– Microsites In a Snap + History Lesson

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Ed: wants to be the 2015 version of Geocities. The reference to Geocities in the pitch is an interesting one, for those that were still at school or not born during the dotcom boom Geocities was one of the first major consumer sites, pre Myspace, essentially just a big personal home page hosting site that you could customise.

Started in 1995, they built the site to become the 3rd highest traffic site in the world in the space of a few years, listed on NASDAQ in 1998 and were acquired by Yahoo in 1999 in a stock swap valuing the business at $3.57 billion (an outstanding outcome, even by todays standards). There is a great story by well known Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson about the original Geocities funding and exit.

Turns out Geocities may never have really made much money, according to financial reports it ran at a loss for some of the time up until Yahoo acquired it, but it was one of the first really supercharged Rocketships of the Internet.

When Yahoo took over they made a bunch of changes and restrictions that caused mass user revolts.

Some of these were stupid ideas including forcing users to agree that all content they posted became the property of Yahoo, no doubt the idea of some lawyer who had no idea about users, nor any concept that forcibly reducing peoples intellectual property rights was a bad idea.

Other changes like throttling bandwidth were probably dictated by the sheer cost of providing the services.

Yahoo shut Geocities down in 2009, although the Yahoo Japan version is still running.

Way Back When

To give you an idea, when I first started selling DSL services in the early 2000s it cost per $6000 per 1Mbps of bandwidth with no contention or rate limiting (ie you could hammer it and it would deliver constant bit rate).

So even though Yahoo was buying in bulk and no doubt building their own data centres the Telco’s still largely controlled the access into the data centres and transits to the users so the cost of serving 10s of millions of pages would have been huge.

Not many newcomers to the industry really understand what a massive head start you have compared to the early 2000s.

Back in the dotcom boom days you could easily spend $10-100k on a single HP or Compaq server, fit out a data centre $50-500k, big Cisco router and Pix firewall $10-200k plus all the staff to run it before you even deployed a line of code.

Dozens of companies burned through 10s of $millions without ever getting their online businesses actually taking orders.

When hosted servers became a thing I remember paying about $500 a month for a dedicated server and it took about 3 weeks to order and deploy and needed someone to hit the reset switch if I did something stupid and crashed it (usually next day and a $100 charge).

You often had to write all the supporting code we take for granted now, load balancing, authentication, web servers, payment gateways, billing, the list goes on.

Only last week I launched an instance on Google Cloud which had significantly more processing power, RAM and about 10x as much disk, took about 1 minute to boot including selecting a fully loaded MEAN stack (MongoDB, NodeJS, ExpresssJS, PHP, AngularJS) with access to virtually unlimited SSD persistent storage at a grand cost of $0.03 per hour.

And I can keep launching these at will and shut them down when I don’t need them.

I didn’t have to think about IP address, routers, firewall rules, configuring the server, remote access, trying to load software remotely, filling out forms and faxing them off and arranging payment details.

Oh did I mention the 1 year contract on the old hosted server?

So what’s changed between Geocities and now?

Back to the pitch. Essentially is trying to replicate Geocities by providing free hosting for fast little microsites that are easy to setup and launch.

I gave it a try and it took me about 30 seconds to create an account, pick an image and launch.

Jeff Bezos advises startups to look to the things that never change.

If 35 million people wanted to host their own microsites in 1999, then they probably still want to do that, but now it’s probably more like 100s of millions or even billions of people.

It’s exponentially cheaper to launch a new webservice than it was to build one 15 years ago. Two guys can plug together a bunch of APIs, provide a unique service that solves a problem for their customers with a relatively small amount of engineering effort get a service running in a few months, at least enough to test a theory about a problem to see if there is any one who cares.

However it’s a crowded space, we already have Blogger, WordPress, Tumbler, Facebook, Medium, Twitter, Linkedin and dozens of other ways to publish content (and each large country has their own versions of these), each catering to a different need and audience.

Back in 1999 then we didn’t have the same online advertising sophistication, essentially it was just banner ads with no targeting.

Inventory was still relatively scarce, having said that the CPMs (cost per mille or cost per 1000 impressions,) were significantly higher as the adtech industry didn’t have the same level of tracking and ROI measurement that they do now.

So what might have been a $10 CPM for run of site advertising in the mid 1990s would now be less than 50c.

So back to presumably by keeping it free they plan to monetise with ads and perhaps premium plans, however its tough to make a living from Adsense and banner/text ads when you don’t own the relationship with the advertiser and you haven’t got massive scale.

Perhaps if you have a lot of traffic and you can keep your costs very low this is possible.

It got me thinking about how some of the other blogging services got started.


Looking back its not clear how WordPress funded their way to success in the early days, ok now its clear, (behind every great fortune is a crime), apparently they hosted 168,000 spammy Adwords pages designed to capture search traffic and earn pay per click revenue.

They were only hosting the pages for another party and being paid a hosting fee, however they were hidden on the domain (which would have given them a lot of Search Engine ranking) and they copped a lot of flack for it, however as any of you have built a business know it’s tough to make payroll in a new company and sometimes you have to do business you don’t want to do just to survive.

Matt Mullenweg posted a good story yesterday of how he founded Automattic the company behind WordPress and confessed to some of the mistakes he made, but make no mistake WordPress powers more than 50,000,000 blogs and it is a wild success in content publishing, even if it’s not as a profitable business as yet.

WordPress have now raised $160 million in VC funding, however they had a developer community to die for that provided most of the coding free of charge and they were among the first to jump into this space 10 years ago.

It’s not clear to me that its going to be that easy for to build another content publishing system, it feels like that wave has past, but who knows, maybe the ease of signup will capture the younger market, its also a lot less work than trying to create a proper blog which takes a lot of commitment and time.


Startup Name
What problem are you solving? we enable anyone to create a micro website in a snap
What is your solution? a mobile-optimized web app you can find at It works seamlessly on iOS/android and on desktop (laptop) PC/Mac. It’s a truly cross-platform web app.
Target Market mainly the younger demographic (teens & tweens) but we see grown ups using it too 😉
How will you make money? The banner on the desktop home page has already a goodeCPM and we plan to introduce native advertising inside theadsy micro websites.We will also introduce micro payments for digital goodies (stickers, additional plugins,…). So far we’ve attracted almost 33K registered users who have created 13,700 adsy micro websites. Still early days.
Tell us about the market & founders, why is this a great opportunity? There’s no Geocities (yet) for Generation Z, that’s what we would like to become (without the final demise ;-))
Founders Names Frédérick Tubiermont
What type of funding has the company received? Bootstrap
Twitter Handle @adsy_me
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