80legsfinalWhen 80legs launched its web crawling service at DEMO (a conference co-produced by VentureBeat) last fall, chief executive Shion Deysarkar told me he wanted to place tools previously exclusive to web giants within the reach of smaller companies, so that someone could, for example, build their own “mini-Google.” Now he’s taking that  philosophy a step further, by offering 80legs services for free.

Why the change? In an email announcing the free service, 80legs says it discovered that many users were crawling less than 100,000 pages. Since the Houston company was charging $2 per 1 million pages crawled, plus $0.03 for every CPU hour used, it wasn’t going to make much money from those users. And since they were researchers, students, and bootstrapped startups, they didn’t have much money to spend anyway. 80legs writes:

Now you can actually afford to bootstrap a search engine. You can track your brand in every nook and cranny for an order of magnitude less money than what the likes of Crimson Hexagon and Radian6 are charging. You can initiate new data crunching initiatives that would never have been funded otherwise.

The free version will cover up to 100,000 pages per job, and one job at a time. Beyond that, 80legs is also rolling out a new pricing model, based on a monthly subscription fee. Once you want to go past 100,000 pages per job, pricing starts at $99 per month; there’s a $299 plan too.

Since its launch, 80legs says it has signed up more than 2,500 users. 1,816 web crawls were run in October, 1,174 in November, and 730 so far in December. The company has raised $400,000 from Creeris Ventures.

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