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I like the business model of Pinboard and Tarsnap. Small operations with low costs, customers pay for the product with money rather than data (almost unheard of these days), no ads, no bullshit, good, simple UI, business spends its efforts providing a legit service rather than spend them on paving its way for being bought out.

I know of no other commercial enterprises that use this business model. Are there any others?


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    There’s a notification service called Pushover. It was made by some guy you might have know of called “joshua stein.” Never heard of the guy, myself.

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      I had heard of the name “Pushover”, but I didn’t really know what it was, so thanks for bringing it to my attention.

      The service and the business behind the service both look legit. They satisfy almost all the criteria I specified (plus some criteria I didn’t specify). If I am allowed to make a critique, I don’t like the website though. It looks like any other forgettable startup rather than a legit business addressed to people who know what they are doing. This is why I ignored this service when I first heard the name.

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        I don’t like the website though. It looks like any other forgettable startup rather than a legit business addressed to people who know what they are doing.

        What are some indicators on a website that puts one in either “forgettable startup” or “legit business” categories?

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          Bad: looks like every other startup website, big photo in the middle across the whole screen followed by lists of text underneath the photo, quotes from users at the top of the page, changing quotes, picture with browser or phone, picture with browser and phone, news on top of the page, oversized android store and app store buttons near the picture, single column layout on the landing page, visually dense page while not having very dense information, multiple fonts on the start page, thin fonts, visually sparse page making the user scroll for no reason, big fonts, sales pitch on the page, needless javascript and bloat for static text, the scale of the operation is not obvious, the target audience is not reflected in the design.

          Good: the design does not scream the name of the framework that was used to make the page, fits on one screen, or if it doesn’t fit on one screen it’s not because space is poorly utilised, multi-column layout (could change into single-column on mobile), pictures augment the text rather than replace it, simple pricing explained on the landing page, visual density proportional to the information density, if it has quotes, quotes that don’t change without a refresh, if it has quotes, quotes go at the bottom, consistent fonts, preferably browser defaults, including default sizes, small web page size, no client-side rendering on landing page, no client-side rendering unless no alternative in general, the scale of the operation is obvious, the target audience is reflected in the design.


          Somewhat goodish: tarsnap.com, kernel.org, openbsd.org, freebsd.org, lobste.rs, KD85.com, soekris.com

          Really bad: docker.com, sysdig.org, redhat.com

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      I think the prgmr.com VPS hosting company fits the description.

      (Disclaimer: I’m a paying customer.)

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        It absolutely does. I am a customer too, although I forgot to mention it in this thread.

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        This is how we run egghead.io.

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          I use feedbin, which I believe is still a rather small operation. The code is also apparently open source.

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            I once e-mailed Feedbin with an issue and got a response from the main/only developer very quickly. Great service–I switched because Google Reader went away, but Feedbin is better than Reader was (it’s faster, too–funny how fast the web can be without ads or trackers).

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              Ok, you convinced me to try it out. I migrated to Feedly once Google Reader went away, but I don’t like Feedly at all (not to mention that it automatically marks as read articles older than one month… what a feature!), and I didn’t have time to research something better.

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                Hmm. AFAICT there is no way to not display the content, just a list of titles per feed? (no third column).

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            I use FastMail for my email, calendar, and contacts. It’s simple, fast, and high quality. I really like that it works with known standards (CalDav, CardDav, etc.) rather than creating more walled gardens.

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              I want to use FastMail, but I need a way to continue to be able to use the same address for Google Talk/Hangouts in a web client, including voice and video support.

              If only Google chat technologies used open standards, aargh.

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                They did support XMPP, until Hangouts didn’t.

                The dream of federated messaging is alive in P…. it’s just dead. None of the popular ones from Slack to Telegram to Signal to whatever else support them. Facebook killed theirs, and it didn’t even federate.

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                  I don’t know if I’ve been grandfathered into anything special but I’m still able to do that. The email address that I use with FastMail was once attached to a Google Apps account. I am still able to use that account with web Hangouts. I have not tried Google Talk.

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                    Yes, you can have a Google account without Gmail, but where is the Hangouts/Talk URL? The problem is that Hangouts is inside the Gmail app. So how do you connect to Hangouts?

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                      This URL? https://hangouts.google.com/

                      EDIT: Just read the comment below this one… Link is there too.

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                    You can use whatever email address you want when you create your Google account. By default, Google wants to create a Gmail account for you to use but you can opt for your current email address.

                    Personally, I have my email setup at Fastmail and I use the very same email address to log into my Google Account and use Hangouts in the browser.

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                      You can have any e-mail for a Google account, but how do you use Hangouts/Talk, when the Hangouts interface is inside Gmail?

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                        It’s also available at https://hangouts.google.com/hangouts

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                          Thanks, I didn’t know about that!

                          I must say it doesn’t solve my problems though. While I said Google Talk/Hangouts for generality, in reality I only use Google Talk. I had many, many, many problems with Hangouts (not to mention that it’s more ugly and dysfunctional than sin). But many thanks!

                          Edit: I found a much more serious problem. That thing does not work if you pop-out the windows, then close the originating tab. While this is also true for Gmail, I have that tab opened anyway, by necessity. But if I move my mail to FastMail I would have no desire to keep a random Google window tab opened at all times.

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                            You might be able to get around that if you use Google Chrome and use your Google Account. You should be able to use Google Talk from the pop-up window.

                            Big caveat: it works for me but I think that’s due to the fact that I got a Google Apps for Your Domain a while back, when they were free and I was grandfathered into that account. Since then, I moved to Fastmail but I never closed by GAYD account (I can sign in and go to Gmail, which is empty) so I can use Hangouts and Google Talk. If you have a paid account and you close it, chances are you won’t be able it use Google Talk.

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                              What happens to the chat archives? Where are they saved? Can you still view them somehow?

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                  I think Patrick McKenzie is considered something of an expert on businesses of this type, and I find his blog/site Kalzumeus tremendously helpful. Following his twitter @patio11 is pretty good too.

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                    They are a web host with a simple pricing model and only charge you for what you use. Static sites cost less than dynamic sites, and if you use dns or a mysql database you only pay for the resources you are actually using. They also have some great services for privacy, specifically a mailing address, phone number with voicemail and fax. They will forward anything they get to you. https://www.nearlyfreespeech.net/services/respect

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                      I think newsblur qualifies. It’s MIT licensed, too.

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                        Take a look at Indiehackers. Not all of them follow that business model, but all run by single developers.

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                          Neocities (website hosting/open-source, 2-3 people), Drone.io (C.I/open-source, few guys) and CodePlane (Git Hosting, one guy) are qualified in these terms I think. (Disclaimer: I’m only free user of neocities and drone)

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                            My site (running the lobsters codebase) barnacl.es is all about this. Signups do not require an invitation.

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                              There are many such businesses in the Mac shareware world. I recently came across DEVONthink Pro, it’s like a better Evernote (the Pro Office version does OCR too). My own small business sells Espionage (encryption + plausible deniability), which is a good companion to it.

                              If you’re an OS X user, you’re probably aware of MacUpdate where you can find many others.

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                                If you don’t limit your search to services, you can include things like

                                amongst many others.

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                                  customers pay for the product with money

                                  I guess you’re looking specifically for software targeted at private users? Because “selling stuff” as a business model is a thing even in software (Microsoft, anybody?) and matches everything you’re describing, except maybe the “good, simple UI” part. But that’s irrelevant to the business model anyway.

                                  EDIT: Under this assumption I’d add 1Password to this list.

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                                    I guess you’re looking specifically for software targeted at private users?

                                    I am not necessarily looking for software companies (although my examples were all examples of software services). A shoemaker could qualify provided it has the same “feel”. Yes, it is very difficult to qualify this “feel”. Selling stuff to private users I think it’s a prerequisite, though.

                                    “selling stuff” as a business model is a thing even in software (Microsoft, anybody?) and matches everything you’re describing

                                    Except the small operation part, which is the most important criteria. I am looking at 1-2-5-people operation tops.

                                    Under this assumption I’d add 1Password to this list.

                                    Nah, not the same “feel” at all. Not sure how many people actually develop one password, it could be a single person for all I know, but it has the look and feel of a big operation.