A decade ago, if you wanted to launch a website you had to be a computer programmer or have the recourses to hire web designers. Now anyone with an internet connection can publish content using any number of free build-it-yourself web publishing services.
Silver Spring-based FreeWebs is a great example of a local company providing those customizable website design templates. With the advent of widgets ““ mini software applications that can be embedded on social networking and blogs ““ FreeWebs has begun to offer a whole menu of customizable tools beyond the web page design itself. With widgets, the possibilities for customizing personal websites is endless.
“When I hear about the next great web tool my heart beats with excitement rather than fear,“ says FreeWebs CEO and Co-founder Haroon Mokhtarzada. This collaborative process allows Freewebs to incorporate a popular tool like Google Maps or Youtube directly onto the users' personal website. Users can pick from a collection of widgets housed in Freewebs’ Widget Bank
This room to grow is attracting a fair amount of attention. In 2006, Freewebs received $11 million from Novak Biddle Venture Partners and Core Capital Partners in what the Washington Post called one of the year's largest local venture-capital deals.
With over 17 million users, FreeWebs is a great example of an internet-based company in the Washington area successfully adopting these new web 2.0 tools. Though Mokhtarzada acknowledges the differences between web-based businesses in the Washington D.C. area and those with Silicon Valley zip codes.
“There is a disadvantage being on the east coast; there's more culture of web innovation on the west. In Silicon valley, you can talk to 10 CEOs of web-based companies within a 10 mile radius ““ all of whom are willing to share their experiences.“
No matter the location, Freewebs is likely to expand as social networking sites and blogs grow in popularity with users of all ages. “We have several exciting things coming out in the next six months,“ Mokhtarzada said.
It's great to see local company at the forefront of web innovation. What other Washington area companies are thriving online?