6. Free Hosting service
The next project I took part in was free hosting service. It was my son Oleg Kheilik's project, not mine. I'd like to emphasize that it was the first project I was involved but played a small role in. Moreover, I was the third (or maybe even fourth) one in order of importance. But it was the most interesting (compared to all the earlier projects) and large-scale project for me. It discovered the new world for me and had a massive impact on me and my life.
It was 1998. Oleg was 16. He was an informatics guru already. He knew PC (Dos, Windows 3.1, Windows 95/98) inside out, had a deep feeling of Internet, mastered web technologies (FreeBSD/UNIX, cgi, ftp, Perl, MySQL, etc.), and had experience of creating a few websites. Moreover, Oleg had made a lot of money by that time (he used to get fat checks from the United States on a regular basis). I mean that Oleg was a web-development and digital-marketing expert already.
Oleg found two programmers - Dmitriy Koltsov and Alexander Stefanovich, and they created a tremendous service.
It was called Host on Fly and was a free hosting service.
It was operating in FreeBSD environment, the basic tools were CGI, Perl, and MySQL.
Oleg invented and applied a few key concepts (I believe he was the first one in the web who did it):
- a simple user account registration wizard, which allowed creating an environment for a new website by a few clicks;
- 100MB of free storage space (it was equal to today’s 1TB and was mind-blowing and unbelievable: “what an unlimited space!!! how can it all be for free???”);
- a simple FTP-client created by Oleg and Alexander (you download a program from your hosting account, start it by two clicks, and see your drives in the left window and your hosting directory in the right one);
- a quite simple web interface (at that time all the websites were overloaded with information, while Oleg tended to minimize everything as much as possible – it was something quite new for the time being);
- a smart self-promotional program launched by Oleg (our hosting banners popping up on our clients' websites).
Oleg and his team implemented a number of other brand new ideas. But, to my mind, it was the five above concepts that provided explosive customer base growth. In a couple of months, we already hosted over 30 thousand webmasters. It only took our hosting six months to turn from a single server into a powerful 40-server cluster. We used to receive checks for over $ 100 thousand each from the US weekly. And there were only four of us behind this: Oleg Kheilik, Dmitriy Koltsov, Alexander Stefanovich... and I was there as well.
In a few words, it was super cool. In a few months, I told Oleg: "It looks like all webmasters from all over the world are eager to become our customers. They seem to be packing their bags to move to our hosting service from the others."
We were in the Top-25 of the world's most visited Internet resources, and Oleg was predicting us to enter the Top-10 soon and afterwards...
Oleg was full of ideas to implement (including his own OS).
But, alas, his plans were not destined to come true. At that moment, we had no idea of what risk management is, we had no legal base behind us, and there were only four of us... when all of a sudden... a huge, clumsy, stupid, inhuman WHEELS OF STATE had a go at us. They were near to crush us, they almost wiped us off.
But we survived. Moreover, we got a great, quite useful experience. We did become stronger. And it helped us a lot in creating our next projects (including our current project).
Anyway, all of this is worth being described in the next chapters, which are to be posted soon.
January, 27, 2015