all about the Stacks

Backstory

Six years ago my college roommate and I built the first version of Stackd to make getting a website online easier. Progress was made on a second version, but we weren’t able to ship before graduating.

Years later I started toying with Stackd as a side project, but wasn’t sure what to build. Whenever some cool new OSS intrigued me I’d start over and hope to come up with an idea compelling enough to keep working on before the cycle repeat itself.

A couple months ago I shut down the original version of Stackd to make room for that idea. In many ways it’s the same idea Stackd was founded on (making it easy to start a website), but this time it’s all about the Stacks.

Stacks: Fulfill the promise of the web

I still remember when I discovered the internet. As a kid I loved making things, but there wasn’t a good way to get my work in front of others. Then I found the web. Anyone with an internet connection could start a website and share with the rest of the world. The internet knew no gatekeepers and no borders. It put everyone on equal footing. It was the biggest thing since Space Jam.

As the web grew beyond technical users, there was a problem: starting a website is hard. Centralized web services filled the gap by giving everyone a place to participate, but in doing so gave up on much of the initial promise of the web. If a freedom-hating government wants to censor its citizens or compile a list of troublemakers, it’s already been done. Security breaches impacting millions (or billions) are commonplace and expected. Ads pollute the web and incentivize a race to the bottom in shady behavior with respect to our privacy. The losers of this race routinely shut down, leaving users stranded and forced to migrate.

This is the only web most people know. Large web services have become the new gatekeepers intent on keeping people in, not out. One is even trying to redefine “the internet” as something you apply to be a part of on their website?

I wish you luck, Zucks. I really do. But you are going to have a mutiny on your hands and I just can’t wait to see how you handle it.
 — Michael Scott

All this because it’s too hard to start a website?

We need to do better if we want the web to be the dominant, open platform of the future. Starting a website should be something anyone can do. Luckily, it’s gotten a lot easier. Gone are the days of manually uploading files to a web server and copy/pasting shell commands to set up a web server. The process of deploying web software is becoming as simple as running a single command. Developers are able to define infrastructure as code (a Stack), run a command (e.g. `stack up`), and that’s all it takes.

Stackd aims to make it easy for anyone to `stack up` a website using Stacks provided by developers.

Stacks: Empower creators

Most creatives start by following a passion, but at some point they need to make money. For musicians, this means finding a record label. For developers, a VC. For writers, a publisher. This isn’t always the case, but creative fields are full of middlemen and platforms that exist to help creators make money doing what they love.

At best, they take a cut. At worst, they interfere with the creative process. Because they control the money and relationship with customers, their priorities tend to take precedence over those of creators. The result is software built to monetize, music made to sell records, and writing meant to generate clicks.

Stacks give creators their own platform — one that lets them create for their own reasons. Making as much money as possible doesn’t have to be #1. Sometimes it’s more fun when it isn’t.

Stacks: Ain’t free

It’s hard to compete with “free” software users pay for in ways they aren’t fully aware of. The price of a Stack won’t be buried deep within a TOS somewhere. Because of this, our software needs to be that much better.

If we solve problems more imporant to users than having their eyeballs monetized, I think we stand a chance. The real challenge is convincing people not to settle for good enough. There will always be free, basic things in life and on the internet. It’s easy to just say “f it” and take what you get. Stackd is for those who want more, and aims to make it the easy choice.

—  @sausman

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