Weebly challenges TypePad, WordPress

Weebly, a San Francisco-based web publishing start-up and a YCombinator alumnus, is throwing its hat in the hosted-blogging arena, challenging existing players’ SixApart’s TypePad and Automattic’s WordPress.com offerings.

The company also announced that it has raised $650,000 in angel funding by a group of angels that include Ron Conway, Steve Anderson, Paul Buchheit and Mike Maples.

Weebly got its start as an easy to use web publishing tool, targeting individuals and small business owners. Its drag-and-drop offering was dead simple and has helped the company attract over 25,000 users.

We met with David Rusenko, one of the three cofounders of Weebly, hours before he left for Pennsylvania for his graduation ceremony, and got a demo of the new service. The simplicity and the easy of use of their new blogging feature is stunning. While it is unlikely that any of our professional blogs are going to be using Weebly, but it will be particularly attractive to those who are looking to dabble in blogging.

The AJAX-based interface allows you to add (or subtract) different types of elements to the blog — text, pictures, videos, Google Maps, AdSense (currently in development, not live) — thanks to a widgetized architecture. You can get going in less than an hour, though it won’t allow you to set-up a personal domain just as yet. (That is coming soon.)

While the service is impressive, Weebly faces some considerable if not insurmountable challenges. Scaling the hosted blogging business is quite a challenge, as some of the more established players have learned. The company still has to figure out a viable business model. Rusenko thinks it can work on white-label versions for internet service providers, though that is easier said than done.

And the biggest challenge will be grabbing the mind share of mainstream users – who currently don’t read blogs, or perhaps don’t care much about all things Web 2.0, as Pew Internet recently reported. That said, the company does have an opportunity to carve itself a niche between WordPress and Tumblr, another tool that is currently gaining popularity because of its ease of use.

Disclosure: Automattic and GigaOmniMedia, the publisher of this blog, have both received funding from True Ventures.

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