the Springboard website, select the plan she wants, break out the corporate credit card, and have an online PFM product running for their customers in a day or two at most.

I don’t know of another banking tech vendor that offers implementation like this. No salesperson to haggle over features and pricing. No project manager to coordinate all the departments needed to make it happen. Just five minutes to fill out the registration form.

Yup. That’s exactly what we’re doing. And the reaction has been amazing. Our guess that everyone likes convenience and low cost — even bankers — turns out to be spot on. 🙂 Thanks for the great write-up, George.

As a reminder, we have a special offer for the rest of 2009: sign up for any plan and you get the price of the next lowest-priced plan for the life of your subscription. You can save up to $10,000 a year for as long as you use Wesabe Springboard, but only if you sign up before December 31st, 2009. Don’t miss it.

We’re really happy with how many people have reacted — and acted — so enthusiastically to this new launch. Thank you. We’re working hard to make the site even better for you, your members, and all users of Wesabe services.

Introducing GetSpringboard.com

November 23, 2009 by

Today, Wesabe launched a new product line for banks and credit unions: GetSpringboard.com. Earlier this year, we started offering Wesabe tools to banks and credit unions, but this new product site allows financial institutions to get pricing, sign up, deploy, and configure their Wesabe Springboard site, all through the web. Instead of the traditional banking software sales process — where it can take months and tens of thousands of dollars just to get new software launched — GetSpringboard.com puts leading personal finance management (PFM) software into financial institution customers’ hands in minutes.

GetSpringboard.com home pageSince Wesabe had its start as a consumer-based site, and since we have led the development of the online PFM space from that vantage, we know full well how tiring and time-consuming the enterprise banking software sales model can be. We wanted to give our bank and credit union customers all of the advantages we offer our consumer-site users, from easy setup and sign-in to full customization. The GetSpringboard.com site lets us do that. We’ve learned from our friends at 37signals.com and other online application companies, and we think their model is better. We wanted that for our customers, too.

We’ve had a great response to Wesabe Springboard, and a great set of feedback to the GetSpringboard.com development. As one credit union executive put it, “We all grew up on the web, and we want to see our options and place our orders on the web for everything!” Bringing that model to banking software confronts some peoples’ expectations, but we believe, as that executive says, that everyone prefers ease and convenience. Even bankers!

To introduce this new site, we’re offering introductory pricing for this year only. Sign up for any plan at GetSpringboard.com before December 31, 2009, and we’ll give it to you for the price of the next lower-priced plan for as long as you keep that plan.

For instance, if you sign up for the Gold plan (normally $1799/month), we’ll give it to you for the price of the Standard plan (normally $999/month) indefinitely. You’ll save $800 a month for the life of your Springboard site.

Note: if you decide to upgrade to a different plan later, you’ll lose your price break, so be sure to sign up for the level you think you’ll want to keep.

We think this is a great deal and a fantastic incentive to sign up today. We hope you’ll check out GetSpringboard.com and let us know what you think. Hopefully your institution will soon offer Wesabe tools, so you have the best interface available straight from your bank or credit union.

Happy Birthday, Wesabe!

November 18, 2009 by

Three years ago today, November 17th, 2006, we launched the Wesabe site to the public for the first time. We were the first of what has become a wide and varied field of online personal finance applications. Our site has changed a ton since our launch, too, as we’ve learned from our users and the market.

I was asked the other day whether I thought that online personal finance applications are now a “defined” market — that is, have the borders of the space been set and is all that is left figuring out who can get the most users. “Uh, no” was all I could think to say. Are consumers’ financial lives somehow solved? Is it somehow the case that people worry substantially less about money now than they did? Has our much-publicized space solved money in the way Google solved search or Amazon solved books?

No, we haven’t. Neither Wesabe nor anyone else has made the personal finance app that we set out to build: one that makes people’s financial lives so easy that they no longer list money as their number one stress in life. There’s still so much more to do.

Wesabe has spent the last six months solidifying and perfecting the core part of our app, and we’re happy with the results. We think we have a great app and a great basis for building more. But don’t think our fourth or fifth birthday will look like our third. We know all Wesabeans, and consumers everywhere, need far more, and we can’t wait to show you what the next year will bring.

Thanks to everyone who has supported Wesabe for the past three years. The messages you post in Groups and on Twitter and send to our support line every day, telling us how Wesabe has helped you and made your lives better, are what bring us to work every day. They are more reward than any other we could ask for. Thank you.

A coffee pot is not an "investment"

May 22, 2009 by

Last week, I wrote a post called “Focus on needs, not products,” that talked about a way to save money by thinking differently: focus on what you need your money to do, not a specific product that you want to buy. If you think about your needs rather than products, you can evaluate a broader set of choices and wind up saving a ton. I gave an example of buying a charcoal grill instead of a gas grill I’d been lusting after, and how I saved 90% of the cost by caring more about grilling than a particular type of grill.

I saw something on Boing Boing Gadgets today (a blog I read and generally like) that made me think about this again. All of the “gadget” or “new toy” blogs are incredibly dangerous if you’re trying to save money, since they’re designed to talk about how this cool new product is just so completely, amazingly cool that you simply must have one right now — now usually being right as it is released, when it is more expensive than it will ever be again. (Joel Johnson’s rant on this topic (warning: eyeball-searing levels of profanity herein) is well worth reading.)

The Boing Boing Gadgets post was about a cool French press you could buy. Here’s what they had to say:

MontanoFor our special theme day on coffee, I decided to review the Bonjour Montano French press — not because it’s new (it came out in 2007), but because it was by far the coolest looking commercially sold French press out there. I was digging the brushed stainless steel leaning-tower-of-Pisa look. It makes eight cups of coffee, which was perfect for when I had a pancake birthday party for my dog Malcolm last weekend. At $70, it’s on the high end of the French press market, but think of it as an investment into the overall coolness factor of your kitchen appliance collection.

I use a French press every morning, and love it, so this one definitely hit too close to home for me. Ooooh, a cool new French press. I’ve had mine since college…..maybe a new one? But fortunately my resistance to thinking like that is pretty high these days. Let’s think about this for a second:

  1. I already own a French press. I’ve had it for over 15 years now and it still works great. Unless I break the glass carafe, it could easily last for decades more. What problem would I solve by buying another one?
  2. This one has a cool shape. Um….why do I need to spend money on a cool shape?
  3. The post suggests that you think about it as “an investment into the overall coolness factor of your kitchen appliance collection.” What would be my expected return on that “investment”?

Yeah, I don’t need to buy this, I thought (quickly). The “need” — morning coffee — is already met by something I own. Save the money for something I need and don’t have.

Maybe you don’t already have a French press, and want one. Should you buy this one? Perhaps, if you have people over for breakfast and coffee all the time, and want to impress them with your sense of style. Or, say, if you film a cooking show in your kitchen. 🙂 But otherwise, you should focus on your desire for a morning coffee, and not “the brushed stainless steel leaning-tower-of-Pisa look” that makes this pot “by far the coolest looking commercially sold French press out there.” Cool looks, brushed steel, and resembling Italian architecture will not help make better coffee for you in the morning.

I went to Amazon and looked for the cheapest, new French press I could find. It turns out you can buy a 3-cup French press from the same manufacturer as our leaning-tower-of-overpriced-coffee option for a mere $12.90 — a $57.05 savings. It’s like an 82%-off sale you can make happen just by thinking about it! Somehow I’m willing to bet that the coffee you get from either model is exactly the same. Let’s paint a picture of the savings:

French press choices
(Coffee cup pictures from Refracted Moments™ and Teo. Used under Creative Commons license.)

So, yeah. While I love the boingers, I hate having fallen into this temptation even for a second, and despise being told that a coffee pot is somehow an “investment.” An investment should make you money. The best way to have money you can actually invest, or save, or use for something you really need, is not to spend it. Removing temptations to spend — unsubscribing, for instance, from blogs that are all about cool new products you can buy — and focusing on your needs instead, is the best way to do that.