SNW INTERVIEW -- Apr 4 -- Webs.com competes with Ning.com and Homestead.com. Here’s my interview with Haroon Mokhtarzada, the CEO of Webs.com. - Mark Brooks
What is your background?
I studied economics at the University of Maryland. My brother, co-founder of Webs.com, was studying computer science there. That’s how we started Webs.com; back then it was called Freewebs.
What led you to start Freewebs?
Two people can only make so many websites, so we made a website that builds websites. We thought we could do it better and make it easier for people to get nice looking, organized websites. We launched in 2001. Today we have over 20 million people who have built and hosted websites with us and about 20,000 new websites are created every day.
You’ve added social networking functionality. Can you tell us more about that?
We added the ability for people to generate their own membership on their websites. The site became more of a living, breathing entity. We have rich applications, from photo gallery to video gallery to a calendar.
Do you have an email functionality?
We have three main groups of users: Personal users, groups and organizations, and businesses. Businesses and professional users can buy a domain name and get an email account; everyone else gets “yourname.webs.com” as their URL.
Who is your most direct competition?
Ning.com. They’ve done a great job. We are still calling what we’re doing a website with social networking and other potential features inside of it. A business can have a web store inside their site, and the author and owner still is the manager of the website. It’s a little different than Ning where everyone is sort of at the same level, and it’s more content-rich and associated.
What is the cost for end users?
The majority of people choose the free model with ads. If you want a domain name, email services, extra items in your web store or extra storage space or bandwidth, then they can choose a premium service which costs anywhere from $5-$25 a month.
What do you think Webs.com will look like in two years?
I’m interested in creating a new way for groups and organizations and people to interact online. The next step would be finding the best of breed applications and getting them into our system so that there is a directory or an apps store. It then really does become the one-stop shop, the platform for web publishing entirely; when someone comes to Webs.com they know they can access wikis, get a scheduling service, a web store, all these different things, because they all live inside our platform.
What kinds of communications tools do you offer within the social networking element?
Comments on photos or videos, forums and web polls.
Do you offer any tools to businesses to promote their businesses via Webs.com?
With premium service we have a deal with Google that gives them free AdWords credit, which means they can advertise their site via Google’s advertising system for free. I think its anywhere from $25.00-$50.00 credit. We also have a deal with iPromote that automatically generates a rich advertisement for a website. We have search optimization tools, so they can edit their meta tags and optimize the text on their website.
We have webrings where someone can create a ring and other sites can join that ring and all those sites then link to each other and spread traffic to each other.