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October 2007

T35 Hosting Featured in BusinessWeek

Those of you who follow business week might have noticed that I was selected for the top 25 entrepreneurs under 25 years old around this time last year. They just did a follow up interview and article, so for those who are interested:

Then:
Over the years, Melen has batted away offers from big Internet companies looking to buy out his T35 Hosting service for fear that they would take away the offering that most distinguishes it from competitors: unlimited space and bandwidth hosted for free. Last year, Melen had set out three goals to expand his company in 2007: advertise more, offer domain name hosting for free, and boost features to its paid hosting offerings.

Now:
Melen says he met all three goals and increased his customer base to about 400,000, up from 300,000 a year ago. Still, one unforeseen competitor emerged: Google (GOOG), which launched free Web-hosting service Google Pages in February. Melen believes the search giant’s presence will help boost overall growth in the Web-hosting space, but in order to prevent losing market share, T35 will have to provide more unique offerings. Some of his strategies include starting a blog about Web hosting and adding social networking features to hosted pages.”

Here’s the link to the article:
http://images.businessweek.com/ss/07/10/1022_under25_finalists/source/17.htm

And here’s the actual “Top 25 Entrepreneurs Under 25″ from 2006:

http://images.businessweek.com/ss/06/10/bestunder25/index_01.htm

New blog features and a quick update

I just wanted to give you guys a quick update about the things going on with the site. First and foremost, I managed to spend some time playing around with the blog and I added a bunch of new features. You can now see “recent readers” in the right column, as well as avatars for people commenting on the posts. If anyone has any feedback or suggestions, please let me know!

I am also hard at work wrapping up the php free web hosting comparison that I promised. If anyone has any last minute suggestions of free web hosts they want me to test, please let me know asap! I’m also open to suggestions on future testing and comparisons I can do. I’m thinking it might be worthwhile to start keeping track of up-time and other stats on the major free hosts. What do you guys think?

On the T35 Hosting front I’ve been racking my brains trying to figure out why we come up #9 for “free web hosting” on yahoo, and barely break top 100 on google. Any SEO experts out there that want to help? On google, T35 Hosting isn’t even ranking high for its own company name of “T35 Hosting”!

Unmetered and Unlimited Space and Bandwidth

While browsing a web hosting forum yesterday I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Unlimited and unmetered hosting is becoming a big taboo in the hosting world. In fact, most web hosting and webmaster forums have begun banning all posts about such plans.

First a little background, including the difference between unlimited and un-metered.

Unlimited space and bandwidth is something that has been around since the beginning of web hosting. A web host usually offers this as a way to attract customers, while at the same time hoping that nobody uses any significant amounts of space or bandwidth. Unfortunately, many hosts offered such a service with the intention of terminating accounts that used more than a few megabytes of space or bandwidth. Thus in the late 90’s there was a significant customer backlash to companies offering “unlimited plans”. As a result, many hosts started clarifying that they didn’t offer “unlimited plans” but instead were offering “un-metered” plans. The difference they claimed is that they just didn’t meter or keep tack of bandwidth usage on the servers.

The present day situation

Almost half a decade later, it now feels like we are experiencing a second coming of the unlimited/unmetered backlash. What’s interesting is there are companies, like T35 for example, that still offer unlimited plans without any intention of deleting accounts that use a lot of resources. In fact, many companies have found ways to offer these plans by placing restrictions on other features to keep everything balanced. At T35 Hosting for example, we limit file sizes to 512kb. That makes it hard for a customer to use tens of gigabytes of space for legitimate reasons (although we do have a few using over 10gb). Unfortunately, the hosts that have abused the unlimited/unmetered offerings seemed to have ruined it for everyone. We now find ourselves at a point where we can’t even advertise these kind of plans in some of the largest webmaster forums on the ‘net!

What now?

All of this reminds me of the automobile industry, where based on bad experiences in the 1980’s, Americans have come to associate hatchbacks with something very negative — making it very hard for any car company to successfully launch such a car. I wonder if the hosting industry has come to a point where we need to re-brand unlimited plans to something that would make them more marketable? Kind of like calling hatchbacks “sports wagons” (audi a3, etc..). What do you guys think? Are unlimited and un-metered plans still worth keeping around? Are the companies offering hundreads of gigabytes (or even Terabytes) of resources the new “unlimited” web hosts?

What happened to free web hosting?

With T35 Hosting celebrating our 10 year anniversary this year, I was digging through some old boxes to find something cool to put on the site. To my surprise, I found the original web hosting business plan! Thumbing through it brought me to the largest section: “The Competition.” Quickly skimming down the list, I was shocked to see so many old names… names that weren’t around anymore. Partially for the benefit of the readers and partially for nostalgic reasons I decided to come up with a list of the biggest free web hosts of the late 90s and take a quick look at where they are today.

FortuneCity
Late 90s
fortunecityold
Alex Ranking: ~ #200
Free Hosting? 100mb Today
fortunecitynew
Alex Ranking: #1,660
Free Hosting? No

FortuneCity, founded in 1997, was one of the first free web hosting providers. They also grew to become one of the largest, consistently ranking in the top 200 web properties in the world. These days they have completely dropped their free web hosting plan (which used to be the only service they offered). Their new site looks sleek, but the paid hosting plans (and prices) are nothing to write home about.

Geocities
Late 90s
geocitiesold
Alex Ranking: ~ #100
Free Hosting? 5mb Today
geocitiesnew
Alex Ranking: #70
Free Hosting? 15mb

Geocities is perhaps one of the most well known free hosts. So popular in fact, that it eventually got Yahoo’s attention and was purchased in early 2000. Re-branded as Yahoo! Geocities, it now caters towards paid business plans, although a 15mb free hosting plan is still offered.

Hypermart
Late 90s
hypermartold
Alex Ranking: ~ #150
Free Hosting? 75mb Today
hypermartnew
Alex Ranking: #18,931
Free Hosting? No

Although Hypermart was relatively late to the scene in 1999, it became a quick favorite by offering a whopping 75mb of space. Unfortunately it has since stopped providing its free web hosting plan. In a somewhat botched maneuver they attempted to force-convert their free members to paid accounts. Since the late 90s they have went from being in the top 150 web properties to barely making the top 20,000.

Xoom
Late 90s
xoomold
Alex Ranking: ~ #500
Free Hosting? 500mb Today
xoomnew
Alex Ranking: #26,384
Free Hosting? No

Xoom was also a fairly popular free web host that got a significant boost when it was purchased by NBC in 2000. Unfortunately the new management had very little experience in running a web host. The company soon failed and closed up shop. The domain itself was unused for years until recently when it was purchased by paypal-like company.

Crosswinds
Late 90s
crosswindsold
Alex Ranking: ~ #1000
Free Hosting? Unlimited Today
crosswindsnew
Alex Ranking: #161,001
Free Hosting? No

A medium-sized web host, Crosswinds eventually gave up on its free hosting offerings. Today it’s a regular paid hosting provider and its rankings have consequently dropped from 1,000 to not even cracking the top 100,000. There are rumors of the company bringing back its free hosting operation, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

T35 Hosting
Late 90s
t35old
Alex Ranking: ~ #2,000
Free Hosting? 35mb Today
t35new
Alex Ranking: #5,000
Free Hosting? Unlimited

Although T35 Hosting was never as big as Fortunecities and never had the financial backing of NBC-Xoom, it has surprisingly survived where most others have failed.

A quick look at this list shows a very pessimistic view of the once flourishing free hosting industry. Some of the biggest names in the industry have closed up shop and have repositioned themselves as paid hosting providers. Even companies with deep financial pockets (like NBC-Xoom) have folded under the pressure. What do you guys think? Is there one common link that caused the downfall of so many of these companies? Is this really the end of the free web hosting era? What does it take to survive as a free web host in the 21st century?