Yola, one of a number of companies offering free, online website building tools, says it has tripled its user base in the last year, from 1 million to 3 million users.

That’s respectable growth, but it suggests Yola (formerly known as SynthaSite) is still trailing competitor Weebly — chief executive David Rusenko told me Weebly passed the 3 million user mark a few months ago, but didn’t announce it because he wasn’t interested in feeding the idea that there’s a “horse race” between the two companies. He also pointed to traffic statistics from Alexa and Compete showing that Weebly’s site has a big lead over Yola’s.

Randy Almond, Yola’s vice president of marketing, described the landscape as a pack of competing sites, including  Weebly and Yola, as well as other companies like Jimdo. But San Francisco-based Yola is ready to break out, he said, based largely on two things it’s launching this year.

The first is the fact that Yola will be using cloud computing infrastructure to expand effectively, first by accepting more users to its main site, and later to deal with spikes in traffics to its users’ sites. The second is international support — Yola is in the early stages of supporting international domains like .co.uk, Almond said, although it’s still working out some of the bugs.

I also asked Almond about one of the points Rusenko has brought up in the past, namely that Weebly seems to be beating Yola despite having only raised $650,000 compared to Yola’s $25 million in venture funding, and he replied that that funding has allowed Yola to build a larger team and to make the big moves it plans for this year.

“If we’re not able to break ahead of [Weebly], I’d say we have not used that money effectively,” Almond said. “2010 is the year that we’re going to make that happen.”

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