our prices are higher than livejournal's and insanejournal's, yes! both of those sites are supported by advertising; we're not. and in addition to advertising, lj's current ownership not only puts ads on your journals, they also have venture capital and outside investors, and they have other forms of advertising and sponsorship than just banner ads. (i'll also note that lj hasn't had a price increase since, literally, 1999! and i think insanejournal hasn't raised their prices since they started having paid accounts, either.)
we set our prices based on what we thought it would cost us to keep the site running, based on the idea that it would cost approximately $X to support every 100 users and we predicted that between Y% and Z% of users would maintain paid accounts, for every M active users we'd need to add another webserver costing $N and for every P active users we'd need another database server costing $Q, etc. (i think the final calculations included something like 20 different variables!) icons are probably the most expensive thing we offer, too, particularly because icons are the one thing that don't benefit from economy of scale. (the more icons people have, the more they use, and 25 icons displayed once on a page is more 'costly' than 1 icon displayed 25 times, even if it adds up to the same amount of data transfered, because the first scenario means there's less of a chance the icons are stored in memory and more chance of needing a database lookup, which adds overhead. i'd give you the more in depth technical explanation if i hadn't killed my hands last night!) we did increase the number of icons various account levels get once before, way back at the beginning when it was clear we'd been too conservative, but we are going to be conservative in what we offer; we don't want to overpromise.
basically, we charge what, pre-launch, we thought we needed to charge in order to keep the site running (and our calculations have been pretty accurate so far); we set the limits for what each account level gets, including icons, based on what we thought we could comfortably support. i know this means that some people can't afford paid time regularly, or think that the value proposition for what we charge isn't worth it for them -- that's totally legit! dreamwidth isn't for everybody. but we're in this for the long haul, our business plan doesn't involve pumping up our numbers to try to sell the site to somebody else, and we want to make sure the site's reliable, we have enough hardware to support existing usage and plan for future usage, and we have enough money in the bank to cover unexpected expenses. (plus to pay salaries for our full and part-time contractors and to support our volunteer developers!) our overall pricing and account structure is set to benefit the service as a whole, and that does unfortunately mean that paid accounts will be outside some individuals' budgets.
i really am sorry we can't give you all the icons you want for a price you're able to pay!
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