A few months ago, Terapad was released with some fanfare. Its an all-in-one blogging solution that does … well, quite a bit more than just blogging, and more like a complete CMS. However, in its original copy, it mentioned how it was robust enough for bloggers who are aiming to be the next TechCrunch. While it was tongue-in-cheek, I reviewed it and took it to task for a number of things — its proprietary systems, and the fact it was a paid service, as another.
Looks like Terapad has changed a few things since the end of last year. I asked Stephan Tual, founder and CEO of Terapad why the changes happened and what we can look towards in the future.
Tony Hung: Looks like things have changed a bit since my last post on Terapad. What are the most important ones worth noting?
Stephan Tual: We’ve achieved two major goals: First, appealing to the mass-market by going 100% free and creating a community page at http://www.terapad.com/net. Second, consolidating our position as innovators in SME online publishing, by adding audit trail and page versionning to the CMS module, as well as resume indexing for the careers modules.
TH: The last time I reviewed Terapad, it wasn’t free, and there weren’t any immediate indications it was going to be free. What was the motivation to undergo such a big change?
ST: To reach out to a maximum number of people, so they give it a try, and discover what they’ve been missing. They usually start by creating Terapad blogs, then slowly discover they can also use Terapad for their bands, their clubs, and even their business, too. We’re ad-supported, and people can remove the ads for a low $5 a month, so what we lost in direct income we more than made up for it in sheer numbers of subscribers.
Terapad is not just a blogging platform. Blogging is one module out of 8 that are equally important. If you’re a boutique, such as an independent game developer for example, you can use the forums to provide support, the image gallery for your screen shots, and of course the shop to sell your wares. If you’re a small business you can use the CMS to manage your content and the career tools for your HR. And so on – with the flexible CSS you can build anything you like, even a job board. Anything.
Having such flexibility is unheard of (someone even called it ‘Web 30’), so by going free we give people the time they need to wrap their heads around the concept and experiment.
TH: One of the greatest benefits of a blogging software like WordPress is that its open source. There’s a community around it that develops themes, extensions and so on. Is Terapad open source? And if not, what are you doing to extend its current capabilities, whether they be in different design or functionality?
ST: There is no single ‘greatest benefit’ for an online publishing system. Different needs require different solutions. I know there are some people out there who have the time, the knowledge, the money and the servers required to configure, deploy, secure, monitor 24/7 and customize an opensource CMS. I also know for a fact that the vast majority of individuals and small businesses don’t, and wouldn’t be interested in this approach either.
Terapad provides a complete online publishing solution at zero cost. It takes no technical knowledge whatsoever to deploy, we monitor it, we upgrade it every week based on customer feedback. We took this hosted approach after years of consulting with companies and individuals – we know there’s a huge demand for simpler, more efficient tools.
It’s not to say we don’t have an active community – to the contrary. For example in a few weeks we’ll be releasing a theme browser through which designers will be able to distribute their Terapad templates. We’re also working closely with widget developers to find new and innovative ways to deploy their 3rd party plugins on our platform – without requiring the users to have to paste any code whatsoever. We believe the simplest solutions are often the most powerful ones.
TH: With the kind of changes that have happened over the past few months, where do you see Terapad going into the future?
ST: Two things are going to happen in the short term. First, a lot of the people who have signed up recently are going to be familiarized with our interface, and are going to start venturing out of the ‘blog+images’ beaten path and look into the shop, forums and CMS features, implementing more permanent content. Second, we’re going to attract the attention of even more users by implementing the features the early adopters requested. Internationalization, theme browser and container management are already in the works.
Longer term, we want to reach a critical mass at which point it will become interesting to provide aggregated content pages such a a global Terapad.com shop, or a global job board. Since both will stay free, we’ll be a valid alternative to a lot of the bigger names out there, who rely too much on crowdsourcing without ever giving anything back. A lot of the concepts behind Terapad are based on empowering the end user and promoting the sites individuality.