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UUNet chief joins Web operations start-up

UUNet chief executive Mark Spagnolo leaves the WorldCom unit to take the helm of a small company that manages other companies' Web sites.

Underscoring just how much the focus of the Web business is changing, UUNet chief executive Mark Spagnolo is leaving the WorldCom unit to take the helm of SiteSmith, a small company that manages other companies' Web sites.

Spagnolo has headed UUNet, WorldCom's valuable backbone and data-services division, since October 1998. He joins several other prominent executives who have recently joined or started companies similar to SiteSmith.

"WorldCom really supported me in terms of capital," Spagnolo said. "But this is an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a small company and really leverage my experience. This market is going to grow incredibly fast."

Spagnolo and SiteSmith are focusing on what could be a hugely profitable business of building and maintaining corporate Web sites. Increasingly, companies are outsourcing these features as they discover the long-term costs associated with building and retaining technical talent.

The Aberdeen Group recently predicted that the "site operations" market, a subset of Web hosting, would grow from about $1 billion a year in annual revenues today to about $14 billion in 2002.

Those kinds of figures have attracted other big names. Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of Netscape, recently helped launch a company dubbed Loudcloud that offers similar services, creating sites' often-complicated back-end Web infrastructure from scratch.

Another new start-up dubbed NOCpulse, staffed largely by former Global Crossing GlobalCenter and Excite@Home employees, unveiled the beginning of its Web site maintenance services this week.

SiteSmith, which launched last October, has already grown to 300 employees and about 100 customers. Spagnolo will take the position of chief executive of the company.