I have a number of thoughts about the potential Nextcloud holds beyond enterprise use. I know that it is being positioned as an alternative to Google Drive/G-Suite and Microsoft Office 365, but I think there is a lot of opportunity for public use.
The two biggest strengths of NC that sets it apart are its extensibility via apps and its support for federation. I don’t think that NC is constrained to being just a cloud-based file management and collaboration platform. Because of apps, NC can be whatever users want. With the right code, it should be possible for users to install not just apps but apps that are actually services/servers. For instance, if a user or organization wants to use Riot.im, they could install it in NC by simply installing it as an “app.” It sets up the Riot server on the host, integrates with NC for user management, and it runs just as if it was built-in to NC. Yes, this is a ways off, and it will take support from third-party developers, but I think it is a viable direction for NC to take.
Working hand-in-hand with apps is support for federation. This holds a lot of opportunity. Being able to federate across different NC hosts allows users and organizations to communicate with a level of privacy not readily available with other solutions. If two NC hosts federate their Talk servers, they are able to communicate directly and natively while each host maintains its own record of the messages. Centralized solutions don’t provide this type of privacy.
By providing a robust app and federation framework, NC could help usher in a wave of decentralized services on the web. For instance, if an organization installs a PeerTube “app,” they can turn their host into a PeerTube server, select the videos they want to make accessible, and then federate with other PeerTube networks. Perhaps a user on a single-user host wants to run Friendica. It could be as simple as installing an app, and NC takes care of the rest.
NC is a very mature project, and it may be able to use it as a foundation to achieve many of the goals of Tim Berners-Lee’s Solid Project:
If the project takes this path, NC could be the key to shifting the balance of the web away centralized services.