<%@ LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" %> [an error occurred while processing this directive] HostIndex.com Web Hosting Directory - Interview: Josh Jones, Head Honcho-DreamHost WebHosting
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      Interview: Josh Jones, Head Honcho-DreamHost WebHosting  

    There's a different atmosphere at DreamHost Webhosting, and you can see it when you check out their Company History, or read part of the company press release.

    Here's an example taken from a release announcing the launch of their innovative new domain registration system:

    [ "Adding domain registration services was a logical step for DreamHost to take. Our customers were asking us to offer it, and it just made sense to provide everything needed to get a domain name on the web in one place," explained DreamHost Head Honcho Josh Jones, speaking to himself while writing this press release. "We took our time to create a system that was easy to use and well-integrated with the rest of our services, and it's turned out very well." ]

    According to its web site, DreamHost has been keeping prices down and servers up since July 1997. And while the people at DreamHost may seem somewhat irreverent at times, they are always very serious about the services they provide, and the philosophy that drives the company.

    HostIndex.com got some answers from DreamHost Head Honcho, Josh Jones.  


    HostIndex.com: You have an ambitious goal - "to eventually create an environment where any sort of web hosting need can be fulfilled immediately at the best price possible within a helpful community of like-minded individuals." How will you make it come true?

    Josh Jones: Well, it's a tall order! Both parts of the environment are equally difficult to create -- the automated web hosting tools and the helpful community of employees and customers. From the technical side, we continually put a lot of resources towards the internal development of our system, constantly trying to make it easier to use as well as making it faster, and more flexible.

    We look at every incoming support request as though it were a bug report. Besides responding to the customer, we look to see whether there is an actual glitch in our system, a part that isn't automated as much as it could be, a process that isn't very clear, or an interface that's non-intuitive. Working on improvements like this leads to a "virtuous circle": the more time we spend developing, the more time we free up to spend developing!

    The community at DreamHost has always been particularly strong. I think it's because we've always been an independent company, and we grew, with no investment, from scratch. All our original clients were friends or friends of friends, and we've continued to grow almost entirely through word of mouth and referrals.

    Since we've never merged with another host, all our customers actually signed up with us, and pretty much all of them know at least one other person that hosts with us. We keep the environment pretty jovial with our newsletters and announcements, as a result, our customers are really understanding when it comes to billing issues. Basically, we treat all our customers like they are our friends, or at least friends of friends. Most of them are!  

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    HostIndex.com: What is the philosophy that drives DreamHost?

    Josh Jones: Service first. As a web host, all of our revenues are based on services which we provide on an ongoing basis. We not only have to provide our customers a good value, we've got to do it day in and day out, forever. If we ever slip up, people notice right away, and it isn't hard to switch web hosts.

    The service first philosophy means that we always listen to our customers first and ourselves second. It means we automate as much as we can so we're able to provide more and better service per unit of work. It means making our workplace enjoyable so the fun enjoyed by our employees rubs off on our clients.

    HostIndex.com: Do you target a specific segment of the hosting market?

    Josh Jones: Since we started DreamHost while in college, and get most of our customers through referrals, we've always had a high proportion of students and design-centric users. We targeted them from the beginning with our $10/month "Crazy Domain Insane" plan, which has been most popular with individuals and very small businesses.

    After the initial stages though, we beefed up our higher-end offerings, and as our reputation continues to grow, so does the number of larger organizations or people with more advanced hosting requirements that sign up with us.

    We really don't target a specific market though. It's more like people come to us who want a certain service and we see if it's feasible for us to offer it to them. As more people want the product, we continue to improve it and it grows to be a more important part of our business. We don't sit around and decide "let's go after the blah market". Instead, we just listen to our customers. I guess the invisible hand of the market guides us. We let it.

    HostIndex.com: Why do you believe DreamHost offers the best alternative to anyone looking for a web hosting provider?

    Josh Jones: Well, I wouldn't say that. We don't offer NT hosting of any kind for example (we do have Frontpage 2002 extensions though), and some people have an app they need hosted that specifically requires NT. Or say, if your best friend runs a web hosting company, then go with them since you are in with the owner. A lot of what's important in choosing a good web host is how responsive they are to you, and hopefully that host would be.

    We try and do our best to be very responsive to all of our customers. Whether it means replying to support or sales inquiries or developing new features or fixing problems before our customers even notice them, that's pretty much our mantra here. I think it's resulted in a very stable and honest product offering, plus a steady stream of innovation. And as we tell prospective clients, with our 30-day money back guarantee, what have you got to lose (other than a month)?

    HostIndex.com: What are the benefits of DreamHost 2.0?

    Josh Jones: Coincidentally, DreamHost 2.0 has two main classes of benefits. Benefits to our customers and benefits to us. That's not why it was called 2.0 though.

    For our customers, the new system offers them improved plans, more features, more stability, as well as a unified, easier to understand system. How it offered all these things is probably better classified as a benefit to us. With 2.0, the DreamHost back-end was completely rewritten. It is now truly flexible and scaleable, whereas before the entire thing was patched together as we went, without a clear sense of what was needed or a design in the first place. Now, every aspect of administrating our system is in a database, including the entire network layer.

    Servers can be reborn as each other in a matter of minutes, and no customer data is kept on the physical web server. DH2 is based on hosting "clusters" that each include a mail server, file server, database server, "a controller", and a webserver. We just add more clusters as our customer base grows.

    Another main benefit of DH2 is the "NDN ID", your one integrated login across all our current and future systems. People can now go to any of our other services (like dreambook.com) and be automatically logged in. This allows us to better integrate all of our systems and also makes it really easy for us to add new features. In the process of developing DH2, we wrote a lot of great reusable data elements that we now use to dramatically speed up the development of new features and services.

    All management panels are object oriented and mod-perl based now, which makes them run faster and cleaner to code. Our billing system was redone with greater simplicity, flexibility, and uniformity across systems and services. We can now easily modify or customize our plans, pricing, etc.

    There's also a new and improved management area for us to review and modify customer accounts and provide support. DreamHost 2.0 is never done though! We're currently working on improving our domain registration system because of impending ICANN accreditation, as well as a new reseller program.

    HostIndex.com: What does your reseller program offer?

    Josh Jones: Currently we don't really offer a true reseller program, but rather have "DreamHost Rewards". The way it works is whenever you refer somebody to DreamHost, you will get 10% of whatever they spend for as long as they stay with us. A lot of people use that, and it's very popular of course, but right now we're developing a new full-fledged reseller program with a lot more features.

    It should be in the testing phase by the end of October, and essentially what it will allow is complete re-skinning of our Hosting Web Panel for our reseller's customers. They'll also get up to 35% off our regular plan prices when they resell them. Unofficially we have about 400 customers already reselling our services, even without an official plan in place, so we think it'll potentially be a very big thing!

    After the initial launch we plan on gradually adding more features to our reseller service, including resold support services, resold domain registration, and a full billing system.

    HostIndex.com: What does the future hold for DreamHost, and what do you see in the future for the web hosting industry?

    In DreamHost's near future, I see DreamServers becoming a more substantial part of the business, along with our reseller offerings. We plan to of course keep our shared hosting going and stronger than ever, continually adding more features while increasing reliability and speed. We are working on better leveraging our DreamBook user base as well as improving our other free web services.

    We're also going to very soon start offering Domain Registrar services uncoupled from web hosting. We're offering more specialized hosting services like database hosting, mailing list hosting, and streaming services hosting.

    For all of these things we're also going to start offering an XML-RPC interface (SOAP) to go with our web panel. In the next few years, we really think automated web services will become a more accepted way for people to retrieve services over the web. Web hosting is a perfect match for it too.

    In the next five years, the hosting industry will continue to grow in the consumer realm. A lot of people don't really understand web hosting yet and would probably buy it if they knew just what it was. Somebody needs to be the AOL of web hosting and just start sending free CDs to every man woman and child in the United States. Pretty much everybody on the Internet could use their own domain. Also in the next five years, probably mostly due to .NET, web services will start to be understood and some useful ones will show up, domain registration and web hosting among them.

    In the ten-year range, I think web services will result in the commoditization of hosting services. There will be standard bandwidth, storage space, processing time, email, and domain services that are interchangeable between numerous providers. Customers will pretty much just go with the cheapest provider and think of it like a utility. Profits for web hosts won't be what they once were, but consumers and productivity will definitely benefit.

    In 20+ years, perhaps something like the current "freenet" system will no longer just store data, but will also be able to store procedures. It will be completely decentralized and free and everyone will just connect to it (really connecting to each other... they are "it") for all their data storing and web services needs.

    A system like that would render what we now know as web hosting obsolete, but would result in even greater efficiencies in all manners of computer usage. For example, Rather than there being dozens of competing "web control panels", they'd all eventually merge into the standard "ultimate" resource for web control panel features. It'd be completely open and usable by everyone. It would have been developed maybe in part by an Open Source effort or even through genetic algorithms, and it would probably be the most efficient implementation that meets the specifications of its design. And there'd be every manner of program imaginable, from matrix multiplication to rendering sports game instant-replays.

    But anyway, that's sort of a ways off no matter what, and would pretty much be the demise of anybody making money from selling software anyway, so I wouldn't worry about it yet. In the meantime, I recommend to keep pushing those domain transfers!

    HostIndex.com:  Thanks, Josh, for taking some time to speak with us today here at HostIndex.com!  






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