HOSTSEARCH: Mr. Roberts - considering everything you are juggling at the moment it is extremely kind of you to take time out for this interview. Perhaps you could start by telling us a little about yourself, your role at Interjuncture, and, of course, an introduction to HostingCon .
GEORGE A. ROBERTS IV: I am the President and CEO of Interjuncture, which sounds very high and mighty, but there are really only two people at Interjuncture - myself and Frank Spaulding, the COO. I have been in the information technology industry for almost 20 years, doing mostly software development, consulting, and web development.
HostingCon is a conference and tradeshow for the hosting industry and is the largest gathering of hosting-related professionals in the world. HostingCon 2006 will be held July 17-19, 2006 at The Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
HOSTSEARCH: What exactly is the history behind HostingCon and what inspired it.
GEORGE A. ROBERTS IV: Keith Duncan, the publisher of Ping! Zine Magazine and I were talking one evening at an industry event we were both attending. We were lamenting over the fact that there was no industry tradeshow or event where everyone could get together and network and learn more about the business. I came away from that discussion with the beginning of the idea for HostingCon, and it got refined fairly quickly from there.
HOSTSEARCH: HostSearch was fortunate enough to attend HostingCon 2005 - it was an immediate success. All the press we have received suggests HostingCon 2006 is going to be bigger and better. How exactly will this year differ from last?
GEORGE A. ROBERTS IV: There are a number of ways. HostingCon 2005 was the first HostingCon ever -- and the first conference we had ever produced. We learned a lot from the experience, so things will run quite a bit more smoothly at HostingCon 2006.
One of the biggest changes is the location and size of the facilities available to us. We have moved to Las Vegas, which will offer a lot of opportunities for fun outside the hours of the conference. We have also more than doubled the size of the facilities we are using, including doubling the size of the exhibit hall.
We have also expanded the conference from a two day event to a three day event. This allows us to not cram the schedule quite so much. One of the complaints we received about HostingCon 2005 was that there was not enough time to wander the exhibit hall without missing conference sessions. There are large blocks of time on the schedule now where an attendee can visit the exhibit hall and not have to worry about missing things.
HOSTSEARCH: You were immediately able to get the support of some of the industry's key players... Ensim, FastServers.Net, Microsoft, SWsoft, etc. That's no mean feat - how exactly did you manage to pool the support of such names?
GEORGE A. ROBERTS IV: Many of our sponsors for HostingCon 2006 were involved as sponsors or exhibitors at HostingCon 2005. They were happy with the results of HostingCon 2005, and in many cases deepened their commitment to HostingCon 2006 by taking higher level sponsorships or larger booth spaces.
Those sponsors and exhibitors that are new this year have mostly heard from others that they trust in the industry that the event is a good one and the place to be if you want to reach professionals in the hosting industry.
HOSTSEARCH: To some extent the rise of web hosting has been so rapid that it hasn't had time to mature. In addition, the nature of the industry means that it is made up of numerous isolated smaller players. Do you think HostingCon has helped galvanize web hosting as an industry?
GEORGE A. ROBERTS IV: I think that it gives hosting professionals a way to feel connected with the rest of the industry. It's an excellent place to network with others in the industry. It also gives hosting professionals an opportunity to meet with others in informal settings such as the after-hour parties, often cementing friendships.
HOSTSEARCH: With so many people players in the market, standards vary. Given the international playing field, do you ever envisage there being a governing body for web hosts? If not, could you ever see some form of overseeing quality standard, like ISO 9000, but applied to hosts?
GEORGE A. ROBERTS IV: That's a difficult question because you would first have to define what a host is and then come up with standards that could be applied uniformly to every company that falls into the definition of "host". There are so many different service providers that could be defined as a "host" that it would probably be difficult to come up with a meaningful set of standards. If the organization presented benefits to the industry as a whole and I felt the standards they set were appropriate, I would definately be interested.
HOSTSEARCH: In other Internet-related industries there has been a rise of mega-corporations - Google, Microsoft, Ebay, etc. There hasn't though been anything similar occurring in web hosting. Why is that, do you think, and, based on your experience in the industry, can you see it happening in the future?
GEORGE A. ROBERTS IV: Well, Yahoo is already heavily into the hosting business. Google isn't, yet, but they have some very hosting-like services such as their blogging services and Google Base. If you're asking about large companies from the hosting industry itself, that's a good question. There are some bigger players, of course, but no one from the industry has really come along and leapt out in front to become huge. I think one of the issues that keeps the industry so fragmented is that the barrier to entry is so low and new hosting companies continue to pop up overnight.
HOSTSEARCH: Given your insight and connections, you are probably one of the best people to ask this question - where do you see web hosting in 10 years from now?
GEORGE A. ROBERTS IV: I think there will be consolidation in the lower end hosting services in the next few years. Probably not to the point where there are only a few dominant players, but I think you'll see some bigger companies emerge. I think you'll also see the smaller companies get better at focusing on and serving niches.
HOSTSEARCH: Here is our de facto question: What's the next big thing to hit the Internet and how will it impact people's lives?
GEORGE A. ROBERTS IV: If I knew that, I'd be busy inventing it! :) It's already starting to get very big, but I think Voice/Video telecommunications. VOIP is already starting to take off, but I think eventually it will be the standard way to make a call rather than a landline phone.
HOSTSEARCH: I am sure you don't have any free time at the moment, but in the fleeting minutes that you have spare, what do you do to relax and enjoy yourself?
GEORGE A. ROBERTS IV: I enjoy spending time with my family and reading. I try to make enough time to read a few novels a month, even with my busy schedule.