So I'd suggest you stick with the open API, and perhaps have an open reference implementation, but add value in a secret sauce on the server side which competitors can't simply copy.
I guess they could sign the copyright over to him, but I don't see another way around that. (IANAL)
But if someone (competitor or not) forks and adds SuperAwesomeFeature (without signing the copyright over), pkrumins can't pull that into his and license it commercially. It'd have to only exist in his AGPLv3 version, which sounds like hell.
The only danger for pkrumins is if the "forker" is able to make his new fork the more popular, more advanced fork. That doesn't happen very often, and really, when it comes down to it it's just a case of being out-competed, which is a danger every business faces.
IMHO, it comes down to whether pkrumins is going to gain more (in mindshare, in community contributions, etc.) by going open source, vs entirely closed source. If he's going open source, AGPLv3 lets him minimize the leverage his source releases would give to a direct competitor, with no likely reduction in his upsides (i.e., the previously mentioned increase in mindshare, the community contributions, etc).
That's of course hypothesizing that there are upsides for him in going Open Source. Clearly he seems to think there are.
A company who wanted to use their products for commercial use must provide a link somewhere on their page to the source, and share any mods. I think this is a big incentive to buy a commerical license from them, as it may look a little less than professional.
Assuming they don't though, and they publish their changes, there is still incentive for them to sign over the copywrite. If they want any backwards compatibility for updates and bug fixes (very important for a runtime platform), they need to. Its that or port everything back over.
Linode already has an in-browser interface to Lish, and I don't think Lish would work over VNC anyway, since it seems to operate on a lower level.
On the other hand, perhaps their thinking on this is part of the secret sauce, and it's being kept secret for good reason.
On second thought, you did say "web", not "internet". I'm so used to people treating the two as synonymous that I didn't make the distinction myself. So I'd say make that more clear.
I think there was a Google experiment where they asked what is the internet, and people would just say internet explorer, meaning web is their internet.
You two are doing something different with StackVM, and it looks cool. I currently use FreeNX on EC2 and the NoMachine Windows client. Here are a couple of feature suggestions:
1. StackVM would be much more useful to me if the windows could pop out of the browser. I don't want to use a remote-desktop client that is confined to a browser window.
2. For real productivity, cut & paste must work between StackVM windows and other native apps.
3. Get James or someone with a lighter accent to do the demo video voiceovers.
4. Make it easy to deploy test environments, execute integration tests, and capture the results. For testing webapps, make it work with Selenium and keep videos of tests that fail. I would pay for this if it was sufficiently developed.
I'm looking forward to the private demo. Good luck, you two! :)
Now to address your suggestions:
1. That is awesome, I have added it to our wiki. This is easily doable and we'll probably implement it.
2. We haven't yet looked into implementing cut&paste. Should be doable.
3. James will join me in the next videos.
4. We're definitely building a test environment. We couldn't do it earlier because we didn't have a good remote method call execution framework, but now James wrote dnode  and we can get to implementing it!
The very best of luck with your YC application.
A similar project you may get inspiration from:
Most significant bit, many thx.
We didn't implement an emulator but since we're bringing virtual machines to the web, we decided to add 'VM' to our title to give an idea that this is related to virtual machines.
Addressing your other questions, sure, we won't have like 100 features where we get lost ourselves. We'll have a small set of standard features and we'll have an API that will let developers hack on stackvm and make it do all other wonders.
I don't know much about logmein at this point but they are corporate company and we are awesome and enthusiastic hackers.
For the money part, you might also consider setting up the domain and redirect for a small fee. For instance, my-name.com could be my VMs securised with a password.
Also, what is the limit of GB I can put on the VM? Say I want to upload files and mp3s.. is there a limit? May I pay to increase it?
Finally, I would like to be able to connect to my VM from other way than web. Say I'm on my linux box with my terminal prompt, it would be nice if I could just ssh to my-name.com and get my VM.. upload/download stuff with scp, and connect to it with FTP. But of course, this would work more with the linux part I suppose :p
Anyhow, congrats also for the "I started my startup" which is, in my opinion, amongst the hardest part (starting!).
Linux I can see. Windows and especially OSX though, won't that create licensing issues and a special deal with MS / Apple to provide those VMs?
A small feedback about the site. The email signup UI is the coolest I have seen. However, I would like the string "firstname.lastname@example.org" to be retained when I click in the text box and then click outside. Currently, it disappears when out of focus after clicking inside the text box once.
Wanted to reach out to you through email but was unable to find any contact information.
We'd like to work more closely with you on perfecting the online product demos feature. Would you be interested in testing it out on your website soon? Please contact me at email@example.com!
I am excited you decided to open everything, but I wonder if you're going to be able to raise the money necessary to fund the infrastructure. Do either of you have a lot of business experience? If you can seize your opportunities well enough, you can probably monetize your idea while letting others do what they will with the code.
Looking forward to see how this evolves.
I'll just say this: the government / military was verrry interested in the honeypot angle.
A question, though: how do you plan to monetize it? Without a business model, it's a web app, but not really a startup.
Doing this as a paid service from day one is definitely the right way to go. Again, good job.
But a quick summary is that we have node-rfb collect VNC updates, push them to node-png or node-jpeg which merges the updates and creates an image that then gets pushed via dnode to browser, which then draws it at the right location (absolute positioning of images).
I'm so disappointed you didn't open the XP VM inside XP's Chrome!
What happens when you open a VM inside a VM?
You get an awesome feedback/recursion effect!
I'll try to do a video about it in a few hours and post it here. :D
Also posted it to HN: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1536011
And we can also reuse our libs later in more projects. Very awesome.
I think it's awesome I'm just having trouble visualizing a use case that isn't super nerdy.
> Spoon currently supports Internet Explorer 6, 7, and 8, Firefox 3 and 3.5,
and Safari 2, 3, and 4, on the Windows platform. Support for the Chrome and Opera browsers is coming soon!
Which isn't even mentioned where you might expect - where they discuss the plug-in. If you go to any individual app in Linux (Chrome, FF3.5) you just get "this browser isn't supported".
I agree that they should avoid plugins if their app works fine on html & js, however, this is unlikely with the current html and js. (Think of playing games). Maybe with the improvements in HTML5 this might be achievable, but currently it's not.
1. This isn't a web-based remote desktop client.
2. Your concept of "something real" is clearly different from mine.
3. Their app appears to work very well, in my opinion, without having to resort to browser plugin messiness.
4. This particular solution's primary value proposition is that it will work on almost any recent browser, without other installed software.
Give this a read, paying specific attention to founder share vesting: http://startuplawyer.com/startup-issues/if-i-launched-a-star...
To me the more interesting aspect of it is the - Complete open-source , idea-open and source-code open. For a startup looking for funding (applying to YC) , this is new, i wonder how it would gell with the investors.
If you are going to support Windows, how does stackvm compare against "Terminal Services Web Access (TS Web Access)" 
"You must install TS Web Access on a computer that is running Windows Server 2008."
With stackvm you don't have to install anything, no plugins, not even flash and you don't need a modern web browser.
We're making our software work in all the browsers, even as old IE as 5.5.
What I meant to ask was - how does it compare using VNC against RDP. Probably you have through and rejected RDP, so was curious to know the technical details. (xrdp for Linux exists as well)
Keep up the good work.
Assuming that you will have reasonable pricing and a fast connection, I would be very interested in using this service for my own startup.
I couldn't find your contact information so I am replying here. Can you reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org?
I'd like to know more about how you'd use stackvm at your startup, so that when we launch stackvm we already had a usable product!
Best of luck with this.
If this phrase were used in CSI it would be a joke by now.
Keep up the good work!
Frankly, I could care less how they reference what they are doing, or whether or not they put .ly on the end of their name! As long as they are doing something relevant and are having a good time doing it, more power to them.
this might be exactly the best way to start something like this.