Is Webhosting Being Turned Inside-out?

Once upon a time, if you wanted web hosting, you went to a web hosting service provider. You had a choice of hosting based on shared space, a slice of a machine, or a fully dedicated machine, according to your needs and budget. As a paying customer, you had access to various ‘goodies’ associated with your web site. If you didn’t pay anything, you had to put up with limited space, slow page load times, somebody else’s advertising on your site, or all of the above. But recent developments mean that web hosting is no longer the monopoly of web hosting providers. Indeed, for many, the concept of web hosting itself may simply disappear.

‘Drive’-In Website Hosting

Google has a reputation for shaking up the online industry. Its announcement in 2013 of the possibility of webhosting on Google Drive was an example. The company announced the possibility of storing and displaying web files (HTML, JavaScript and CSS files) on Drive. Positioned for use by web developers, the facility stopped short of any possibility to program the server. In the months that followed, others pointed out that the same possibility existed for other online storage providers, including Dropbox. The advantage is that there is no marginal cost; or no cost at all if you are using an initial free offer. The potential disadvantage is in bandwidth restrictions if you web content starts to attract many visitors. However, you are spared the ignominy of having somebody else’s trial bike racing ads on your nature preservation site (for example).

The Empire Strikes Back (Sort Of)

At entry level, there is no reason to put up with advertising from one provider, when you can escape it completely by using another. However, if you’re hoping to generate massive traffic, free solutions of any kind may quickly run out of steam. Likewise, if you want to dynamically generate your web content from an associated database or do e-commerce, you’ll have to move up a web hosting level. Currently (but who knows what might happen?), Google and Dropbox do not offer this kind of upgrade. In that case it’s back to your friendly web hosting provider and corresponding monthly fee.

Who Says You Have to Web-Hosted to Be on the Web?

But that’s not the end of the story either. You want a web presence – but does that necessarily mean you need a web site? It may be easier and faster to build an audience for your Internet content (pages, blogs, online sales pages and so on) by using social networks. They too provide you with tools to connect with people, invite them to visit your page, posts, images and so on. And they let you sell things. Both Facebook and Twitter have been making inroads into e-commerce capability. Perhaps conventional web hosting providers may see their customer base dwindle further to hardcore developers who want to make backend servers jump through hoops. Unless they, like their Google, Dropbox, Facebook and Twitter competitors, figure out a way to reinvent themselves and recapture their former customers.