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.