The Possibility of a Friendica-Based Service

An idea came to mind the oth­er day. I was pon­der­ing small ven­tures I could pos­si­bly spin up, to make a few dol­lars and in the process provide some­thing of val­ue for low cost. The pos­si­bil­i­ty of start­ing a Frien­di­ca–based ser­vice, where­in a user can start their own SSL-secured self-contained Frien­di­ca node, via a web-based ser­vice front-end, came to mind.

The goal of this ser­vice would be to provide an inex­pen­sive and easy way, for non-technical indi­vid­u­als to start their own per­son­al Frien­di­ca nodes, com­plete with their own sub­do­main (pos­si­bly their own domain, as a lat­er, more advanced fea­ture) and com­plete SSL pro­tec­tion.

As I talk to peo­ple who are not famil­iar with Frien­di­ca, I notice a recur­ring the­me, that they find it inter­est­ing; but get­ting some­thing start­ed is pos­si­bly too con­fus­ing or too tech­ni­cal for them.  I want to offer some­thing that elim­i­nates many of the hur­dles new users would face; things they typ­i­cal­ly don’t want to deal with, while pro­vid­ing them an envi­ron­ment that they can be com­fort­able inter­act­ing in and ful­ly sup­port­ed.

Exam­ple of a pos­si­ble solu­tions could be described as fol­lows:

  • A domain is pur­chased and a wild­card SSL cer­tifi­cate obtained, such that any num­ber of sub-domains are cov­ered with a valid, trust­ed cer­tifi­cate, with­out the annoy­ing mes­sages that scare novice users away.  This secured wild­card sub-domain option would dra­mat­i­cal­ly low­er the cost of oper­at­ing a node, because only one cer­tifi­cate would have to be pur­chased, cov­er­ing any num­ber of sub-domains.
  • The front-end of this ser­vice could provide a direc­to­ry of affil­i­at­ed nodes (if the user elects to be list­ed, of course) and easy ways for the user to sign up and/or access their node and pos­si­bly any set­tings that aren’t con­fig­ured from with­in their node.
  • A script could be writ­ten to auto­mat­i­cal­ly reg­is­ter the sub-domain with DNS, cre­ate the vHost on Apache, cre­ate the data­base, and install the source code for Frien­di­ca on their node. It could also cre­ate an ini­tial account.
  • A small fee could be charged to cov­er the cost of host­ing and sup­port, pos­si­bly a month­ly fee or a dis­count­ed annu­al fee.  The user could then have access to email/chat based sup­port, for ques­tions or issues relat­ed to their node.  Plu­g­ins and fea­tures could be allowed/disallowed based on the account fee and the cor­re­spond­ing server resources required, as well as the sta­bil­i­ty of the par­tic­u­lar plug­in and the like­li­hood that it could be sup­port­ed (Face­book API comes to mind as a real prob­lem, because it is a sys­tem that is designed to be bro­ken, if ya know what I mean).

Exten­sions of this ser­vice for com­mer­cial use could work as fol­lows:

  • Options for small/medium sized businesses/organizations could be offered.
  • The­se options could be opti­mized for inter-organization col­lab­o­ra­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.
  • Plu­g­ins an improve­ments could be made to the Frien­di­ca soft­ware, to improve the usabil­i­ty of the soft­ware for busi­ness pur­pos­es.
  • Vary­ing fee struc­tures could be offered, depend­ing on the size of the orga­ni­za­tion.
  • Con­tract devel­op­ment options could be offered, to allow orga­ni­za­tions the option of tai­lor­ing the solu­tion to their needs eas­i­ly, using a developer’s time who is famil­iar with the plat­form and able to quick­ly pro­duce sta­ble results.

I think one major improve­ment that can hap­pen, for Frien­di­ca to be suc­cess­ful, is for eco­nom­i­cal­ly sus­tain­able options to emerge, where the cost of host­ing and sup­port are cov­ered as the user base expands.  I can see this as being a pos­si­ble avenue towards that goal.  This would not only add new users, pos­si­bly with more diverse and non-technical back­grounds, to Frien­di­ca; but it would also be a way to bring in more mon­ey for devel­op­ment and improve­ment of the code­base as a whole.

If some­one is actu­al­ly mak­ing some mon­ey by offer­ing a solu­tion, it is in their best inter­est to make their solu­tion attrac­tive by fix­ing bugs, mak­ing improve­ments, writ­ing plu­g­ins, etc.  So the way I see it, this kind of ser­vice could be a win-win for all par­ties involved and the com­mu­ni­ty in gen­er­al.

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