Funded! This project was successfully funded on December 2.

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The OSFC improves an existing software client for better stability, new features, and cross-fandom support.

Holy cow everyone! If you haven't yet, spread the word by reblogging the Tumblr post directly: http://ghostdunk.tumblr.com/post/66066548993/open-source-fandom-chat-4-13-kickstarter

The OSFC is a free and open source 90s style chat client. It will be based on an existing open source chat client. That client has a large user base that uses the client not just for geeking out and using it to roleplay (RP), but a lot of people that use it as their primary method of talking to friends! Now we want to make it better. 

One of the primary features of this chat client is that it can be skinned using themes, or to put it another way: its user interface can be changed to whatever you want it to look like. This makes it an immersive experience, and therefore an ideal chat client for role play and use by fandoms. Because of this feature, we think it makes it an ideal candidate for all kinds of fandoms, Tumblr users, and anyone who enjoys getting excited about fictional characters.

Some history: I began work on this almost 3 years ago. Back then, at its highest peak, there were about 250 people using it at once. It's been a labor of love, and I'm very proud at what the community has become: currently, it gets anywhere from 55,000 to 60,000 unique IPs per month, an average of 2,000 concurrent users, and we maxed out at around 3780 users online at once.

However, we want to improve and expand the client to keep this community going strong. But when I began this project, I was functionally unemployed, and had a lot of time. I'm sure you've all noticed that I don't have time to comment in forum threads any longer, and it's been a long time since I updated the software. What's more is my provider recently changed their billing rates to charge me for total bandwidth. This client uses nearly 1 terabyte per month. So my costs are higher than ever, about $80-90 per month. All said, I've spent a total of $1440 of my own money just to keep the servers running. If I want to cut down on this cost, I have to rewrite how the software works.

So I'm trying something out: I'm using this Kickstarter to fund a huge leap forward in functionality. We know that there are a lot of bugs to be fixed, and a lot of desired features still remain unimplemented. So rather than just make small fixes in my spare time, I'm going to rewrite the server code to provide more features, and update the software to be a mature chat client, as well as provide more support for other platforms. That's right, Mac users, we want to give you a fully functional version! Mobile users, we want to give you a version on Android and iOS!

But we also think this client has potential to be enjoyed across all fandoms! These fans aren't the only ones who roleplay, and we think this software is a good candidate for a Tumblr friendly chat client. The 90s-style chat client isn't dead, and we think fandoms will embrace it! Therefore, we are going to focus on making this cross-fandom friendly, and announcing a stretch goal to make a Tumblr-compatible web plugin and a web interface to the chat servers.

Here's a list of what we're planning:

Client changes:

  • Fix several bugs in the current software, like UTF-8 problems, profiles getting corrupted, animated GIFs taking up a ton of CPU, the client ceasing to work after too many file handles are open.
  • Using SQLite instead of JSON text files to store configuration, allowing for automated fixes and moving configurations to other computers
  • Saved usernames and passwords so users can log in on client startup
  • A website to manage your username, password, and saved settings
  • More options for theme users to make prettier themes.
  • Possible in-client interface to other RP networks
  • No more 512 character line limit

Server changes:

  • Ability to connect to other RP networks
  • Group chat will now save history (private rooms will be encrypted)
  • New "anonymous" random and group chat; will feature one-off RP rooms that act kind of like Omegle or other roleplaying sites
  • Users can save several handles under a single username
  • Reserved handles will remain first come first serve, but alts will be done automatically rather than using stupid misspellings
  • Support for reserved handles
  • Increased efficiency, cutting down on bandwidth bills
  • Limited backwards IRC compatibility (or XMPP compatibility)
  • "<User> is typing..."
  • Support for the aforementioned password control

Platform Support:

  • Better Mac OS X support -- Mac users should be able to enjoy it as much as everyone else!
  • An Android version, which is already in the works

And maybe more! (File sharing will not be implemented.) What's more is that we also have two big stretch goals! This Kickstarter is for $1500, but we also want to do:

$2000: iOS mobile app
$3000: Web interface AND Tumblr compatible Firefox and Chrome plugins

The web interface will allow people with modern browsers to use the software without downloading anything. The browser plugin is to allow you to chat while browsing as well as integrate Tumblr into the mix. We think this chat client has the potential to become Tumblr's favorite chat app!

What this will buy:

  • Paying for programming time
  • Android and Mac devs programming time

Things that will NEVER be for sale:

  • Any handle
  • Mod or admin positions
  • Unbanning banned users

Also remember: we will never charge users to use any of the clients or the servers they connect to!

The beta is expected to be finished in December 2013 or January 2014. The final product is expected to be finished by March 2014. The final product will remain open source and completely free of charge.

Anticipated FAQs:

Q: Will I be able to roleplay my favorite character?
Q: I already roleplay my favorite character, will I be able to continue to do so?
A: Yes! The roleplay-friendly features will not be removed, and it will continue to provide those features into the future.

Q: Will I be able to chat with my friends on another network?
A: We are adding support for this client to communicate with a number of different RP networks.

Q: What if this Kickstarter fails? Will the current client be over with?
A: No. This project will extend the current client rather than replace it. If this Kickstarter fails, I will try my best to keep the server and client running as-is. I might continue to update it, but on a much less ambitious scale.

Q: What is the money even going towards?
A: The money will go towards my programming time, and to other programmers working on the project. I will post on my Tumblr account regular updates of the project progress.

Q: Can you give an example of what something cross-fandom on this chat program would look like?
A: In addition to supporting any kind of RP you want, here's an example of what a Sherlock chat screen would look like:

Sherlock Themed Chat
Sherlock Themed Chat

I'm not an artist, so that is probably not perfect -- but themes are open for anyone to develop, which means you can get some really impressive themes from any of the fan artists out there!

Q: Why don't you just set up an XMPP server?
A: I still might do so! It all depends on whether XMPP can do everything necessary to keep all the features I want.

Q: What if someone uses the reward tiers for something inappropriate?
A: Inappropriate images and sounds will not be accepted for any of the rewards.

Q: Can smilies be animated gifs?
A: Yes, but the animation may end up being off by default. I will try my best to fix it, but animated gifs suck up processing power, and they cause serious issues with the client. I may have to make animation off by default, which means users would have to turn it on to see your smiley. However, I think that with enough research I can figure this out!

Thank you everyone for reading! And a sincere thank you to everyone who has used my client for the last 3 years!

ghostDunkTHE GOAST WITH THE MOAST My Tumblr

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Possible risks include overreach -- if I'm overestimating the ability of myself and my fellow programmers, the project might be delayed. I think I've estimated a fair schedule -- the original chat client took me 3 weeks to make and 3 weeks to beta test, but then again I could devote more hours to it. But now, I also have help. If it helps, I'm a 31 year old professional software developer with 8 years of professional programming experience.

FAQ

  • Not using the Kickstarter interface, but if you put in the money for multiple ones, when I send the backer surveys out, I will ask if anyone had multiple tiers. You can then remind me. I'm just worried about forgetting everyone!

    Last updated:
  • The specifics are still up in the air, but this is the basic idea I have of how this will work:

    There will be two different kinds of names: usernames and handles. Username is what you sign in as. A handle is how you will appear to everyone else on the network.

    1) You will sign on to this client, either using your username/password or anonymously. Usernames are unique, and there should be no advantage to picking certain popular names (other than you get to type it in for your log in info).
    2) You will choose a handle. If you are on your account, you will have several handles associated with your account.
    3) You will have the option to protect handles if they are your own unique username. Direct fandom handles will be protected, and you will be able to get a list of them. Your personal handles will be able to be protected by preventing people from getting on them unless they are signed in.
    4) Logged in users will be able to decide if their username will be visible to everyone while signed in, or if they want to remain unseen.

    Last updated:
  • Users will be able to decide if their custom icon is for a specific handle or for their username.

    Last updated:
  • The name is not set in stone. I'm looking at alternatives, and there's a good chance it might change.

    Last updated:
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    Be a beta tester! Beta testers not only get to try out the new network and software before everyone else, but they'll be the first to register their personal handles. All higher reward tiers also get this reward.

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    Add a smiley image and trigger (e.g. :smile:) of your choosing to the official release! No copyrighted images please. (This means users will see your smiley when the trigger is typed.) Limited by file size and technical limitations. Includes the $1, $5, and $10 reward.

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    Your custom theme (limited to file size) will be part of the official release package! You must create the theme yourself. No copyrighted images or trademarks please. Includes the $1, $5, and $10 reward.

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    ghostDunk will help you program a theme using your art and instructions (subject to technical limitations). It will be included in the official release if it does not contain copyrighted images or trademarked names. Includes the $1, $5, and $10 reward.

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