We have seen a flurry of web hosting activity in 2019. Between new partnerships, acquisitions, and services, the industry is undergoing significant change. Emerging technologies and evolving customer expectations have shifted the landscape and many are curious as to what 2020 holds. One of the biggest trends I’ve seen is increased specialization to address the increasingly complex needs of both SMBs and enterprises. To dig deeper into this and other trends, I asked the experts for their thoughts, predictions, and advice on next-gen web hosting.
Robert: We’re seeing a big wave of acquisitions within the web hosting space. What do you think this signals in terms of the new landscape of the industry?
Miriam: I think the acquisitions are a sign of maturity: generally it is companies that are perceived to have great value that are acquired. Until recently the hosting space was seen as old-school and uninteresting, but the more of this type of activity we see, the more the industry’s reputation will change. I think there will always be enough competition in the space to ensure that no one company monopolizes the industry, but I do think that it creates a reality where fewer companies are providing more value and higher quality service.
Robert: What is your big prediction for web hosting in 2020? Who will the big players be?
Miriam: My big prediction for 2020 is that we will continue to see a shift from companies that talk about their hosting service, to companies that talk about the added value they bring to their users, and how their hosting is essentially a product.
I also think we’ll see greater attention being given to the upstart companies that are disrupting the industry with radical new approaches to hosting, like those that convert website architecture from LAMP to JAMstack. Like Strattic, for example 🙂
Robert: What services set web hosting companies apart from the competition?
Miriam: In my opinion the most important factor in the quality of a hosting company is their customer support. At the end of the day, customers want to make sure their sites stay up, and often that means they need support from their hosting provider. Everything else is more or less the same among the hosting companies since they all say they do the same things. (Except Strattic 🙂 )
Robert: Do you have any predictions in terms of website design trends for 2020? With mobile traffic eclipsing desktop traffic, responsive design/mobile-first is table stakes. But what other projections do you have about how web design trends will begin to take shape in the next year?
Miriam: I think the industry is coming full circle in terms of the way websites are developed. In the early 2000s, websites were static. Then CMSs grew in popularity and sites became dynamic. We’re now arriving at an era where static is the new dynamic, and developers are turning to that serverless and database-less architecture for greater speed, security and stability. I think we’re going to see more and more of that.
Robert: How will web hosts need to adapt as website creation gets “easier” and more complex at the same time. Anyone can build a website, but there are a lot of emerging best practices that major companies will be looking to abide by. How can web hosts best serve these enterprise customers?
Miriam: Web hosts need to support their customers by making sure it’s always easy for them to create and host a basic website. That is the backbone of the web. So even though websites are becoming more and more complex to develop, there should be a counter-effort to preserve the simplicity of the web of yore.
Robert: The digital threat landscape is evolving at a lightning-fast pace. What are the major security concerns that web hosts need to consider to best serve clients?
Miriam: An emerging threat is the front-end type of attack, like clickjacking and malvertising. Web hosts should keep their eye on this threat, and consider front-end protection like content security policies (CSPs) for their users. It’s really complicated to roll out CSPs for websites, but it should become part of the conversation. You can see my talk on CSPs from WordCamp US 2018 here:
Robert: Have you seen any trends in terms of partnerships or acquisitions in the web hosting space that you think are important to note? What do you think these signify?
Miriam: Well the most noteworthy and most recent is the WP Engine acquisition of Flywheel. Flywheel was much younger and scrappier, but within a short period of time created a product that was focused on helping their users be great at their job. I think that was brilliant, and apparently so did WP Engine. What that shows is how important it is for every company, even in a crowded space like hosting, to be incredibly in tune with their customers’ interests, needs, passions, and goals. Good job Flywheel!
Stay tuned. I will be interviewing more brilliant experts in the coming weeks to get their take on where hosting, SaaS, and open source are headed — and what can be done today to prepare.