Using FOSS software is a great way of getting free access to valuable services and retaining your privacy and independence when you do it. Whether you’re running your own business on a tight budget or just want to use social media without fear of corporations stockpiling your personal info, there are tons of free and open source alternatives to the mainstream proprietary software that you’re probably used to.
FOSS software also fosters communities and the sharing of knowledge. For those that have the hardware and time, there are tons of benefits to self-hosting sites built on open-source software. Here are 6 of the best open-source, self-hosted applications and how they compare to their proprietary counterparts.
For Part 2 of this article (FOSS Desktop Apps), click here.
Formerly known as Piwik, Matomo is a web analytics application that, as of June 2018, was used by over 1,455,000 websites to track online visits and generate analytical reports. Although the standard version of Google Analytics is free, using it entails that your data is shared with Google, which you may or may not have an issue with. Meanwhile, if you want to spring for Google Analytics 360 (which, let’s be honest, is unnecessary), the price jumps up to an astounding $150,000 per year.
With Matomo, you have the option to download the program for free and self-host or pay for the hosted version. Matomo has many of the same features as Google Analytics, such as metrics on the number of people visiting your websites, what pages visitors are coming from, their geographic location, bounce pages, and more. Matomo also integrates with over 100 content management systems, forum platforms, and e-commerce shops, including things like WordPress and Magento. With Matomo you don’t risk having your data shared with third parties.
For more info, see this thread discussing site analytics software.
Mastodon is a free and open-source social media network with an interface very much like Twitter. Users can post “Toots” (not Tweets) of text, images, or videos and reply to or boost (re-Tweet) other Toots.
Although Tweets have a restrictive 140 character limit, Mastodon users can include up to 500 characters in a Toot, as well as include a content warning or special privacy settings if needed.
Aside from being open-source, Mastodon is also decentralized, meaning that the network is comprised of independent Mastodon instances. Servers can be kept private for more focused communities, and users can choose to sort their timelines by either their local server or the federated view of all Toots coming onto your server from other instances.
There are plenty of cool things about Mastodon, and it seems to be steadily growing in popularity. More info about Mastodon can be found in this thread.
Just like Mastodon, PeerTube is decentralized. Anyone can make their own PeerTube instance with its specific moderation policies and guidelines. These can then come together to form federations with other federations that agree on the same policies.
Like Disqus and other commenting platforms, the open-source software Commento can be embedded right into your blog or website for your readers to use and includes other standard features such as nesting threads, upvotes/downvotes, and moderation tools.
Compared to similar platforms, Commento is absurdly fast and lightweight. It is also privacy-focused and can be downloaded and hosted for free. There is also a paid option if you want to use Commento but not host it yourself, but even this has very reasonable payment options.
Please refer to this article for more information about Commento.
If you’re worried about losing your old Slack messages and don’t want to upgrade to the paid plan, Mattermost is a nice alternative that offers all of the important team chat features you would ever need. It even allows you to import current Slack channels and archives, making the transition to Mattermost very seamless.
Mattermost includes all of the major features that Slack does: private and public chat channels, the ability to nest threads, and more. Mattermost is very customizable and features good support for archived threads.
There are many alternatives, both free and paid for, for the Zendesk Chat (formerly known as Zopim) ticketing system software. One that stands out is osTicket, which is easy-to-use and lightweight while still providing all the features needed from a ticket system.
osTicket is completely free and can be configured to meet your needs. It provides statistics on your help-desk activity, the ability to customize help desk topics, and a ticket filtering system. The full features can be read about here.
There are some potential drawbacks to self-hosting these platforms. For one, you’ll need dedicated hardware to host them and the time to maintain it. Additionally, some of these open source platforms must be configured and are not necessarily read to go right out of the box.
The upside of having to configure your own platforms, of course, is that they are much more customizable, and you can make them whatever you want them to be. They may be a bit more work to set up and maintain, but this can be well worth it for the budgetary benefits and increased independence.