Moving Towards A Self-Hosted Cloud

Taking advantage of the power of the web today is something that new companies are doing everyday. But for the past two years the major way I, and many other people have taken advantage of that power is by signing up for third-party web services. For me, I live everyday using Google services, specifically: Gmail, Reader, YouTube, Calendar, Docs (which I use to write this post), Maps, Groups, Talk, Analytics, numerous software apps that are hosted on Google Code, and now add Chrome to the mix. These are all the Google services I use at least once a week. And I don’t want to be a pessimist but, in the long run I don’t see this being future of the web, where it continues along a path where such a heavy reliance on these commercial third-party services is the norm. The future I want to see us move towards is the idea of open source and self-hosted services supported by third-parties.

Google is only one example, but it’s the most severe one because of the huge amounts of critical information people entrust it with. There’s a lot discussion going on talking about reasons why people shouldn’t be handing companies like Google all of this information.  These discussions include ideas like no matter how many beneficial services are provided to make our lives easier, the fact that if it is all coming from a for-profit company, we’ll never know what their long-term plans might, or when their intentions could change, or even what the possibility is that we could all be left up-the-creek without access to our information at all! As well, other services whose value is driven by our information are also being scrutinized by people raising their voices who want more and more control over their information, namely Twitter.

The idea of creating open-source, self-hosted alternatives to these web services is at important step in moving the web forward in a direction collaboration and openness, rather than just dependence and criticism.

Following are a few examples of open-source applications leading the way in this. Like the commercial solutions that preceded many of them, there is still lots of room for competition between open-source implementations and, lots of people hoping for continued innovation.

Life Streaming: Sweetcron

PHP (with CodeIgniter), GPL v3

Developed by Japan based developer Yongfook (his site is running the lastest version of Sweetcron), Sweetcron is an open source life streaming solution that collects the sum of your actions across the web based on the feeds you configure it to follow. Sweetcron is designed as an alternative to similar services like Friendfeed, but without any of the same social networking features.

Micro-Blogging: Laconica


Developed by Montreal based Evan Prodromou, [Wikipedia description:]

Laconica is an open source micro-blogging tool written in PHP that implements the OpenMicroBlogging standard. Laconica was created as an open source, distributed alternative to Twitter, and was originally used by the micro-blogging service.

An example of setting up your own hosted micro-blogging network is The Twit Army, set up for fans of the TWiT podcast network.

Web Analytics: Piwik


Formally called phpMyVisites, Piwik is an open source alternative to web analytics packages like Google Analytics. It’s currently in Beta, and some of it’s notable features include it’s Plug-in support for developer created add-on functionality, and graphs and charts that are embeddable into websites. Plug-ins for other platforms including WordPress, Mediawiki, Docuwiki, and Typo3 have already been developed that enable Piwik to be installed onto each of the platforms with some custom options (e.g., disabling admin user tracking for WordPress). Personally, I would have preferred if more of their visualizations were built using Javascript rather than Flash.

RSS Aggregator: Lilina


A lightweight, RSS aggregator, Lilina was the only example I could find of a self-hosted and open source alternative to Google Reader. It seems to be a rather new product with support for plug-ins and custom themes. But there’s a lack of documentation or media on the project homepage. Something to look out for in the future perhaps.

The room for new projects is immense. Projects like an open-source self-hosted office suite, or a calendar application would make great applications for those people who prefer working with their data on the cloud, but at the same time want the control hosting their own data.

There’s a lot of room for discussion on this topic: What are your main concerns with relying on a third party for your information? Would you use a self-hosted and open source application even if it offered less functionality? How important is a commercial backing to these open-source and self-hosted applications, and are there any start-up opportunities there?






13 responses to “Moving Towards A Self-Hosted Cloud”

  1. Ryan McCue Avatar

    Nice to see you tried Lilina out. We're still preparing for the 1.0 release.

    The documentation is a little sparse at the moment because things haven't been finalised for 1.0 yet, but a feature freeze is coming quite soon, after which I'll get right onto it!

    Coming with 1.0 will also be a bunch of themes and plugins and the community is encouraged to make more. We use a system quite similar to that of WordPress for both plugins and themes, so this should be familiar to most developers.

    Lastly, be a better image for you to use, it uses a transparent background and is made for black-on-white situations.

    I hope you take another look at Lilina in the future! If you have any suggestions at all, post them as a comment here or post over on the forums at I'll do my best to get around to answering them!

    1. Ryan McCue Avatar

      Oh, and I've also added you on Twitter, so feel free to @rmccue or @lilina with questions.

  2. Malcolm Bastien Avatar

    Thanks for all the information Ryan! I look forward to installing and writing about the 1.0 once it comes out.

    I've added you to Twitter as well, good times!

  3. Josh Davey Avatar

    I really like the subject of this post. As much as I love the cloud I'd really like to be in complete control of it. Lilina looks very interesting. I might have to try that out.

  4. Madhan Avatar

    You can add one more to your list.We are taking the selfhosted cloud one more step with Tonido, web apps that run fully independently on your desktop. Tonido is not only an application, but a development platform. See for more details.

  5. rpcutts Avatar seems to be a self hosted social aggregator a la FriendFeed.

  6. Malcolm Bastien Avatar

    Hey, thanks for the recommendation. I had seen NoseRub a while ago, but it never really seemed to have hit the level that its ready to be talked about.From the intro video and website, it seemed to me like it could only really provide simple services and has a limited feature set.That all might have changed but NoseRub hasn't gotten any attention anywhere else I've looked either so I think those points still stand.

  7. rpcutts Avatar

    I'd have to agree. I signed up on Identoo an instance of NoseRub and it seemed quite raw. It seems like there is quite a big release in the works and I'd be interested to see what they manage to achieve.Also worth a mention is Whilst not ready for real use since it's only a 2 week old alpha it looks a very promising piece of software.You may be interested in this:

  8. Daniel Avatar

    Tiny-Tiny RSS is a good example of a popular open-source feed reader. You should give it a try.

  9. Malcolm Bastien Avatar

    They Daniel, thanks for the comment. tt-rss looks like a nice Google Reader like app.The demo version runs really smoothly for me as well. I think the different entries and menus take up a bit more space than I'm used to especially with google reader doing pretty well at giving me as much screen real-estate as it does.

  10. dirk Avatar

    Lilina failed several times (defect latest item plugin, cant import opml, cant import from google reader, unhandles exceptions, and so on)

  11. Malcolm Bastien Avatar

    That sucks. I really should do an updated list like this soon. Who knows how many of these projects have entered the dead pool in the past year.

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