3 Ways in Which the Web Hosting Industry is Changing
The web has been so instrumental in disrupting countless industries. No industry - be it banking and business or travel and leisure - remains untouched by it. And so it is quite fitting that today, several decades into the Internet Era, that the web hosting industry is ripe for disruption within itself.
I’ve been lucky enough in my career to see the advent of major industry and technological changes first hand - first at Microsoft with MSN services and Kinect and secondly at Amazon with Kindle, to name a few. And now, my role at GoDaddy has placed me right in the middle of the very building blocks of the online world. Change is certainly afoot; here are my observations:
1. People want solutions, not hosting
User attitudes toward web hosting are changing, and the significant shift we’ve seen so far is reflected in the way questions are now being asked as customers seek the product or service that they need. “Hosting”? What does that actually mean? Well, as a term, it’s being used less and less. Increasingly, it’s just about customers wanting to get their hands on a website. People no longer say “I want Hosting” - instead they say “I want a blog and email”. Naturally, this is reflected in Search. In fact, according to Google Trends, the prevalence of “Web Hosting” as a search term has dropped by 60 percent in the last decade. Think of it this way: most people want to buy a cake, not the ingredients to bake one. Hosting is one ingredient in the larger “cake” of having a great web presence. Customers – whether a small businesses or an individual - just aren’t searching for hosting or specific technologies. Instead, they simply want an online presence that helps their business or promotes their cause, and they want it quickly and holistically.
2. Mind the gap: the chasm widens between DIY and professional website creation
There are two different kinds of small business owners when it comes to building websites: those who want to make their own sites (Do It Yourself) and those who want web designers/developers to build their websites for them (professional website creation). The growing number of DIY business owners are looking for easy to use website building tools that don’t require a huge degree of technical knowledge (like GoCentral).
The second group of small business owners, those who want to use Web Professionals to build their websites, need a different set of tools and specialized hosting products. For example, WordPress has a very rich palette of capabilities that allows users to build sophisticated websites using the thousands of themes and plug ins available from the WordPress ecosystem, but most small businesses need a knowledgeable web pro with enterprise-level tools to get the most value out of the platform. Services designed for developers and designers, like those GoDaddy offers, allows web pros to create the website that their customers want.
In this way, DIY offerings solve the need for speed and convenience, compared to the more complex “pro” route, where a third party web professional is brought in to handle the technical “behind the scenes” of website design and management. However, over fifty percent of small business owners are now hiring a web professional to build and/or maintain their websites each year, and this year alone, we’ve seen a 66 percent increase in managed WordPress installs. It may now be easier than ever before to create a “DIY” online presence, but demand at the other end of the spectrum - for technically skilled web professionals - continues to grow.
3. It’s all about the smartphone, not the landline
I predict that the hosting world will continue to move towards a solutions-focus in order to keep up with user expectations. Rather than standalone hosting services, customers will increasingly prefer more holistic offerings, with business applications such as email, SEO, and ecommerce offered in tandem with web hosting. I compare this shift to the arrival of the first iPhone ten years ago. Just as how the traditional landline telephone that served one purpose has been swapped out for a more sophisticated device that offers an innumerable amount of functionality, so are customers in the hosting space demanding a more diverse set of integrated products. This solutions-based shift has been a major focus for GoDaddy and I predict that hosting companies will succeed by embracing this trend. Meanwhile, the traditional hosting players who provide nonintegrated services will become commoditized.
As the way we build and organize the web changes in line with user expectations, there will be further changes to the ways in which hosting providers operate and support the thriving web pro ecosystem that’s taking off today. Change is good, and the customers and consumers of what we’ll soon nostalgically recall as “web hosting” will be its beneficiaries.
About the Author
Raghu Murthi is the Senior Vice President of Hosting & WebPro at GoDaddy.