For futurists in Silicon Valley, the question is fundamental, almost
philosophical: In the coming years, will the humble website still be the
dominant way we interact with the Internet?
For David Rusenko, the 27-year-old founder and chief executive of global website builder Weebly, the answer is: Of course!
Thursday, Weebly unveiled a refresh of its publishing suite, which
allows people to simply drag and drop page elements like images and
headlines onto a canvas to build a site. Using the new form, mobile
versions of websites a critical concern in a modern economy awash with
smartphones - can be published simultaneously with desktop versions.
San Francisco startup's update comes at a time of flux for the Internet
industry, which has been grappling with the ramifications of users who
are spending less time on the Web and more time within closed ecosystems
like Facebook Inc's social network or the cornucopia of smartphone apps an economy valued at $25 billion in 2013, according to research firm
Yet Rusenko is not willing to accept any talk of the open
Web's demise. He argues that Web pages, more than ever, carry more
weight and meaning in an age of fleeting tweets and malleable Facebook
"The picture is becoming clearer," Rusenko said.
"Facebook has focused on the conversation, but not really on absorbing
the Web into its walled garden."
For a lot of people, "their
digital identity is their site," he added. "It's where they showcase
their ideas and really put themselves out there."
Along with his
Thursday relaunch, Rusenko unfurled a slate of new growth statistics and
research data showing that his company, which has enjoyed healthy
growth and now boasts a network of 15 million sites that have been
visited by 100 million people.
Weebly's own extensive research
showed that a majority of people would not trust a business that had no
website, yet 58 percent of businesses do not have a Web presence,
In 2006, Rusenko, a fresh-faced graduate of Penn
State University, burst onto the Silicon Valley scene and garnered
plaudits in national magazines with Weebly, which quickly rose in
stature as the natural heir to GeoCities, the service that fueled a
webpage-creating craze in the 1990s.
After the initial acclaim,
Weebly has kept a lower profile while rivals like Wordpress, the
professional-grade blogging platform, and Tumblr, the minimalist social
blogging network, have captured more media attention, but not the
consumer Web publishing market.
With its refresh, Weebly is now
more oriented toward what Rusenko called everyday entrepreneurs looking
to "start something": amateur food bloggers, teachers, or crafts
enthusiasts who want to share their passion before potentially launching
a small business.
Weebly has been in talks with a payment startup
to provide an e-commerce platform for people wanting to sell goods,
The company is also introducing planning tools that
offer ideas and inspiration to help newcomers "identify their goals" and
lay out their pages, Rusenko said.
The company, which has 70
employees, has been profitable since 2009, but accepted an undisclosed
amount in funding from Sequoia Capital in 2011 to continue growth.
"At the end of the day these are doers, these are makers, and we want to help bring that dream to life," Rusenko said.
© Thomson Reuters 2013