Updated: Oct 2017
Bob registered "bycar.com" and developed the website in 1997. Within weeks it topped the search engines and displaced magazine advertising for 90% of bookings. Since then simple creation tools like WordPress have proliferated websites, and (against the principles of internet pioneers) search engines were dominated by brand advertising and sponsorship money. We still use unique page design and coding but have succumbed to paid advertising.
There was a drastic decrease in bookings following the 2003 heat wave but too many new surfers were following brand advertisers and not finding us on search engines. So we started advertised on Owners Direct - reluctantly because the rise of internet middlemen pushes prices up.
Over the years we have recoded to keep up with increasing internet diversity but stuck to our unique page designs (which also avoids funding more middlemen).
In 2015 Owners Direct was taken over by HomeAway (part of the Expedia cartel) and pushed us into using their booking system. We had difficulty aligning our fair pricing scheme with their more rigid model but a good compromise was to calculate rents on a fixed price plus price per night.
The Microsoft platform bycar was built on had become unreliable so we hoped HomeAway bookings would suffice - but it could not deliver our added value to users and was far more effort to maintain. So in 2016 we entirely rewrote bycar for an Appache/php platform. We keep the Bycar and Owners Direct calendars in sync so users can book on either but the overall control is on Bycar in order to avoid confusion and misrepresentation.
We continued to collect and re-present information from other sites.
For example, several different commune websites provide webcam links and lift & pistes status for their own domain, but we collect all that information together and re-arrange it to correspond with the lift pass areas.
In June 2016, HomeAway introduced a fee of about 10% for clients additional to what they charge owners. The real benefit they provided to our clients was the ability to make secure online payments, so we opened a PayPal commercial account to match that for bookings via Bycar.
HomeAway (Abritel) found us french rentals for the weeks that are less viable for Brits, so since March 2017 we have based HomeAway bookings on a euro pricelist; and Bycar bookings can be according to those euro prices or based on a separate UK pound pricelist...
But HomeAway's latest move is to block direct communication between owner and renter. Their cut is already bigger than the owners' and now they deny the service we want to give so we must find a new way to advertise.