Subject: Free *Network* Software Business?
From: "Michael R. Bernstein" <>
Date: Sun, 30 Nov 2008 11:42:58 -0700
Sun, 30 Nov 2008 11:42:58 -0700
Hi folks,

I am considering launching a new venture, centered around a (to be
written) consumer network service.

My inclination is to license the software under the AGPLv3, and make it
a 'Franklin Street Statement[1]' compliant Free Network Service.

There are proprietary competitors in this space, but no dominant vendors
(indeed, speaking of 'vendors' at all is somewhat misleading, most
existing services are promotional rather than revenue-generating). The
service itself does not have strong inherent network effects beyond the
social and word-of-mouth kind, nor would independently deployed
instances have much to gain by peering or federating with each other.

However, by embracing data portability, I think I've identified an
opportunity to add some interesting functionality and define a new data
format. None of the existing services in this space give *any* thought
to data import or export, and each is more-or-less built from scratch.

So, I think it is possible this new data format could create it's own
network effects, and thus create an ecosystem and minor industry. The
potential size/importance of said ecosystem could end up being anywhere
between 'Desktop Themes' (ie. a cottage industry at best, some
opportunity for monetization through aggregation) and 'fonts' (whoah).

Sorry for being somewhat coy at this stage, but can anyone suggest case
studies or existing business models that would be applicable for the
constraints I've laid out?

- Michael Bernstein


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