Pingdom took a look at web hosting services ten years ago and compared them to today's hosting services to see what has changed. The answer -- prices have gone down while included storage space and bandwidth have increased. Or, in other words, hosting hasn't changed much, but it has become a commodity service. Did many hosts miss a golden opportunity?On their blog today, web site monitoring service
Probably the most interesting part of Pingdom's post was the comment it received from a reader named "Matt," who wrote that hosting has become a commodity service and web hosts have not done much to innovate in the space over the past ten years.
"How I read this comparison is that web hosts haven't really done much in ten years but drive up some core specs. Most hosts are still hosting in the same manner and architecture that they did 10 years ago. Web hosting is a drive towards commodity. What really happened is that the web hosts, who could have been at the forefront of the hosted application space, squandered the decade offering the same old thing with little to no innovation." -- Matt
While Pingdom really only looked at data and bandwidth (and forgot to adjust prices for inflation), a quick visit to most shared hosts today confirms what Matt said. In general, hosts haven't changed much. Certainly there have been improvements in server architecture, control panels, and newer versions of scripting languages, libraries, and databases are running on faster servers, but in general, things are the same as they were 10 years ago at most shared hosts.
Matt is right that hosts have squandered an opportunity to innovate. I'm not exactly sure what he meant by "hosted applications" -- I don't think it would have made much sense for hosts to try to get into offering web-based consumer applications. That's a completely different business that is leagues away from hosting and it is doubtful that expanding into that space ever even crossed the minds of execs at most web hosting companies.
Hosts are, however, starting to innovate to create the environments necessary to power the new breed of web-based applications. The advent of cloud computing has resulted in hosting options that didn't exist 10 years ago. Amazon's Web Services stack, Rackspace's Mosso (which we just wrote about), Media Temple's Grid Service, and Joyent's Accelerators all offer new innovations in the web hosting space.
What do you think? Did web hosts let themselves stagnate for ten years and miss out on opportunities for innovation?
Photo credit: Ronnie Garcia