| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO May 2 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
On 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.
The 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 ABI.
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 identities.
"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
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, Rusenko said.
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
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, said
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.