DreamHost Customer Outrage

This chart tracks the level of customer outrage (based on number of comments) for DreamHost status posts. The logic behind this chart is that people (namely, web host customers in this case) tend to only speak up, or make comments, when they are pissed off. Judging from a cursory examination of the DreamHost status comments, the exceptions to this principal seem to be fairly few and far between.

The chart excludes annotations for incidents with less than 300 comments. Otherwise the annotation labels make the chart unreadable. This chart was generated from the DreamHost Status pages and only includes updates from those pages. Many unreported incidents are not included in this chart.

So what can we tell from this data? It seems in the past year the amount of user complaints has gone down significantly. Only once did they rise above 200. Is their service getting better?

From ~2006 to ~2015 DreamHost reported a total of 2,470 incidents on their status page. Given the number of unreported service interruptions one can only guess at the actual number. Choose a multiplier you feel is appropriate for your own estimate. Many "minor" incidents of downtime don't get reported and I wouldn't be surprised if the real number was two to three times higher, but that is pure speculation. However, the number of status posts with ten or less comments for this time span totals 1,192, which is close to half of their reported incidents for this time period. That sounds pretty good from DreamHost's perspective.

The total number of comments for this time period was 43,357.

Comments per Incident

So let's take a look at a chart that shows the number of incidents and their severity by overall comments. The number of incidents with more than 400 comments? 18. The number of incidents with more than 600 comments? 11. The number with more than 800 comments? 4. Move your cursor over the chart line to see the numbers.

Customer Attrition

So what does their attrition rate for customers look like? I looked at the number of urls posted by customers in the "website" field in the comments section of the status pages. After weeding out around 20,000 spammers, trouble-makers, false links, malformed links, etc. there were 41,133 links left. I excluded the duplicates, since some people posted multiple times, and were left with 17,773 unique domains. Certainly a few bad hosts remained in the remaining list; I was only interested in the active urls, so all 17,773 hosts were pinged and I received 16,223 responsive hosts. 1,540 hosts were either behind firewalls, timed out, or simply refused to respond.

Of those 16,223 responsive hosts 5,867 were found to be hosted on a DreamHost server – with 479 of those accounts on a virtual private server (8%).

So only 36% of valid domains on the DreamHost status comments pages were hosted on DreamHost at the end of 2014. Even if you assume that 10% of the remaining valid domains were spammers that slipped through our initial filters, that leaves the number at 40%.

Of course this is just speculative estimation for fun. And considering that DreamHost has over a million domains hosted on its servers we really can't get the whole picture from looking at 5,867 of them. Only their management, and administrators, know the true customer attrition rate.

Comment Distribution

The overall majority of posters (3,591 of them) posted only once to the status page. One guy actually posted 105 times and 3 other folks got pretty close to 100 as well. Move your cursor over the chart to see more. What does all this tell us? The most vocal people are the fewest in number, which makes sense historically in many different contexts. In this context, most people will put up with downtime, outages, and more, and remain (begrudgingly?) loyal customers, because people are generally forgiving, have short memories, and will put up with a lot when the alternative is the hassle of dealing with change.

Word Counts for 43,357 Comments

I also looked at word count totals (i.e., frequency of times used) for all of the comments in the time period above. Obviously these numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt since I can't spend the time to go through 43,000 comments and delete the instances where the word was used out of context.

I also looked at the comparative percentage difference from these word frequencies with the word frequencies (for the same terms) in 272 web reviews of DreamHost (you can see those numbers here). Obviously, one would expect all of the negative terms to be amplified in the status comments and that is what I found. Remember, the percentage difference here is based on word count (frequency) divided by total posts for the terms in each table.

Word Frequency Comparative % Diff
problem 18,692 +0.1737
fuck 13,458 +1.0
wordpress 9,325 +0.0974
slow 3,527 +0.0262
mysql 3,527 +0.2030
happy 2,384 -0.02222
best 1,593 -0.0367
fast 1,483 -0.0209
shit 1,456 +1.0
sucks 988 +0.0044
awesome 449 -0.0153

The comparative percentage difference for the term "mysql" was the biggest at 20% (if you exclude the first two terms in the above table, which have a 100% difference). What that means is that the term "mysql" was mentioned 20% more in the status comments than in user review comments. Trailing that, "problem" was mentioned 17% more and "wordpress" 9% more.

Outrageous Comments

The DreamHost Status page comment section is full of empty threats, histrionics, poor English, wonky metaphors, and ranges from funny, to angry, and everything in-between. Here are some of the funnier comments, along with a few of the more practical, level headed comments (expectation wise). Make sure you're not drinking or eating anything when you read these; they are that hilarious.

Many people post on the status page describing all the sales they have lost as a result of the server downtime. One man even said his local government was going to collapse, and that taxpayers would lose millions; others claimed to lose money because they could not send out proposals for projects on time. So Michael is making fun of those folks.

Apparently, "neo," the author of "How is babby formed?" is also a DreamHost user.

"9/11 style." Can't find humor like this at the movie theatres. What an apt response too.

I had so much fun with these that I even created a second page of comments here.


DreamHost customers are very vocal with their complaints – the second most vocal behind InMotion Hosting's customers. Looking at the overall distribution of user gripes across many different web hosts gives a more accurate picture of how vocal DreamHost customers are in comparison to their competitors (you can take a look at the gripe data here).

So is DreamHost the worst ever? Only if your expectations are unrealistic. You have to be able to see past the marketing for any company you are doing business with and understand what your actual needs are. And while our outlook on DreamHost is pretty lukewarm overall, I do rate them as a better host than their competitor, MediaTemple, and explain exactly why here.

DreamHost does have its place in the hosting ecosystem, however, I really recommend Linode if you are looking for awesome hosting.



This circa 2015 project was a fun public data discovery & analysis of DreamHost and its users. How might the comparative stats for your industry and customers look like?


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