Rosano joined us to host a discussion on Zero Data Apps – apps where users hold their own data.

The Zero Data website explains the background:

  • an app in which your data stays with you
  • you control where the data is stored
  • no spam, no captcha, no sign up, no passwords, bring your own identity
  • using open protocols for flexibility and interoperability
  • do what you want with your data at any time
  • your data is accessible forever even if the app stops working

Plus, there is a list of over 150 apps you can browse, compiled across various technologies and platforms that all promote this zero data approach.

Rosano's concept for the discussion was that Zero Data needs to move beyond just a technical architecture, which is a developer-first discussion:

My idea is to explore how unlike most ‘technical’ decisions, Zero Data implies a re-thinking of incentives and how organizations are structured, it’s pretty political. How can we get business people (more-so than developers) to start talking and thinking about it?

We had brainstormed a number of topics of discussion ahead of time, and covered some of them:

  • Should I use Open Collective or Github Sponsors or Patreon or another service?
  • Does an open-source license matter? What license should I choose?
  • What are the trade-offs of using platforms vs self-hosting?
  • How much do developers need to think about business and marketing?
  • What kind of features do Zero Data apps enable?
  • How can we fund public or common goods?
  • How important is having an audience?
  • What does it mean to be successful? and what are meaningful metrics to measure this?
  • How much does technical architecture relate to sustainability?

Plus more in the original forum posting.

Thank you to everyone for participating in the group discussion!

This tends to be a popular discussion topic, especially on the community building and sustainable support of app creators, so we'll likely have a similar discussion in the future. Sign up to be notified of future events »

Find out more about Rosano on his website, on Twitter @rosano, and on the Fediverse You can join the discussion on his forum.

If you want to see more like this, support Rosano's work on Open Collective »


Rosano very kindly created chapter codes in the video to various sections that you can jump to in the included video above.

00:00 Intro
01:50 Business models and challenges
04:35 Steve: Does this make $300,000 a year?
06:09 Mark: Is this profitable like SaaS?
08:29 What are we selling?
10:08 Basti: SaaS sells access to data
10:49 Boris: What features does SaaS enable?
12:25 Noel: What happens to data when apps stop working
13:30 Lorenzo: Educating people about technical possibilities
15:06 Boris: Movement building
15:53 Boris: What does open-source mean?
16:53 How does open-source change the dynamic?
19:11 Rosano: What I want for people using my apps
20:45 David: Beyond donations
22:27 David: Doing feathers.js full-time
24:31 Basti: Hosting the app versus the data
27:17 Boris: People paying for convenience of not hosting
28:39 Basti/Gyuri: The value of apps
29:21 Sustaining projects less transactionally
32:54 Lorenzo: Research on digital commons and peer production
35:08 Boris: The impact of on open-source culture
36:02 David: Challenges in distributing collective funds
37:53 David: Culture changes post Microsoft, Google, Facebook
39:55 Basti: How Kosmos pays contributors with crypto
44:05 Boris: The non-western world in open-source
45:52 Boris: Bringing non-engineers into the fold
47:16 David: Too much governance
50:21 Boris: Directing dividends to makers automatically
53:29 Rosano: Community-building
55:13 Rosano: Looking for collaborators
56:48 Gyuri: Leverage interoperability to create community
57:57 Boris: Building movements together
61:18 Interoperability challenges
62:56 Lorenzo/Boris/Basti: Matrix recruiting their lead contributors
67:10 Basti/Boris: Dangers of centralized influence in ecosystems
73:16 Rosano: Calls to action