Opensource Web services

olpc web browser pointing to Webconverger

Whilst downloading, installing and running Debian packages is easy, fun and “free”, most Web application services aren’t. I can’t be the only one that thinks there is a problem somewhere as for example, where are the all the free software Web services listed on Freshmeat?

I have an idea for a Web application though I thought it would be cool to make it as Free software though it can be a pain.

  1. Getting a reliable host
  2. Host has to be Debian and probably unstable to get the bleeding edge stuff :)
  3. You probably want to have root, hence dedicated
  4. It is probably expensive and you might have to watch bandwidth
  5. You have to create accounts, where your colleagues also want root.
  6. You could use sudo though you’ll probably get frustrated with it and end up with “ALL = NOPASSWD: ALL” and no one checks the logs ;)
  7. You’re probably want Xen and a few IPs
  8. Since Web application packaging with current tools is near impossible with all the different httpds and DBMSes, you’ll probably have to use some odd hand crafted setup.
  9. You will probably want a DBA sooner or later, to figure WTF is going on with your DBMS ;)
  10. You’ll probably end up with a several step build&deployment process (that’s bad)
  11. Testing (if you ever get that far) will probably be a kludge
  12. To lower the barrier of entry, you will probably go for PHP which is great to deploy. Scary to secure.
  13. Though non-PHP avenues will probably require FastCGI. And FastCGI on Apache last time I checked is PAIN.
  14. Your developers probably can’t run the Web application locally as it such a pain to setup (esp. forget offline)
  15. You might have some “privacy policy” that makes sharing log or database data difficult amongst developers.
  16. Your Web application will probably need mail server access and all the pain that comes with that.
  17. Your application will have to deal with difficult abuse problems like spam that ordinary applications don’t usually deal with.
  18. If your project’s site becomes popular you’ll have a ton of maintenance and scalability head aches that will probably require money to be thrown at the problem.
  19. Someone will think your Web design stinks. Then if you use some “designer”, he creates some awful XHTML template and some fixed px style sheet with images replacing text. ;)

I think there is a few more “barriers to entry” problems running a Web application service as a free software project. Web hosting is generally quite poor and a lot of the Web centric deployment/packaging tools aren’t up to scratch.

Though there are a couple of amazing examples of “open source” Web services, like the stuff My Society do. Any other good examples?

Nonetheless I would like to see Debian serve as an even better Web application platform.

Update: I think “services” makes more sense than “application” in this context… I hope you’ll agree.

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