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ViOffice as a sustainable Open Source alternative to Google, Microsoft and others – Our Mission in 2022

After we recently outlined our technical improvements for the new year in a blog post, we would also like to transparently announce our focus in marketing this year. We further explain in the article, what Google and Microsoft have to do with it.

Our Intention as Founders

At the beginning of the pandemic, when readily available solutions such as Zoom and Microsoft 365 were more in demand than ever before, ViOffice was launched a short time later out of a student flat-share. From the very beginning, we as founders focused on offering a privacy and data-protecting open source alternative to the well-known communication and cloud services of these companies for everyone. You can find out more about this in the start-up podcast Flieten, Viez und Ideen from August of last year.

Since then, ViOffice has continuously developed and grown. Although we are very happy and thankful about this as founders, our core purpose is still in the spotlight for us. To be quite honest with you: We are not aiming for a market-dominating position. For us, ViOffice is an entrepreneurial project that is oriented towards sustainable, ethical and socially just future viability. That’s why we have reinvested or donated any revenue so far. This year, we would like to further intensify this focus.

ViOffice Web Analytics compared to Google Analytics

The apparent contradiction of Privacy & Web Analytics

Privacy and web analytics seem to be incompatible opposites. This impression is not least due to the fact that analytics is mostly reported in connection with the misuse of private user data by large platforms. Whether large social networks, well-known cloud services, video chat tools, search engines or even many small services, most companies store, process or analyze and sell the individual digital traces that we all leave behind when using these applications. This is because the data generated from tracking these digital traces can actually contain helpful information for the service operators under certain circumstances. We already published a detailed article on privacy-friendly analytics on our blog a few months ago.

ViOffice Analytics & Google Analytics in direct comparison

It is estimated that 50-80% of all websites use Google Analytics for their web analytics. Google Analytics is a complex tool that can be integrated into one’s own website to collect data from visitors to the corresponding website. However, this information ends up not only in the hands of the website owners, but also Google itself. Incidentally, due to the non-transparent source code of Google Analytics, it is not clear which functions are running in the background without the knowledge of the website operator or the visitors of the page. What is certain, however, is that Google Analytics sets cookies and performs other tracking measures in order to track website visitors individually (user tracking). As a result, the operators of the respective website must at least obtain the explicit consent of all visitors and make it transparent to all when Google Analytics is used. The concerns even go so far that government agencies, such as data protection authorities and courts, regularly have to deal with the use of Google Analytics. Only recently, the Austrian data protection authority decided that the use of the Google service violates the legally binding, European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). There are also numerous technical arguments against the use of Google Analytics. For example, the complex service collects numerous data that are generally not needed for meaningful data analysis. On the contrary, it can lead to confusion and an excess of collected information. Moreover, it can significantly increase the website loading time and some ad blockers automatically block websites that have Google Analytics embedded. Thus, there is a possibility that the service may even have a negative impact on your website views.

ViOffice Analytics, on the other hand, is based on the open source software Umami. This is an easy-to-use, “lightweight” analytics tool that gives you full control over the collected data, without third party insights while preserving the privacy of your visitors and users. ViOffice Analytics does not set cookies and does not analyze individual user behavior, but collects aggregated traffic data (traffic tracking instead of user tracking). This way you get the helpful information you need and still stay on the safe side ethically, legally and technically. It doesn’t even require an annoying cookie banner on a website. Since it is open source software, you don’t have to take our word for these advantages, but you can (let) check it out in the source code yourself. By the way, all ViOffice services run on secure servers in Germany, powered exclusively by renewable energy sources.

Analytics as simple subscription

Unlike Google Analytics, ViOffice Analytics is not free of charge. This is because the server infrastructure and the personnel effort are always associated with costs. It is important to understand that seemingly free services are not really free, but the collected information is misused for targeted advertising, according to the principle: “If it’s free, you’re the product!”. Nevertheless, to make the service available to everyone in an uncomplicated way, we have set up a low-cost subscription model (starting at 4 € per month!). We also have special discounts for non-profit projects and associations. More information about the conditions can be found in our price list.

Support for non-profit projects and associations

Since the beginning of our business, we have closely aligned our prices with our actual costs. In addition, we offer discounted rates for non-profit associations and projects and even have a Pay-What-You-Want system in our cloud service ViOffice Core for pupils and students. Through our private activities in different associations we know the financial and personnel situation of some associations in Germany. Most of the time, the engagement is on a voluntary basis and modern challenges, such as digitalization, can quickly become an existential problem.

We want to help! That’s why we are increasingly tailoring our offerings to the needs of nonprofit associations and are doing more educational work in the context of digitization. If you as an association have specific concerns or questions for us, we are happy to provide any assistance we can.

In addition, we in turn use the revenue generated in this way to support important software or social projects financially as well.

Increased Awareness & Open Source collaborations

This year, we would like to intensify our educational work around the topic of digitization and its interplay with our society. While at the beginning we provided comprehensive information on larger blocks of topics, such as open source, data protection, encryption, platform economies or digital self-determination, in the future we will communicate our positions more openly, cite concrete examples or issue recommendations for action. In doing so, we also always want to advance the social balance in the digital space by classifying important information specifically for associations or pointing out socially misguided developments. To this end, we plan to publish more blogposts monthly than before and, in the course of this, change our social media section #InfoMonday. Instead of presenting our monthly blog article in pieces on a weekly basis as before, we will now immediately publish a summary of the full article.

We take the position that Free Open Source Software offers fundamental advantages over non-free or proprietary software. For this reason, we would like to advance our networking with other players in the Free Software movement.

If you would like to support us in this way and at the same time have a need for modern cloud and/or analytics services, we would of course be happy to have you use our services. You can find an overview of our services in our portfolio. In addition, you can of course follow our progress via our regular social media and blog posts.

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Pascal is co-founder of ViOffice. He is mainly responsible for marketing, finance and sales. He studied economics and political science at the University of Trier. Currently he is in the final stages of his master studies in applied statistics, economics and political science. He is interested in the fields of data science and digitalization. During his studies he spent some time in Turkey and Belgium.