Find out how they make their money.
Building and maintaining a website is expensive and requires income of some kind to continue.
Hopefully you’re aware of how “free” sites such as WordPress, Facebook, Blogger, and Youtube are able to make vast sums of money without you giving them a penny, but if you’re not then take a look at the links at the bottom of this article. You, as an adult member user of these sites, agree to allow them their rights to make revenue and hopefully everyone is happy in the end.
But here’s the thing: Teachers (of minors especially) who require students to join a website have a legal and moral responsibility to protect their students’ privacy and security. So teachers have to know what they’re getting their students into. For example, don’t let your students join a service which requires their contact information or Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
If you agree with this, you are not using Facebook in your classroom.
Free can be safe, but safe can be financially disastrous
Maybe you’ve heard of the up-and-coming site kidblog.org which claims to be a safe social network platform for kids. Everything is free and I couldn’t find any revenue plan, which raises a red flag in my mind. However I know how they began, and I have to say I’m jealous: the founder is a teacher who happens to be a great programmer, and he customized WordPress to build his nice site. So right there he overcame one of the biggest obstacles to starting any social network: programming costs. He also created an LLC (smart) and things seem very automated, with the exception of some support staff whom I assume are volunteers. Servers aren’t free, but with such a simple interface there will be inexpensive options. But even though the company has very low overhead, without income it’s simply not sustainable especially since it’s growing well and owned by a teacher who I assume isn’t independently wealthy! But they’re certainly on the right track, and we’ll have to wait and see what revenue options will present themselves. (P.S. I don’t know the creators and my insights on KidBlog are assumptive.)
PikiFriends has a humble revenue plan
In my case, I’m also a teacher (and also not rich!) but unfortunately I’m not a programmer. I had to figure out a way to build a completely custom site (read: vastly different from the rest, not relying on pre-existing sources) without spending huge amounts of money. Several programming companies estimated it would cost over $100,000 dollars to build PikiFriends. I ended up figuring out a way to do it much, much cheaper by hiring an independent programmer who loved the idea, and thanks to my partner I was able to secure the money without owing anyone a penny. It’s all been documented here.
But PikiFriends is a business like any other – we have expenses and need to pay them or it’s sayonara. There are taxes to the Japanese government, accounting fees, server fees, transportation, Cuban cigar expenditures, etc.
So what’s a good revenue plan for us that doesn’t sacrifice user safety and privacy?
Think about what we have: a lot of jr/sr high school students blogging away. What a goldmine of information for target marketers, let’s load up the ads and use all of the valuable Personal Identifiable Information (PII) to sell Nintendo, Sketchers and McDonald’s goods!
That’s just morally reprehensible. But guess what, it happens whenever teachers require students to use many existing tools in their classrooms.
We at PikiFriends are never going to get rich. We don’t even have any student PII to speak of. We sell an optional curriculum, and that’s it. With no income, there can be no business, so how can we make enough money? I prefer to ask the question like this: “How are we going to make enough money in order to provide the best tool while protecting the privacy of users at all costs?” I just hope the word spreads and PikiFriends finds more and more users. My fingers are crossed.