The history of web hosting: how things have changed since Tibus started in 1996

We chart the history of the web hosting industry from the birth of the World Wide Web in 1991, past Tibus being founded in 1996 to the present day.

Posted on 29 June 2016 - Hosting
Tibus BY Tibus

Web hosting is something of a new industry. Obviously, there was no need for web hosting at all prior to the birth of the internet and still no great need for web hosting until companies and individuals started to build (or have people build for them) websites.


The firing of the starter’s pistol for the web hosting industry was the National Science Foundation’s decision to lift commercial restrictions on the web and allow traffic from commercial networks to use its NSFNET internet backbone network in 1991. Subject to compliance with NSFNET’s acceptable use policy, for-profit companies had access to the network, which was previously only used for education and research.

That change coincided with the launch - also in 1991 - of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee and colleagues at CERN. NSFNET would be decommissioned by 1995 and Berners-Lee’s model adopted as the preferred method of access to the internet.

These developments increased the number of people using the internet and the level of commercial activity conducted via the internet, which in turn created the need for web hosting services. Prior to that, you had needed your own server or computer in order to host a website.

In 1995, there were 16 millions internet users around the world (0.4% of the total population). By 2015, the figure had reach 3.18 billion (43.4% of the total population)


The first time web hosting came to the attention of anything beyond a very niche audience was probably with the launch of GeoCities in 1994. The platform, which was bought by Yahoo! in 1999, allowed users to upload pages of content in virtual ‘cities’ that were relevant to the subject of the content. GeoCities hosted those pages.

Shared Hosting

According to research by Pingdom, by 1998, the average hosting package included some 153MB of storage (considerably less than you would now get on a USB flash drive). Some providers, including Tibus, were offering entry level packages that provided just 10MB of storage.

The same report suggests that the average shared hosting account cost $16.28 per month at this stage (the figure had dropped to $12.95 by 2008). At this stage, shared hosting was predominantly, if not exclusively, what was on offer from fledgling hosting firms.

Dedicated server and Co-Lo

By 2001, the services we were offering were not dissimilar from some of those available today. Writing on our website at the time, we told customers: “[Tibus] can provide your business with a reliable, high speed hosting service for your website.

“Our network is fed through redundant backbones ensuring availability in the event of any upstream service outage. We are able to offer hosting on both UNIX and Windows NT based servers.

“For busier websites that require their own dedicated server(s), we offer a CoLocation service where you can plug in your own server to our network and have full control over your own servers, including all the technologies.”

Dotcom bubble burst

Famously, the mass internet had a false start. The bursting of the dotcom bubble around the turn of the century allowed some recalibration of things that had been done a certain way by default rather than due to any logic. Companies that emerged the other side of the burst had to modernise and find more efficient IT architectures. This can be seen as the start of the cloud as we know it today.


The cloud really took hold and began to establish itself on the public consciousness from 2007 onwards and particularly winning favour with small businesses and enterprise from 2009. Its low prices and impressive scalability won plenty of fans. Some organisations retained concerns about the security of the cloud, but many of these fears were allayed by the birth of the private cloud, whereby users could achieve similar levels of scalability and flexibility while retaining full control of their own hardware.

By 2011, some of the doubters were starting to see the benefits of the ease of access and sharing of the public cloud. This led to the integration of components of private cloud and public cloud to create the hybrid cloud.


The web hosting industry will continue to develop over the coming years. If it first 25 years have taught us anything, it is that the foundation of core services are fairly consistent. The methods and technologies for delivering the services are what change more regularly, and that is likely to continue.