Josh Haas's Web Log

idea of the day: personal app hosting

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Right now, here is how it works.  Developer has an idea for an app.  App requires a server.  Developer rents a server, hosts that app.  Developer builds company around app.  Builds company because hosting is expensive and time consuming.  You have to worry about the app going down.   Sometimes the company takes off.  Sometimes the company fails.  Okay usually the company fails.  App dies.  Code is usually never heard from again.

Read the tweets of @Pinboard for deep insight into this life cycle.

Anyway, this is much sadness.  Because app equals company, app requires business model.  Business model is a damper on creativity.  It also generally mandates closed source, because hard to compete as a company without something proprietary.

Exception to this rule is desktop apps.  There are good open source desktop apps that evolve without a company.  Why?  Because you don’t need a server.  Developer can release code into wild, support for as long as she wants.  If code is loved, others will improve it.  Makes it easy to be a developer, you can do it in your free time.  So, linux exists, and all the apps that live on the linux desktop.

But no one wants desktop apps.  Desktop apps are terrible.  Apps should live on the internet, and be free.  Apps should be built in html5+css+javascript, which is the best toolkit for building GUIs ever invented (if you don’t believe me, build stuff in objective-c, .NET, and swing for a bit, and see how much you miss html — infinite nested boxes FTW!!!)  (if you still don’t believe me, make sure you’re using coffeescript and jquery to build your javascript).

So how about this.  Everyone has their own app server.  App server is super-easy to set up, don’t have to know anything about technology.  Tech people can host their own server, non-techy people can pay a techy company to host one for them.  Server lives at  Server has a one-click-install page where you can download + upgrade apps.  Server offers simple API for apps to use to store data on the server, talk to other apps on the same server, talk to other apps on different servers, share system resources, etc.

Developers no longer responsible for hosting their own apps.  Developers can make apps open source, can fork each other’s apps at will.  One-click-install page could talk straight to GitHub.

Result: renaissance in high-quality open source web apps.  Easy to build and release and modify and improve, all open.

Result: more control for individuals.  You have your personal server with your favorite email app, your favorite blog app, your favorite status-update app, link-sharing app, file-sharing app, etc.  All your data is on your own server, you own it.  You can be as a paranoid or as permissive about privacy and security as you want.  Highly technical users can customize their individual app environments, and run personal code easily.  You don’t need ifttt if all your stuff is on the same box and the box is totally under your control.

Anyway, this is obviously an awesome future.  I will probably have to build it as a spin-off to Bubble once Bubble is more self-sufficient.  Unless someone wants to take it on right now!




Written by jphaas

March 28th, 2013 at 1:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized