Saturday, December 20, 2008

Web Hosting Industry Retrospective

When the LIST of low cost web space services was started in 1995, there weren't many options out there for someone wanting to publish content on the internet. It was fairly expensive, and there were a lot of limitations on space and bandwidth. I remember a particularly indignant provider complaining that $50/month was an unrealistic maximum for my list, and that they couldn't possibly afford to offer a service for that little.

Over the next 5 years there was an explosion of companies, and with competition, and technology getting cheaper, there were more and more hosting services offered at cheaper and cheaper prices. There was an especially large growth in resellers, while there was some consolidation in the actual underlying providers.

But since then, despite an ever growing amount of content being published by more and more people online, it seems that web hosting has declined. Fewer people are searching for "web hosting" or "web space" when they think about publishing online. If you are setting up a web site for a business, then hosting it with a web space provider still offers the greatest flexibility. But for an individual looking to setup a personal home page, there are now much easier approaches.

In the late 90s a lot of personal web sites served as repositories for family photos. That market for hosting was quickly replaced with services like Kodak Gallery, Flickr and Picasaweb. Then there were people that kept their resume or CV on their web site. This market was replaced by services like LinkedIn and Plaxo.

And then there were personal web pages with reviews of books or movies. A lot of those people switched to posting reviews on Amazon or Netflix or IMDB. Lastly, a lot of people who posted more generally on topics that interested them, or perhaps a topic of which they were particular knowledgeable, switched to Blogging.

There are a lot of other services for individuals wanting to publish online. Google Sites, Yahoo Groups, MySpace, Facebook. Unless you're looking to build your own database driven web application, or you need the flexibility that comes from installing your own Blogging software, like MoveableType, then you probably don't need a hosting service.

But if you do need that much control, or are setting up a web site for a business, then you should still find the hosting services list useful. It lets you filter down on capabilities of the provider.

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