All Friendica sites run on the same software with the same plugins. They are set up using the same installation routines, and they communicate with each other in the same way. But there are differences in purpose, environment and strategy. If you are thinking of setting up a Friendica instance of your own, you should take the time to decide what type of site you want to run.
In the vast majority of cases, you will probably be looking at a private site – most commonly using shared hosting. This is Friendica pure – using the software the way it was envisioned with maximum decentralization. But there are also good reasons to maintain somewhat larger sites, be they for a specific community or to serve the public/project as a whole.
It’s a good idea to look at the notes and the linked documentation below before you decide which type of site you can feel happy with. There's no denying that the project is always in need of further public servers, but if the demands of running one are not for you, rest assured that you are helping actively by running a private site for yourself and your friends - especially if you're willing to let a few new internet acquaintances come on board.
Resource requirements for a private site start at a standard DSL connection and a fairly modern desktop PC or laptop to run a home server. If you want more power and flexibility, you can get a reasonably priced shared hosting account and offer up to ten friends a lift.
1) The most private type of site is one you run from home. Unless you are able to dedicate a machine and a lot of bandwidth to such a site, it will only accommodate a single user comfortably – though it’s possible to add one or two members of your household,. This type of site is most typically set up on a so-called virtual computer (requiring no additional investment). Installation is very easy using a ready-made disc image.
2) It is just as easy, but slightly more expensive to set up a Friendica site on a shared hosting account (or – with a little more expertise – on a small Virtual Private Server). You can comfortably host up to ten people this way, so you can invite friends to join up (#friendshostfriends). You may even find space for one or two people you meet on the internet and who would like to join a private site for performance and functionality reasons. We have an easy installation guide here and advice on hosting friends here. If you want to help reduce the load on our public servers even more by hosting a couple of new acquaintances, take a look at our #friendshostfriends forum - perhaps someone is looking for an invite (or you might even issue one yourself). Anyone able to install WordPress or Drupal on a shared host should feel comfortable with this type of site. Maintenance time is negligible.
A public or community site generally requires a Virtual Private Server – unless it is small and restricts non-Friendica connections severely. As a rule of thumb, expect to host about 40 people on 512 MB of RAM if you configure conservatively and run Apache as your web server - 70 if you use Nginx. A VPS with 4 GB of RAM ( and four cores) might host up to 350 people with Nginx. If you want to host even more, you will probably find a dedicated machine more cost-efficient. Latest code optimization means that these estimates are probably somewhat understated if you make stringent use of the new admin options.
1) The purpose of a community server is to provide a venue for an existing community – a club, sports team, church, political group etc. An additional attraction is that members also get a full social networking platform for their personal use when they join up. Unless the community is very small (up to ten members), you will need a suitable Virtual Private Server to accommodate it – shared hosting is not recommended. Configuration requires care – but we have documented everything you need to know here and the task is not beyond anyone who feels comfortable running a VPS for other purposes (e.g. ownCloud or DaviCal). Expect to invest quite a lot of time on support for your new members initially - and less than an hour a week in the longer term. Alternatively, direct general support requests to the Friendica Support forum. Maintenance time is modest, once your members are on board.
2) Public sites are generally run by people who want to help the Friendica project grow. They usually have the largest user bases, but commonly restrict functionality to save resources (admins can make exceptions for themselves and close friends). Offering a public site is a tremendous service to the project, because far too many people feel unable to host their own. Though their inhibitions are often unwarranted, these people simply won’t be using Friendica unless they can join up on an existing server. Running a public Friendica server used to be a fairly time-consuming undertaking, but documentation is now mature enough to make the job much easier. Initially, you can expect to spend a few hours a week on support requests if you handle them all yourself. But you can reduce that time investment rather radically by directing your users to the Friendica Support forum, and once you reach capacity, you will rarely be accepting new users anyway. By that time, support requests will have dwindled considerably. If you push a public server to the limits of its resources, you will spend an additional two or three hours on maintenance. If you don't accept too many users and configure for low resource use, maintenance time will be very modest.
3) Demo sites are a special case. Only one user gets a permanent account on such a site – the person who sets it up and serves as its admin. A plugin expires all other accounts after a set number of days. This helps save resources and is one reason why a demo site can usually offer full functionality, including fully enabled Facebook connectivity. This distinguishes it from a public site, which generally can’t afford to be so generous. The hope is that demo users will normally go on to host their own sites. Despite their showcase functionality, demo sites can usually be run on fairly modest resources, partly because their databases are kept small. Maintenance time is therefore low, and you can direct support requests to the Friendica Support forum.