Subject: CISTO business idea (was Re: Opportunity lost? ...)
From: Norbert Bollow <nb@thinkcoach.com>
Date: Sat, 12 May 2001 07:37:02 +0200

Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com> wrote:

> Since it's not 1999 any more, I have to ask: where is the revenue?
> Building community sites was never profitable.  Advertising revenue is
> drying up--look at Yahoo.  You can have a 100,000 users, but how will
> you get paid?

Ok, I'll try to explain the Business Idea for the FreeDevelopers
Community Internet Services and Tools Organisation (Cisto) in
more detail.  (I hope that after a couple of revisions, based on
comments from the community, this text will evolve into a formal
"business idea" document).

Cisto specializes on providing hosting, technical support and
consulting services for a small number of Free Software programs
that are useful for building Internet Communities, namely:

a) GNU Mailman  see http://www.list.org
b) Phorum       see http://www.phorum.org
b) TBBBS        see http://www.tbbbs.org

The value of these programs is in using them to create internet
communities.  There are different motivations why people want to
create such communities, like for example:
- Desire to be part of a community of this type
- Desire to be perceived by peers as providing a valuable service
- Using the community as a marketing tool for some other product
  or service
- In some cases it might work to turn the internet community
  itself into a for-profit business venture, either through a
  membership fee or through advertising revenue.

All of the software packages in the list above can be downloaded
from the internet at a very low cost.  However making use of
them requires having at least one internet server (better two
for redundancy) as well as server-operation and -maintenance
skills.  For reasons of economy of scale it makes sense for at
least some those who want to operate an internet community to
oursource this service from a company like Cisto.  Here Cisto
competes primarily with less specialized internet presence
providers which may also offer of hosting internet communities.
Cisto's competitive edge comes from being able to provide an
extremely high level of quality of services through really
caring about the success of the communities, and through being
part of a strong community of Free Software developers.  For
example, when a customer requests an additional feature, Cisto
will find a competent software developer (starting with the
current maintainers of the software package) and an offer will
be made to the customer for adding the feature for a fair price.
As a customer of Cisto you get a dedicated installation of the
software you use, so that the service which you receive does not
become less reliable when other customers have features added to
their installation.

Sources of revenue:  Cisto will charge for:
- software installation
- high-reliability hosting
- consulting on making the best use of the software
- express bug-fix services (the customer can pay for an annoying
    bug to be fixed within a negotiated, short timeframe)
- implementation of additional features

Greetings, Norbert.

-- 
Norbert Bollow, Weidlistr.18, CH-8624 Gruet (near Zurich, Switzerland)
Tel +41 1 972 20 59     Fax +41 1 972 20 69      nb@freedevelopers.net
> Currently recruiting:  Perl programmers  and  JSP (JavaServer Pages)
> programmers for the "Traffic Building Bulletin Board System" project
> at FreeDevelopers.Net    ------------------>    See http://tbbbs.org