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Show HN: Forestry.io – A better way to host static websites (demo) (forestryio.herokuapp.com)
39 points by sgallant 856 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 53 comments

I love static websites. Most of our YC websites are static (www, startupschool, femalefounders, fellowship, etc.) Problem is I'm not sure we've really seem any great innovation here in regards to nontechnical adoption since MovableType. I know we have Jekyll and Middleman and those are fantastic pieces of software for developers (we use Middleman here at YC), but they're missing a UI bridge to get people to the promise land.

Your current implementation...I'm not so sure it can reach nontechnical people yet. I think it sits at this middle point that makes it easy for technical people to hand off content management to nontechnical people. That's probably a good / smart way to start...but it will limit your potential audience.

Looking at the site, I don't think targeting a technology is the best approach. People aren't going to be Googling "alternatives to cpanel" to try and find you. You should be targeting people / use cases. Designers, creative agencies, IT people dealing with the marketing team, etc.

The zip a folder and upload is a great interface (A+ on giving me a sample project to try), but what I'm most interested in is how the CMS / form stuff is going to work. Unfortunately, it wasn't ready yet. I will say that adding classname is a good start, but remember try to build features in a way that it doesn't require people to edit code. Find some way to allow people to click to specify what'll be dynamic. It could use the same mechanism, just make adding the classname a thing that's done with a click and not a cursor.

The CMS / Form stuff is what's really going to sell this into organizations. Then you're going after a very large space. I think something like 45% of the Internet is powered by a CMS. 25% of that by Wordpress, something initially made for some other task. If someone gets it right, there's a lot of money to be made.

Thanks for sharing and I'll be on the look out for your fellowship application!

Cool. Building a UI for Jekyll is exactly what we're setting out to do. Great idea about the click-to-specify what's dynamic!

Agreed that focusing on technical people is a smaller market; that's just phase 1 for us. Thanks a bunch!

> try to build features in a way that it doesn't require people to edit code

You might want to take a look at Eager (https://eager.io)

Founder of netlify and BitBalloon here.

We are working on an editing interface for static websites that can compete with the ease of use and flexibility of wordpress. Our alpha users love it and this is an open source project.

We've been working in this space for quite a while, and are extremely excited about the potential for static web-tech.

We started out with simple drag and drop deploys at BitBalloon (you don't even need to zip your site first, just drag a folder unto BitBalloon.com).

Later we launched our premium solution called netlify that's by far the most feature rich on the market (continuous deployment, form processing, API proxying, redirects, rewrite rules, SSL, etc, etc) and offers the best performance you'll get today.

It's spot on that the really big deal will be solving the CMS need, without making developers give up on all the advantages of static site generators.

Some of our larger clients are using netlify + roots/middleman/metalsmith/etc + Contentful/Prismic/etc to build large CMS drives sites that are built up front and hosted directly on our CDN, but this is still a bit too advances a setup for the millions and millions of normal CMS driven sites out there.

Our solution is building a completely open-source CMS that works with all common static site generators. It's in private beta right now, but getting real close to opening up the repo to the public. It’s completely free of any lock-in, and you can take it and host it anywhere with ease.

Happy to send an invite to anyone here. Just ping me at matt@netlify.com

Some feedback to the product of this thread:

Love the initiative.

Drag and drop uploads are nice, but unless you handle CDN configuration and cache invalidation, it doesn't seem like a big step up from just FTPing files to an S3 bucket.

Otherwise you might risk mainly appealing to beginners or people looking for a cheap way to publish a personal website, and those can't pay much. With a monthly price of $1/site, the life-time value of a client will be very low, so you will barely be able to spend anything on customer acquisition. One.com, GoDaddy or S3 can offer extremely low prices because they have huge scale, but as a tiny startup, you have no way of reaching the amount of users you would need to get on board with a model like that. Especially since this is way more technical than Wix/Weebly/SquareSpace,etc, while not really offering real value to professional developers or agencies.

If you want to build in the static hosting space, you should start by figuring out if there's something you could offer beyond what the existing players like netlify, BitBalloon, CloudCannon, Divshot, etc, already have, and make sure you're not just trying to compete on price.

My 5 cents written in 5 minutes :) Good Luck!

The CMS you mentioned sounds pretty cool. I tried to email you to request an invite but it bounced. Is that the correct email address?

That's strange! Just tried to send myself a few test mails to that mail, and it works fine here...

You can try our general mail, info@netlify.com

Co-creator here. We built forestry.io because we hate dealing with shitty cPanel-type hosting providers and we think WordPress is often overkill for simple sites.

We all build simple sites every now and then. You know...your bother's band, your friend's restaurant, etc. They're a pain to set up and manage.

This is just a demo, but we would love your feedback!

*YC people - put in a good word for us for the fellowship program ;)

My first question would be: why not just use an S3 bucket directly, with web hosting enabled?


It's a good question. Reminds me of the first time I heard about Dropbox - I thought, 'why not just do a rsync'?

Yeah, good question. S3 is a hassle for some people (designer-types) and we're building additional services around the hosting part (form submissions, a simple CMS, etc). If you get a chance, try out the demo and let me know what you think. scottgallant[at]gmail

What about Divshot, BitBalloon, Netlify and Github Pages? Between the 4 of those, there's a range of prices and functionality that fit pretty much any need.

Note that the goal of this question is to help you explain what makes you unique, not to as a gotcha. I'd like to get an idea of when your offering is the appropriate choice since I'm looking at needing a static webhost in the next few months.

I was going to reply, but what you said :P .. I think it's great that initiatives like this are taken, but of course a market fit is important if you want to make a dent.

Looks great, but I'll never fork over cash for a service that doesn't even have an imprint. I don't care about ToC, but I want to see that somebody with a name is behind this thing.

Edit: Another thing: What about email? The beauty of cPanel and whatnot is that it comes with email to my domain and is usually easy to set up as well.

You might want to charge (a lot) more. How many $1/mo accounts will you need to make any sort of profit?

Hosting is cheap. Especially hosting static sites.

For e-commerce (coming soon?), contact forms, and content editing. They charge extra to use their barebones CMS. That's where the real profit will be coming from.

$11/yr for a contact form is another $1/month for a very basic service. Content-Editable is another $3~/mo that people would take advantage of (ie: tech user hosting the static site here and handing it off to a non-tech user, rather than having to edit the HTML for any future content edits).

Our math tells us that $1/month will result in surprisingly high margins, however, we're hoping to sell services around the hosting of static sites. Need an e-commerce back-end? Premium templates? etc.

Did you try the demo? Would you use this kind of thing? Do you find yourself building stupidly simple sites for everyone you know (like I do)?

> Our math tells us that $1/month will result in surprisingly high margins

What happens when a site uses too much bandwidth for this to hold? The first thing I looked for was information about storage and bandwidth limits, but I don't see that anywhere.

Those are outliers and are rarer than you think. Ask anyone who offers free hosting how many of these large sites they have.

Heliohost, as an example, only restricts sites based on CPU Usage. Free hosting of up to 500MB, unlimited bandwidth. But metered CPU Usage. Even then that's hard to hit.

That's a good point. It's really going to be a game of averages. Most small websites that I build (for restaurants, bands, conversion pages, etc) get a negligible amount of traffic. But every now and then there will be a site that sees 100x that traffic.

Or 100000x that traffic. One $1/month site that bursts to unexpectedly excessive bandwidth could wipe out the margins on thousands of such sites.

Storage is easy to set limits on in advance, but you're going to want some sensible limits on bandwidth usage too. With some care, you could do so via throttling (fixed average bandwidth with bursting) so that you never need to cut a site off entirely.

It is truly tragic how much heat and energy is wasted in the world by static websites requiring to run huge piles of horrendous PHP to render their unchanging contents from a database through Wordpress on every request.


What does paid hosting offer than I can't get from GitHub pages for free?


I like this idea a lot. The form submission and editing features sound very interesting and could potentially offer a nice middle ground for one-off landing pages and the like that don't need an app server but are too custom for page generators like unbounce or instapage. Blogging this way could also be great, but there's a lot more work to do on features before you can start to compete with DB-backed solutions. I eagerly await the day that I can confidently recommend a platform like this to a client over Wordpress.

I get that the drag and drop upload is good for non-technical folks, but as a coder, some sort of little command line interface ala Heroku would be nice so that I could use it alongside git in my workflow and automate deploys. The drag and drop process would be tedious when doing frequent deploys.

Have you looked at Middleman at all? That's been my static site generator of choice for awhile now and I've found it much smoother to work with than Jekyll.

Yeah, I love heroku toolbelt too. A command line tool makes a lot of sense.

Blogging will be difficult, right now we're just starting with editing existing content and we'll expand from there.

$12 / year for a static page

$39 / year for a simple "cms" (others call it a simple edit form)

$11 / year for form handling


$62 / year, good luck! Include the simple cms would be a great benefit.

Sure WordPress is overbloatet, but WordPress has zillions of Designs.

Take a look at http://webhook.com as they have a similar offering that may give some inspiration.

This is awesome. It might be just what I was looking for. However their site's animation is too abrupt and distracting. They need to reduce the frequency of changes a bit.

This is very nicely done.

It vaguely reminds me of Site44[1] - which does with DropBox what you are doing with your zip upload. Your pricing is better. And they don't have forms. This one simple thing adds the only back-end functionality needed by well over 1/3 of the web sites out there today.

[1] http://www.site44.com/

Very cool. I wasn't aware of site44. Thanks!

I was a little stunned when I first came across it - and it got my brain to churning.

I've since then been able to use DropBox to syndicate oil&gas drilling waste processing equipment configurations from a small set of folders on my desktop. And I've been able to hook up a national chain's franchise's digital in-store displays to a content manager's workstation at an ad agency in New York. You can do quite a few nifty things with it.

And I've taken us off the topic of your demonstration. Sorry! :-)

err, would look a bit more professional to at least get a proper domain name . Are you running on free dyno or what ?

Agreed, I did not look further seeing heroku there. One of the thoughts that came to mind is maybe this is spinning up dynos for you. Hopefully not hosting many sites under 1 dyno

Yeah, just wanted to get a demo online quick for feedback purposes.

"Setup a domain & billing"

"Set up" not "Setup". Just one of my pet peeves. Had to say it.

fixed :)

This seems pretty cool. I agree a lot of site hosting sold today is insanely overkill for a lot of users.

Agreed. cPanel hosting services make me want to vomit (bluehost/hostgator/etc). The thing that bothers me the most, is we often set up WordPress so someone can edit a few lines of text ever few months. Total overkill IMO.

I think even more than that is dealing with the ongoing maintenance of a wordpress site. Just keeping it up to date is a PITA even with automatic upates (stuff finds a way to break pretty often). Without at least cursory ongoing maintenance, WP sites seem to get hacked in less than 3 months these days.

This is the perfect use case for my father's website and for the exact reasons I didn't want to use CPanel or Wordpress for his site.

Nice job filling that small niche of "barebones CMS".

Awesome, we'll be adding some beta customers next week. Sign up here if you want to be a part of it:


I mean, I like HostGator, and I like cPanel. But I use the features of both, and I host enough :stuff: on it, and I use server-side features, that it is worth the cost.

But it's great to have simple tools for simple needs.

Nice idea, I would start using it today to make a couple of sites that people ask me to do for them.

We'll be inviting beta users next week. Sign up here if you want to be a part of it:


One of the main reasons to use wordpress is that it allows lay people to customize the look and feel of their website. Sure hosting is a problem, but likely the bigger problem is building easy to use tools to make their website looks pretty and functional.

In my experience, people get a web dev to crank out a simple website powered by WP and they only ever really make slight content changes - add a project to their portfolio, or edit their bio. Rarely to people actually make use of widgets, plugins or new themes.

The company that wins the battle to be WordPress's successor will be the one that builds the same type of thriving plugin/extension ecosystem that allowed WP to expand so rapidly.

Interesting thoughts. What are your "go-to" WP plugins?

Oh, I avoid WP like the plague these days, and strictly use static site generators like Jekyll and Hugo. In any case, I'm referring less to specific plugins, and more to the critical importance of bootstrapping and fostering a thriving plugin marketplace for 3rd-party developers, just like WP did (and does). I'm surprised that none of the newer players are doing this.

Looks like a good place to host my personal/portfolio site.

Neat, but Weebly is effectively the same thing. For free.

Weebly has a free plan but you can't actually use your own domain with it[0] and your site is weebly branded. It's $8/month to remove the branding and add your domain.

[0] http://www.weebly.com/#plans/compare

You're right. However, you can't use your own domain with Forestry.io right now (public beta, with a 'submit your email address to be the first to know' form). Also, I'm not sure that hosting on Linode will scale as well as expected for $1/month/user.

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