When you enter the outer limits of a burg called PornCity.net, it's a pretty safe bet that it won't look like Mayberry and that Aunt Bea won't be asking you over for dinner. You might also expect to part with some righteous cash during your stay, especially if you're a Web master looking for a home to call your own, but there again you'd be wrong, because PornCity.net is all about free hosting. As founder and owner Mike Strouse put it, "We're one of the largest ISPs for adult sites in the world, with thirty-thousand-plus Web sites, and anywhere from four million to five million unique visitors a day, depending on whose count you go with."
Not bad for a company that's been in business all of two years. In fact, according to The Standard online magazine (www.thestandard.com), in January of this year, PornCity came in number one among adult free sites in terms of unique visitors, with a total of 57,941,109 for the month. As Strouse stated, they rack up between four and five million visitors a day, with an estimated fifty percent of their traffic based in the United States.
"The reason we accredit all the hits to PornCity is because we have advertising real estate on every site on PornCity. For every address you go to that's owned by another Web master, you're still going to see our advertising on it. That's how they pay for their space, with top banner spots, kind of like GeoCities."
Every month or so, they add another "street" to the site, which typically includes around a thousand accounts that are snapped up in a day or two. "We opened two more at the ia2000 Miami show and they sold out before the show was over," said Strouse. "And that was mostly from people who weren't at the show. There was a nice influx of newbies. One of the things I like is when I open up a new street and we get a ton of new people who are new to the industry and just getting their feet wet. They hop on our bulletin board and everyone welcomes them with open arms."
Strouse says he has no plans to slow down or restrict growth, although the company does restrict people from the Soviet-bloc nations from signing up for free hosting accounts because of, in his words, "an extremely high amount of fraud. But unlike a lot of free hosts, what we don't do is unlimited growth," Strouse continued. "We manage our growth more intelligently than I think most do, so that our servers are always fast. I'd rather have less users than some but have them all be active and happy."
The Minneapolis-based company did experience something of a rocky start. "I started out based on bad math," said Strouse. "No one else was doing free hosting, probably because they could figure math better than I could. I didn't know the difference between a megabit and a megabyte. I based our entire business model on being able to transfer eight times more traffic for the dollar than we really could. After three months of fumbling around with local ISPs getting angry wondering why I couldn't push 1.5 megabytes per second out of a T1, I finally figured it out. I felt pretty stupid and was holding my breath hoping everything would still work out. Amazingly, I figured the math wrong, but the revenue I figured really wrong because it actually was profitable at even eight times less."
PornCity also provides free E-mail and a full compliment of Web master tools, such as HTML editors, graphics programs and design resources. Strouse seems pretty optimistic about the future of PornCity and the potential of the adult Internet. "I think the market is getting kind of glutted, especially with all the free hosts popping up. There are new guys who started out four months ago who are pulling in four grand a month in profit off the free hosts they have. But there's still a pretty good spot for people who build decent sites."