At the core, we have five facets of web hosting software:
- Control Panel
- Billing System
- Live Chat
Most of the big control panels are now owned by SWSoft/Parallels, leaving cPanel and DirectAdmin as the two main competitors. Billing systems seem to be mediocre all around, and the helpdesk/knowledge base field is primarily Kayako. There are quite a few interesting Live Chat scripts, but the ones most companies use just look awful.
That said, would anyone here be interested in pioneering new open source hosting software? We could provide alternatives to any of the above fields, and offer clean migration paths away from other control panels. It would eliminate licensing fees and allow companies to put the money into hiring programmers to extend the applications, and that work would then be released back to the community and promote further growth of the software.
I really think the hosting industry could expand if enough of us got together and actually tried releasing software that's innovative, modular, and flexible, without being tied to a few key companies that essentially control the direction of hosting technology in the majority of the market seen on WHT and related sites.
So, anyone interested? This isn't necessarily a recruiting post, I just want to get the idea out there and get some discussion going.
That's the thing, none of the free software (as far as I know) can compete with cPanel, Plesk, DirectAdmin, ModernBill, WHMCS, UberSmith, Kayako, or any of the other mainstream solutions.
As far as support, most companies can redirect their money to hiring a programmer to either do custom work on the software or to handle communicating with the community behind it. For continuity, it's the same as any open source software - it's very easy for anyone to pick up the slack if a problem arises. It's probably a safer bet than with some of the current control panels.
Cost.. well, it really depends on where the discussion goes. If enough people are willing to, and have the time to invest into it, I don't think it will be a huge issue. Or if it is, there's certainly the possibility of companies who would be spending the money on an in-house developer anyway, and they could just fork the efforts to this. That is, if it amounts to anything.