Internet is a difficult beast to move forward. So what sets this mechanism aside as a fruitful investment?
Developing Internet technologies can lead to more efficiency, more ways of bringing offers and demands together, and it has a great appeal on humans who want to use it. In general, this means that internet technologies offer very good opportunities for investment. However, it can also be a risky undertaking. How is this project different?
What we are offering
Innovations on the Internet are generally troubled by the "network effect": once everyone uses it, it will gain in popularity, but until then most people will be sitting back and waiting. Startup funding is part of the facilities that can help overcome this, but is not sufficient.
What we are doing here is unique, and based on a thorough analysis, after having observed internet technologies and hosting problems for decades. Briefly put, most users are subjected to the offerings of hosting providers. These hosting providers are enrolled in cut-throat competition on pricing, but not on facilities offered. Rolling out new innovations is useless if a provider does it in a solo action; network protocols are designed to co-operate with remote parties who do the same. The result is a sort of a prisoner's dilemma.
In a typical Internet fashion, prisoner's dilemma's can be broken by joining forces. And that is precisely what we are proposing. We want to create the technical facilities that enable hosting providers to roll out these new innovations, and make them available to their customers. Doing this for many hosting parties at the same time means that the protocols can start to gain in popularity, and gain the critical mass that is needed to make them a success. And since these are open protocols, there will still be an opportunity for various popular sites to get on board and join in, instead of running a walled-garden approach. The mature version of the Internet that this would bring drops lock-in as a viable marketing mechanism.
As we progress with our plans, we intend to create an economy that incorporates users, their hosting providers who charge them, and plugin providers from all over the Internet that supply the users with additional components to run under their domain names -- for which they pay those plugin providers. One of our intentions is to create that plugin infrastructure and the adjoining marketplace.
Our approach of this work is as a foundation, so without an aim to make a profit. We wish to collect resources to develop and maintain this platform, have the small changes made that we need in various places to grease the integration processes, and at some point we intend to start funding new developments of protocols and open source platforms that could serve as new plugins. The not-forprofit direction also means that the overhead will be kept to an absolute minimum; the environment in which we operate is usually geared up in a similar fashion.
What we are asking
Explore the market. You needn't take our word for the stuck situation of the hosting market. Have a look at ten of them, compare the packages they are offering and how prominent their pricing and discount plans are advertised. Then, discover that they are all running some variety of LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) with innovations confined to applications that run within a browser. Notice that none offers security infrastructure beyond passwords, let alone single-signon efforts. Notice how cross-domain calendaring solutions are virtually absent.
Take note of the date on the web and email standards, and browse through the standardisation efforts that have been completed since then. Pick a few of them that you like, and find hosting providers that are willing to provision them.
Then, take a look at today's popular service providers; there is a trend of moving away from personally controlled domain names towards these "central" nodes on the Internet, that usually serve the advertisement industry instead of their end-users. Notice how these service have overlapping facilities (chat, messaging, posting information) but how this does not cross the boundaries of their walled garden, contrary to the openness of internet standards. Finally, notice how they usually provide you with their choice of domain name, placing your data ultimately under their control, their identity management and their user profiling.
Changing the Internet. Changing the Internet may seem difficult, but the underlying economic reality is straightforward: to get a service provider to act in my interests, I must pay for the service. This enables them more freedom to move, control and retract; there is currently growing awareness that free services are not free and perfect in all aspects, and an increasing number of people is willing to pay "a few dollars extra" for a properly hosted solution as we anticipate it. Plus, the importance of Internet-based communication mechanisms is rapidly growing, and strengthening this position. We expect companies to make the mental and technical switch first, and end-users to come dripping in at a lower pace.
Consider users. Companies understand the growing importance of their online presence. Although some are experimenting with services hosted by external companies, they are bound to learn how limited their control is and how easy it is for individual disgruntled customers to jeapardise their online reputation if they do not control it. As for end-users, they will pick it up at a later point, but the concern about online privacy and security are quickly gaining attention in even the popular press. Offering a way out hardly seems a risk.
As for the introduction of innovations: It is common for end-users not to ask for them, but once they are confronted with innovation they can very quickly adopt them. And we have quite a pile of innovations to offer -- there are over 6,000 internet standards today, of which only a minority is in common use. End-users are the kind of people who will say about telephony "nothing special please, I just want to punch in numbers" but who, at the same time, are depending on mobile phone facilities that they never anticipated ten or even five years ago.
Help us get started. We are looking for startup funds, intended to get most of our architecture implemented. We have worked on a suitable architecture, and subjected the technically most difficult parts to testing to convince ourselves that it would be possible to build all this. However, getting from the draft design stage to a stably running is quite another investment.