Dan Griffiths Launches $175K Crowdfunding Campaign to Build HostPress

When it comes to hosting, there are predominately two choices to manage your account or server; Plesk and cPanel. Dan Griffiths wants to shake things up by adding a third choice with HostPress. HostPress is an open-source, extensible server control panel built on top of WordPress.

HostPress Logo
HostPress Logo

Griffiths has started an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to generate $175k. The money will be used to cover personal expenses, take care of his son, and cover the server fees and salary of an experienced server administrator for one year. cPanel and Plesk have several shortcomings, including:

  • Minimum requirements
  • Extensibility
  • Ease of branding
  • Sustainability

HostPress will have a smaller footprint on servers and customers will be able to brand it with just a few lines of code. By using WordPress, the platform taps into existing development resources which will help it stay on top of security issues.

HostPress Concept Image
HostPress Concept Image

Server managers will be able to extend the platform through an API as well as plugins. HostPress will have a robust set of plugins available to the public, covering the most popular server software at the time of launch.

Market Share

According to BuiltWith, there are more than 4.1 million individual servers running active, licensed cPanel and Plesk installations. Base on this number, Griffiths calculates more than $82M is spent on control panels assuming a $20 per month price tag. Dedicated servers using cPanel, however, cost $45 per month.

Funding Specifics

The funds generated through the campaign will go to Griffiths, even if it’s not fully funded. However, if the project is fully funded, he expects to ship a beta of the product in June of 2016. He also plans to release the following:

  • A modern, open-source, extensible server control panel
  • An intuitive (and responsive) interface
  • A fully-localized platform (HostPress speaks your language!)
  • A platform developers can build on, including the ability to simply rebrand the panel without complex template languages.

If the project doesn’t reach its funding goal, development will continue but at a slower pace. “The goal is to provide the Internet with an alternative to the clutter and complexity of server management. Even if we don’t become a major contender in this space, the support we do get will put pressure on the existing solutions to up their game,” Griffiths said.

Market Demand

When asked how much demand he’s witnessed in the hosting space, he replied, “There’s constant demand for fresh blood in the control panel space. Just take a look at a few of the cPanel/Plesk discussions online and you’ll see a lot of people complaining about their various flaws, or looking for a good alternative. In fact, there have been a number of other attempts made over the years, but none have gained traction due to one fatal flaw. They’re all written by engineers, so while the underlying functionality is solid, the interface always sucks.”

If there is high demand from webhosts and server managers for a solution that’s better than Plesk or cPanel, Griffiths should have no problem reaching his funding goal. To find out what major webhosting companies think of the campaign and if they’ll financially contribute, I contacted GoDaddy and InMotion hosting. Both companies did not respond to my inquiries, despite multiple efforts to contact them.

Largest WordPress Crowdfunding Campaign on Record

Griffiths isn’t a stranger to the WordPress community’s generosity. Near the end of 2014, he started a crowdfunding campaign to raise $2,500. He ended up with nearly three times that amount. In this case however, it’s a product and $175k is a lot of money. If successful, it will be the largest WordPress crowdfunding campaign on record, dwarfing John James Jacoby’s campaign by $125k.

HostPress looks like it could be an interesting product but without the financial aid of companies with large pockets, I don’t see how the campaign will reach its funding goal. Let us know your reactions to the campaign in the comments.


30 responses to “Dan Griffiths Launches $175K Crowdfunding Campaign to Build HostPress”

  1. This seems like a great idea and I hope they raise the money. I’ve never liked cpanel and still don’t even after the latest upgrade with the cleaner UI. Plesk isn’t great either.

    Both were made by server administrators for server administrators.

  2. Too much hype, I would think it twice.

    TL;DR: trying to control OS features from a OS based CRM is as bad idea as it was Windows 3.1, running on top of the OS instead being Windows the OS itself, like nowadays it is. To control the OS from within WP you are relying on WP, which depends of its MySQL database and will need the right PHP permissions and settings to send commands to the operating system, which must be correctly escaped and using an API to avoid being abused.

    Building a hosting panel on top of WP don’t look like a good idea. And here’s why, from my sysadmin and WP power user point of view:

    STABILITY: you will try to control OS features from an Apache/Nginx based application? And what will happen when you save Apache configurations and the daemon have to be restarted, or even better, when you have to upgrade and recompile an entire Apache server, or upgrade to a newer PHP and/or MySQL version. Lots of Ajax calls will be lost, broken, and if it is not finely coded, you can end with a blank, unresponsive, screen.

    HARD TO INSTALL: if HostPress is intended to be easy of use for non sysadmins, I don’t see how easy may be its first installation from the console when a non sysadmin doesn’t ever know how to load a console. Hosting companies should sell servers with HostPress preinstalled, like they currently do with cPanel, only that HostPress will require them to first go configuring the basics of LAMP to meet basic requirements, install WP, install HostPress, configure it, and secure it, and pray that the user is not dumb enough to set a weak password, which will obviously happen, unless HostPress check the quality of passwords. Maybe HostPress should implement an all-in-one install like WP-CLI does.

    SECURITY: WHAT ABOUT XSS VULNERABILITIES? Consider the fact that new XSS vulns will be discovered, and they may be found in the WP core, or even within HostPress. This is two software products to be patched, compared to cPanel being only one. Also, WP don’t have autoupdates for major versions. Combine that with the fact people don’t use to check for updates: It’s a matter of time before your server becomes vulnerable/unstable. Plesk and cPanel have autoupdates for minor and major versions, AND it also upgrades the OS binaries to keep you up to date and secure.

    SECURITY: WHAT ABOUT FIREWALL PROTECTION? since HostPress is replacing cPanel, you won’t be able to use ConfigServer Firewall (the ultimate free server firewall), you should stick to any of the console based firewalls, like APF. It will need a daemon to interface with HostPress, and in busy servers the flow of such communication could lead to a high IO that would help slow down the server performance, helping bots to perform a DDoS with less efforts. The UI basic requirement for a firewall is to have the LESS possible amount of layers between it and the OS. And if you must operate it from HostPress, you have the load time of WP core+theme+plugins, the performance of Apache, PHP, MySQL, and then the daemon to control the firweall at OS level. Such a thing could turn the server unresponsive with the smaller brute force attack to a WP login page.

    SCALABILITY: WHAT ABOUT DUMB USERS? One thing that make cPanel great for sysadmins, is that end users cannot install plugins to extend its functionality. Of course, there is an API and a lot of cPanel plugins does exists, but they are fortunately not intended for end users. And there is a reason: non-tech people will do a mess if they can install any plugin they want. And that’s exactly what may happen with HostPress. They will have to do an amazing coding job to hide menus and prevent users from installing anything beyond HostPress. The WordPress install used by HostPress cannot be used to anything else than running HostPress. Enabling an API to install plugins is the recipe to give support to thousands of tickets. The available plugins will then need to be installed from soemthing similar to the Play Store, being previously tested and approved.

    OS INTEROPERABILITY: HostPress will need a couple daemons running in the background at OS level, along with WP cron tasks to monitore it. Those daemons should be the real actors and be able to do a lot of things: included but not limited to install/update/configure/uninstall services like Apache, MySQL/MariaDB/postgreSQL, PHP, Exim, Courier/Dovecot, DNS services, IP associations, TCP connections, FTP, SSH, syslog, monitor bandwidth, firewall, cron tasks, and be able to manage a couple 20-30 extra components like Perl, CGI scripts, PECL, PEAR, and so on. You name it. I really think they will go nuts trying to manage efficiently all these thingies from WP screens.

    DESIGN: oh I bet HostPress will be blazingly beautiful. No doubt at all. But given all of the items above, I wouldn’t use it. I guess why GoDaddy didnt answered his messages: they dont have time to write such a large explanation of how this project may fail.

    In regards of the crowdfunding itself, I think $175k is a small budget and 1 server guru is not enough. Just consider why cPanel is made by dozens of engineers with a high grade salary…

    The purpose of this comment is not to boicot, but to help him have a more comprehensive view of what are some of the problems they will be facing if they are serious about this. Hope it helps.

    Best regards!

    • Hi Marcelo,

      Thanks for your comment. You’ve saved me a lot of time and done a better job of it. Using WordPress to control the server OS is like trying to use a car to heat the house. It will work but everyone will die of carbon monoxide poisoning.

      Moreover, this notion that a single engineer will outcode cPanel in a year is folly. There’s a reason that there are very few good competitors to cPanel: control panel coding is both difficult and mission critical. Unlike a CMS, a control panel cannot fail (or rather, when it does, the results are catastrophic and it’s very difficult to recover from failure).

    • As Jeff Nolan said below these lines, “we tend to want to WordPress’ify everything even if it doesn’t make sense sometimes”. And yes, that’s what I think is happenning with HostPress.

      If Dan Griffiths is a web designer and wants a more beautiful cPanel, he should apply for a job in the UI division of cPanel and help beautify it from within. From my 10 years of experience using cPanel, I know several techs and engineers from cPanel (even the astounding David Grega, RIP, http://goo.gl/ntjJZf ) and can assure you they are very cool guys and if you have a neat proposal to make cPanel more easy to use to the standard end user, I’m sure the job is almost granted since they are always looking for the continuous enhancement of their product.

      Anyway, I, as a cPanel and WordPress power user can tell that cPanel have done an amazing job with their new template Paper Lantern, revamping their UI after keeping it untouched for almost 7 years. I have implemented it for several customers who aren’t techie geeks and they can also tell that that theme made them relight the fire and fall in love again with cPanel.

  3. Very interesting concept and noble goal. But to take a CMS such as WordPress, which is arguably one of the most targeted web application’s in the World, and use it as a foundation for a server administration tool seems risky. As WordPress enthusiasts I think we tend to want to WordPress’ify everything even if it doesn’t make sense sometimes.

  4. You can run wordpress very well without any control panel whatsoever. On top of that, the solution, as Marcelo explained already is a very poor one. So what we have is an ill fitting ‘solution’ to a problem that does not even exist.

  5. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble but this concept has been intellectually protected by someone nearly two years ago and it’s not Dan Griffith (Someone contact him plz). The individual who has the rights wants too much for it (more than $200k) and I stopped perusing it because a combination of two things: WordPress has too many security holes (need to fork your own copy a spend hundreds of man hours rewriting the entire base) and the discovery of the patent.

    • Marcelo,

      It’s very simple. Regardless of what I believe is or is not a great idea, I believe fundamentally in the empowerment of individuals.

      There are projects I agree with and projects I disagree with and projects I think are well thought out and those that are not.

      In the end, every project comes down to one thing: people. Whether is it a team of dozens or a team of one, it’s people.

      If we wish to make a change in this world, we have to empower people to build out their own hopes and dreams, and for them to make their own successes and failure.

      That is the reason I contributed. It’s very, very simple. This is a hope and dream for Dan and I have the opportunity to contribute to making that a reality.

      • Yep, yours and Justin’s points of view are very very nice and made me feel a bad guy.
        I also love to help others to find solutions and donate time helping dreams to come true, but I just won’t encourage people to embark in what could end being a bad dream. And 10 to 1 this project could lead to a bad dream, for Griffiths, who will be facing the financial risks of keeping up with it.

        I know, Graham Bell was called mad, and Wright brothers were also called alike.
        To soften my agressive point of view, maybe Griffiths should be pointed in a less dangerous direction.

        He probably won’t be able to manage an entire webserver, BUT… he could focus on cPanel API and build a plugin from which you can manage some basic things from one individual domain panel. Not the entire server. If that works, then he could focus on WHMCS API and build a WP based and themifiable hosting manager, ideal to build themes for small hosting companies, and even web designers in the need to resell their hosting spaces to their customers. Now that could work. WPMU have done a good job with its Pro Sites plugin to resell multisite spaces, and there are a couple plugins to connect to cPanel and WHMCS, but not quite nicely designed. He could start improving that and take it to a new level. But always relying on some server management software.

        And believe me, I’d wish I were horribly wrong :)
        Best wishes

  6. Excellent move by Dan Griffiths, I hope it goes well. I’ve started a project with similar goals for my own needs and I really don’t understand the negative posts above. It TOTALLY makes sense to use WP as an OS admin interface to end up installing, in most cases… WordPress! Sure, there will be unique challenges bootstrapping WP to mange the underlying LEMP (in my case) apps but nothing that cannot be overcome. The absolute number one reason to compete with cPanel/Plesk is that they are proprietary non-free non-open abominations locked up behind paywalls. If it’s not on Github it’s not worth using. End of story. Well, there are more good reasons why WP makes sense for this kind of application but that is the main one. Next most important reason is the consistent WP admin interface and a zillion plugin developers already familiar with it so OPEN SOURCE addons could flourish. No longer locked into waiting for cPanel/Plesk to pull their fingers out and update some important feature… nope, just rock up to the codex and have at it. Not happy with the way your current panel looks?… why not be able to chose from 100s of admin plugins and themes?

    Just go away and give me a WP based hosting panel option 10 years ago already. I’ll contribute to the HostPress project even if I am writing my own (probably much) simpler LEMP version just for LXD on ubuntu servers.

  7. From a few of the responses here, it seems that there has been a slight misunderstanding regarding both me and the goals of HostPress. First, let me take a moment to provide a little about my position in the industry.

    Somehow, a few people have gotten the idea that I’m a designer. This is most likely due to my comments on the design flaws in cPanel and Plesk. For the record, I’m NOT a designer, by any stretch of the imagination. I’m relatively competent in terms of using things like Photoshop and Illustrator, but that’s about the extent of it. Rather, these days I spend the vast majority of my time doing WordPress development. To date, I have over twenty plugins on WordPress.org, at least that many commercial plugins written for Easy Digital Downloads, and a handful of general commercial plugins for WordPress available through CodeCanyon and my website.

    However, I’ve only been working with WordPress for the last few years. Pre-WordPress, my background is in Linux development. I’m a former Arch Linux core developer, and have contributed to numerous Linux projects, including the kernel, over the years. I’ve even written my own display manager! In short… developer, not designer.

    Second, it seems that people think that HostPress is intended to be a plugin allowing control of a server from inside an existing WordPress instance. This is FAR from the intended purpose! If I failed to explain my purpose well enough, I apologize. The goal of HostPress is to utilize the core of WordPress as a framework for building a standalone software suite through which one can control a server. This isn’t a ‘chicken-or-egg’ scenario, HostPress won’t be run through the Apache (or NGINX) instance it controls any more than cPanel or Plesk run through their own Apache instances.

    If anyone has any specific questions, personal or technical, PLEASE ask!

  8. Since it wasn’t funded, what’s the status?

    And FWIW, don’t knock using a plugin to control certain aspects of a web server. I have a plugin I’ve been working on to allows me to access all of the cPanel functions I need to manage clients I host on my server from the WordPress dashboard. Just the “day-to-day” stuff like DNS records, Virtual Hosts, Email users, etc…


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