There was a rumor about the US's HealthCare website costing around $600 million to create. I looked online, and found that to be a myth, and the real number to be in the range of $93-175 million dollars. Still to me (I don't know anything about website architecture, design, under the hood etc.) that sounds like a huge figure, but it seemed other big sites such as Twitter and Instagram costed in the multi-millions too. I'm wondering why it costs so much and where does the money go to? I understand you have to pay web developers and etc. but that would only be a small fraction of the cost right? I don't know anything about servers, or the under of the hoods of the WWW as well as the internet, but I'm super interested in those. When I try to look it up though, most of the results are relevant to the design of the webpage, etc. I apologize if this question is broad, but I couldn't really find the answer elsewhere.


Very little of the cost of a website typically goes into hosting. Websites can be hosted for as little as $5 per month. For a ballpark of how much hosting is going to cost, see What kind of website can be run on AWS for 10, 100, 1 thousand, 10 thousand, 100 thousand, 1 million dollars per month?

The main costs for websites are usually:

  • development
  • content creation
  • marketing
  • management overhead
  • hosting

In the case of the health care government website, most of that went into development and management overhead. For $600M you could have 3000 developers working for a year on the project.

Some big websites now have a ton of employees:

  • Google - nearly 50,000
  • Twitter - over 2,000
  • Facebook - nearly 5,000

Clearly if you are employing that many people, your costs are going to be very high.

Marketing is another area in which the sky is the limit. Many websites have taken out superbowl ads at millions of dollars for a 30 second slot. Even marketing at a more modest scale such as pay per click web advertising can add up to some real dough.

  • I see, thank you. Your answer is sufficient, but do you have any suggestions on where to look for if I'm interested in WWW and internet architecture? Like under the hood stuff? Perhaps the right keywords to search for? – Abdul Jan 17 '14 at 17:14
  • You could start by looking at "content management systems" (CMS) which is pre-built software designed to run websites. One way of keeping costs low is to use existing software (especially open source software). – Stephen Ostermiller Jan 17 '14 at 17:19
  • So sites which are big require more developers, thus raising the cost. But what about the many servers and stuff and maintenance for them? Such as like the servers for an online game; Whay fraction of the cost would they contribute to? – Abdul Jan 17 '14 at 17:23
  • It depends. Your hosting costs are going to be higher if you have high bandwidth requirements (like YouTube or Netflix) or computing intensive requirements (like game servers.) Hosting is generally a "fixed" cost. If your revenue is very low, then hosting could be a big percentage. If you have higher revenue, then you are likely to spend more on other things like marketing. – Stephen Ostermiller Jan 17 '14 at 17:31

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