Idno: a collective storytelling platform that supports the diversity of the web.

Idno is a group publishing platform that supports the diversity of communities on the web. Built from the ground up around the idea that authors should own their content and have complete control over their data, Idno puts content first, no matter what form that content takes. Authors can tell their story with whatever medium they prefer - words, sounds, images, or videos. Idno comes with nicely designed, pre-built themes, but it also allows users to host content on their own domain and customize their site with their own theme and branding. Mobile-friendly and responsive, the platform can be used from any web-capable device. A turnkey service is available, or you can host it on your own servers.

Photo of Ben Werdmuller
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Idno is a platform dedicated to collective publishing.  It is easy and intuitive to use, customizable, and extensible to fit the needs of a variety of custom-interest groups.  Idno allows anyone to create a place where they and their group can publish words, images, and other media while retaining full control of the content and the platform.  

With Idno, groups can share their stories - whether they are written, spoken, or visual.  Group members can comment and respond to published pieces, and authors can choose to syndicate their work to other sites and social networks.  Groups on Idno can be completely private, totally open, or anything in between.

Idno is a fully-installable open source platform. That means you can install it yourself, if you have a web server, and easily extend its functionality - but you don't need to worry about the geeky stuff if you don't want to. You can get going with a fully-hosted community site in just a couple of clicks.

Here are some examples of how it can be used:

Parker is running a campaign to raise awareness around a political issue, leading up to a protest three weeks from now, and he needs to provide a central place to support discussion around it. He creates an Idno site, and sets up photographs, blog posts, status updates and events as his content types. Then, he configures the site to fit in with his organization and message. Finally, he sets up syndication, so that content posted to the site will have as wide a reach as possible, across sites like Facebook and Twitter. He allows anyone to join, and sets the site up so that users can also post privately to other members. Once the event is complete, he closes it, and archives its content so it can be used in future materials.

Hannah is active in the East Bay alternative music scene, but finds that discussion is scattered across individual musicians’ Facebook pages. She needs a central place where musicians can promote events and album releases, and discuss promotion, resources and ideas privately amongst themselves. She creates an Idno site, and sets up events, photographs, location checkins, audio and video as her content types. Then, she picks an appropriate theme, customizing it slightly for the East Bay scene, and sets the site to be invitation-only (but allows any member to invite people). Discussion grows organically, and continues to provide a central discussion point for her real-world East Bay community.

Jamie runs a local newspaper. He needs an easy way to let his readers send scoops and information to him, so his journalists can be first to breaking news. He signs up and pays for an Idno site, and brands it so that it looks like a part of his main newspaper website. He sets it up to include photographs, status messages and discussion topics. His users can then easily upload photos and messages from their smartphones, wherever they are, without the barrier of having to install an app. Staff at the newspaper can then choose to syndicate breaking news through the newspaper’s social media accounts.

Dan works for a marketing agency, which needs to promote branded discussion around relevant topics for a client. He signs up and pays for an Idno site, so he can run his own analytics and advertising software, and receive advanced analytics about participation. He limits the content types to discussion topics, and sets all content to be public. Once the promotion has ended, he closes the site, and saves an archive of its content, including details about its members, which he can access offline as part of his report to his client.

In ONE sentence, tell us about your project to strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation.

Idno supports the full diversity of discourse on the web by providing a platform that can be installed by anyone, customized to fit any community’s needs, and easily extended to provide new kinds of group publishing functionality.

Who will benefit from what you propose? What have you observed that makes you think that?

Any group that wants to collectively publish will benefit from Idno, but it will be particularly beneficial to advocacy groups, non-profits and educational organizations. Idno builds on the experience of building Elgg, one of the world’s leading social networking platforms, which has been used by organizations like Oxfam and the World Bank, as well as governments and universities all over the world. It takes these use cases and creates a platform built for the modern web, where users can publish and consume information from anywhere, on any device. We have already presented Idno to groups including the IndieWeb community and the W3C.

What progress have you made so far?

Idno is already a fully-installable open source platform. Our founders have been using it to publish since June 2013, and we continue to develop the platform based on user feedback. We are also in the process of developing our business plan for a hosted, turnkey service, so that users do not require technical skills in order to make use of the platform.

What would be a successful outcome for your idea or project?

We will judge our success by the number of diverse, active communities using the platform, as well as the number of people actively involved in the open source community. For a platform to be useful, we understand that it must be financially sustainable, so that it can continue to exist; a thriving service business is also a metric for success.

Who is on your team, and what are their relevant experiences or skills?

Ben Werdmuller was the technical co-founder of Elgg, one of the world’s leading open source social networking platforms. As CTO of latakoo, he has supported enterprise video collaboration by television news media throughout the United States. He was the inaugural Geek in Residence at the Edinburgh Festivals, including the world’s largest arts festival.

Erin Richey has worked as an independent user experience consultant for companies like eBay, Microsoft and Intel. Her previous roles in digital marketing and analytics, and her degree in Cognitive Science from Occidental College, allow her to create engaging, user-centered software in the context of sustainable businesses.


San Francisco, California, USA


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Photo of Djordje

Hi Ben, it seems your platform already has really nice community of users. Also "Idno is already a fully-installable open source platform". Therefore, I'm not quite sure here what do you propose to do with the News Challenge? Can you provide us more details on that?

Photo of Ben

Idno is in its initial development stages. There are a lot of people who are interested in the platform, and a small group of early adopters who are running it right now, but our aim is to create something that is as easy to use and seamless as possible. We've been doing ethnographic research, and are establishing a clear picture of what we need to work on to make this the best possible platform for supporting discourse on the web.

This runs the gamut from user experience and functionality to technical requirements. We want to ensure Idno can be installed in a very broad range of hosting environments, can be used by a wide range of people with different levels of technical skill, and is fit for purpose for communities and groups around the Internet.

We're proud of what we've achieved so far, but there's lots of work yet to do. Support from the News Challenge would allow us to move forward more quickly, and carry out this work in more depth.

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