Open Thinkering


Taking back control of the web: an easy way to host and run secure open source apps

One of the most frustrating things about Open Source software is the lack of traction some genuinely great projects manage to achieve. There are countless examples of individuals deciding to ‘scratch their own itch’, and writing code that would also improve the lives of hundreds/thousands/millions of people. However, the the technical skills required to get it up-and-running, not to mention the security concerns of getting to scale, are often prohibitive.

That’s where comes in. I first heard about the project when I was still at Mozilla as the lead developer led a successful crowdfunding campaign that was supported by many readers of Hacker News. Essentially, it’s a incredibly simple, one-click way to install Open Source web apps. They’re deployed in containers called ‘grains’ which makes apps extremely secure and super-fast.

Sandstorm grains

As you can see, I’ve been playing about with all sorts of apps: note-capturing apps similar to Evernote, kanban tools that mimic the functionality of Trello, alternatives to Slack, ways to seamlessly pipe music to co-workers/conspirators, you name it!

There’s already an impressive selection of apps available in, with more being converted on a regular basis. Here’s the ones available at the time of writing:

Sandstorm apps

At the moment, I’m just playing around. I can see a time when I decide to use this across devices and collaboratively with other people. Relying on venture capitalist-backed companies to look after my data, privacy, and security on a long-term basis is probably a bad idea.

While there’ll always be a free tier, during the beta all of the plans are free:

Sandstorm - plans

As you can see, given that the ‘Power User’ plan is currently free, I’ve decided to make full use of it. The apps are blisteringly fast and, when the beta ends, I’ve got the option of either paying for hosting through, or hosting it on my own server (free!)

I’d have a play and see what you find. I think you’ll find something interesting, something to convince you that Open Source done right can be just as good, if not better, than proprietary, closed-source, VC-backed products!

Click here to go to

5 thoughts on “Taking back control of the web: an easy way to host and run secure open source apps

  1. I’m looking at the same thing; for my new project I am wondering if a Sandstorm environment might be better as a “collaboration space” than trying to find a singular tool, same way you are doing. If I understand the way it works, one login to the environment means you can use all the tools w/o doing separate login/ accounts.

    I did not see that free while beta, it looks like it’s at the signup stage. It says it will “be in beta for months” heck I am going on board now!

    There is also an offer for a free year of hosting if you build some kind of Sandstorm app

    1. Yes, that does seem like a compelling proposition – and an easy way to get people to use Open Source software! I’m looking forward to getting it on a (sub)domain of my own. 🙂

  2. I must have miss read Jim Groom’s post. I was under the impression that you had to install Sandstorm like you install WordPress. Now that I know that it is so easy, will have to have a look.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *