Managed Mastodon instances entering preview mode

Communick first started with the idea to provide the easiest and cheapest way for people to participate in the fediverse. Given our focus on privacy and based on the principle that we would never “monetize” our customers, we put our efforts on providing a service that could work for everyone, but we did not want to make any type of features for any type of specific market segments.

In some ways, that was successful. We have been running our servers for close to 3 years now without any major incident. We set up our infrastructure in a way that could (potentially) serve tens of thousands of customers very efficiently. Almost all of the processes were automated to the point where I could go for months without touching any of the servers, except for the occasional upgrade for a new release. Even today, our cost per active user is so low that we can manage to offer access packages that cost less than $0.50/month per user and still be profitable.

But it seems that is not enough. The absolute majority of people coming to the fediverse are not doing it because they are looking for something super cheap or free. They are doing it because they want to feel like they have their own space, interact with the people they already have connected in other networks. They are willing to pay a lot more than a few cents per month, if they know the people behind the servers.

So, instead of arguing with everyone trying to convince them that a communick account could give them all the functionality they needed (at a lower price), I decided to offer them what they are demanding instead. Which brings us to our first step in this phase: we are offering now Mastodon instance hosting.

To have your own Mastodon server, all you need to do now is to purchase a domain. We will manage it, make sure things are up-to-date, secure, backed-up properly, etc. You get admin access right away and all you should worry about is in keeping your community vibrant and healthy.

At first we are offering one single configuration: a server that is provisioned with enough resources to handle ~100 users comfortably and efficiently. We are still figuring out the pricing and how to offer single-user instances, but they should come pretty soon. If you are also looking for someone that can host bigger instances, do keep in touch.

That’s it for now. I know this blog has been silent for a long time, but I’m planning to bring more updates here.

Say Hello to Communick

Oh, hi! Welcome to our blog and our very first post. Perhaps an introduction is in order: we are Communick, and we are building a social media and communication service provider…

That is way too generic. What do you mean by that?

Basically, it means that we are taking open messaging and social media services and providing hosting for them.

We are starting with:

  • Matrix, which gives a modern and unified set of programs for text messaging and audio/video calls.
  • XMPP, which provides a rich ecosystem of clients and automated services built on top of it.
  • Mastodon, the fastest growing social network and microblogging platform.

And this is just the beginning. We are planning to also introduce SIP for integrating with traditional phone networks, alternatives for photo-sharing systems, federated blogging…

Stop right there! You want to make another social media network/messenger, in 2020?! Isn’t this kind of crazy?

Well, sort of. This is not yet-another platform. We are providing services that are based on open and federated technologies, which already exist and are not controlled by any one company in particular. In other words, we are collaborating to expand the existing Fediverse instead of competing for some artificial monopoly.

If you think this is crazy, wait until you hear our plans on how to make money from this business…

No. Don’t tell me you are actually thinking of…

We are going to charge our customers a small monthly fee for the services we provide. We really believe that any sort of “ad-based” or “freemium” model eventually leads to some bad incentives for business which are not aligned with the end user. Just take a look at any of the offering from the big companies and try to remember the last change that was made to their products which was designed for the benefit of the users and not their investors.

Also, we want to build this business without any influence from outside investors or the pressure to turn into an unlimited growth machine. We rather take a slice of a good pie than trying to control all of the current mediocre bakeries.

So, while we do have some ideas that we are willing to explore later, the only way we are seeing this to work at the moment is to actually charge the people using it.

Don’t worry, though. We are still figuring out the exact pricing, but even the most comprehensive plans will be less than a dollar/user/month.

How are you getting people to pay for a service, if all of the other people are already using something free?

Right, the famous “chicken-and-egg” problem. For that, we are going to need your help.

Instead of getting only users paying for single accounts, our plans will be for groups, much like a “family plan” of phone companies. One person can sign up to our service and then invite their friends to join. By taking this approach, we can:

  • provide a way for the privacy-aware people to signup for a service they would like to use and already understand the “no free lunch” issue from the big networks.
  • provide all the tools and information needed for them to help educate their friends and contacts to join our services, i.e, this is where we can “go viral”.
  • avoid the issue of dealing with micropayments. By aggregating lots of accounts for billing, we can keep our costs even lower. By keeping the costs lower, we hope that those who really want to avoid the other networks will be encouraged to sign up and even perhaps foot the bill for the group in the beginning.

I could also be running another server and share with my friends and family.

Yes, you could! In fact it would be great if you did it as well. The more people we have providing services in open and non-centralized systems, the better for the internet and for society in general.

With that said, bear in mind that you will have to:

  • buy or lease hardware to run the services 24/7/365
  • learn how to set up a different set of technologies and how they work together
  • deal with server management, possible outages, backup, etc
  • provide support for your non-technical friends, whose requests may come at any (inconvenient) time
  • afford operating costs (in general and per user) that are almost certainly higher than what you would pay for any professional provider

If you want to use this at as learning experience, go for it. If you are doing it to defend your absolute independence and freedom, we salute you. But, in the end of the day, most people just care about having a good way to talk with their friends without being tracked and having their data exploited for someone else’s benefit.

This is why we are building what we are building.

What about the enterprise market? There is way more money there to be made.

True! We are also working on an enterprise offering. Stay tuned.

No need to wait, I am already convinced. I will get all my friends/family/coworkers/pets to join ASAP!

That is great to hear and we appreciate the enthusiasm, but we also have a lot of things to figure out. This is why we are launching in limited preview mode. During this initial phase, only the first 100 signups will be able to purchase a 10-user membership, and we are asking for a one-time payment of $5 which will give access to everyone during the whole period of limited preview. We are expecting this to go until the end of the year, when we are expecting to have the full launch.

But you don’t need to wait until then. Sign up today to guarantee your spot and let’s make part of the federated revolution.