Recently, Anil Dash posted an article entitled The Web We Lost. In it, Anil discusses the walled-data-silo that is the modern web, and how less friendly and useful modern web services are.
This really speaks to my heart. Personally, I hate having to use the various web services that I do. I try to keep these websites to a minimum, but the ones I do use are simply too valuable to me to go without them. I could avoid using twitter, but the network effects are really high, and I just haven't had the time to work out the rough edges to using my rstat.us account.
A Solution: People-Friendly Servers
I have been paying $15/month for years now for a Dreamhost VPS that I do almost nothing with, in the hopes that someday I will have the time to set up an email server the way I want, some kind of microblog, and regular blog. I don't think this should be all that hard, though.
Imagine a system where a user visits our person-friendly server site. They sign up and provide payment information, and then our systems get to work.
A VPS is requisitioned on Amazon's cloud. A standard system image is installed on the machine, and the user is emailed with a link to log into their new server. Once they log in, the user can choose to install different "Apps", such as email, blogging, and file backup and syncing.
Obviously, such a system would face huge technical challenges. I don't think such challenges would stop something like this, but they might require some rethinking of the way network servers are built.
I have been spending time exploring this idea. I'm really awful about polishing and publishing scripts that I write, but this is something that is important enough to make sure it gets done.
I am trying to figure out an organizational structure to support such a system. A Co-op or a B-Corp seems like the most realistic and ideologically sounds system for something like this.
Do you have any thoughts? Do you want to help build something like this? Let me know.