His first babe site was called Beauties and featured photos of his favorite models, including Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Karen Mulder and Anna-Marie Goddard, from a stockpile of pics he had downloaded previously. Maurice considered this simply a hobby, even after making some minor cash from a few adult banner ads posted to the site (he was a full-time student) and wasn't inspired to register FreeOnes.com until March 1998.
"I worked as a student maintaining [a guy's] celebrity site," Maurice said. "Because I liked it and thought I could do things better, I started my own site that specialized in centerfolds. I made a good choice doing my own thing instead of maintaining somebody else's website."
He said his next good decision was to put his studies on hold indefinitely to work on his burgeoning FreeOnes business full time. Annual website registration cost him $200 — almost as much as his monthly scholarship stipend. He knew he had something big, something the online public wanted, and found satisfaction watching his HitBox counter report a higher number of unique visitors every day.
"I made up [the name FreeOnes] myself; I wanted to have a name that I could use for basically everything," Maurice said. "My first plan was to use it for a babe site. I liked to watch centerfolds and had a big collection of pictures. The thing was that there were many sites featuring [only] a few models [on] each. I thought it would be cool to have them all in one place."
Maurice said as soon as the site launched, traffic went through the roof, and though he attributes much of that to link exchanges with Tommy's Bookmarks, Luciano's Links and others, he also touts FreeOnes.com's honesty with its visitors as a key component.
"I didn't scare people away with pop-ups, $7-per-minute dialers, and other bad tricks like most other sites did," he said. "I made what people wanted to have. And I still stay with that opinion: If you create something useful, it will pay off sooner or later."
Maurice's hobby certainly did just that. FreeOnes.com features 13,405 babes to date, and he's noticed an influx of inquiries from new girls getting into the business. Though he jokes that maybe it's the recession causing more women to get into porn, Maurice certainly is aware of how the recession and falling dollar — most of FreeOnes.com's traffic comes from the U.S. — has affected adult.
"Some things I saw coming and some I didn't," Maurice said. "That's why it's important to read boards, go to shows and try to stay [in the mind of] the surfer. The biggest problem for this industry is that people can get too much stuff for free too easily. Did you ever see Heineken or another beer company giving free beers away 24/7?"
When the free tube sites, which he expected to be shut down, remained thriving and free tubes came into the marketing picture, Maurice knew it was time to adapt to the industry's evolution.
"I'm not somebody who can look into the future, and I don't think anybody can," he said. "At least I think it's safe to predict that the DVD market will go to zero and printed magazines will slowly die, too. Competition will only become heavier. A lot depends on regulations. Nevertheless it always will be possible to earn some good money if you keep investing in your product the right way. This industry keeps evolving fast."
That's why last year FreeOnes started penalizing paysites that used hidden cross sales and other scams on join pages, blacklisting them from the site's database; and developed a system that warned users of other sites that commonly use cross sales. Maurice felt it was an important investment to make.
"You can not trust everybody," he said. "It took me a bit too long actually before I found out what was really going on. I realized it after doing a test signup at some of these scammer sites. The only cross sale I like is the one that benefits the visitor instead of only the program owner. How hard it is to place yourself in the place of a visitor and ask yourself, ‘Would I be happy if they charged me this $40 extra without my notice, and the content on the extra site sucks balls?'"
Maurice is quite vocal with his thoughts about hidden cross sales and the folks who rely on them for profit, as well as those in the industry who fail to follow through on revenue sharing and other business deals. He says it's more difficult than ever to know with whom you're dealing in the online industry (which is one reason he attends shows, so he can meet them in person) and since the financial crisis, it has become a bigger issue.
"Trust me, in the long run you will destroy your own profits," Maurice said. "Some of these thieves have committed huge crimes. It's called fraud. I'm pretty sure a few companies have even sold and exchanged credit card details. Let's hope they end up in jail one day."
Maurice attributes FreeOnes.com's most recent success to listening to its visitors and offering them what they want. The company's server park has been updated to assure site stability and fast loading speeds, and now is splitting its traffic by country to target specific markets.
The first version of FreeOnes.mobi is slated for an upcoming release, and Maurice said he's got some more projects up his sleeve but he doesn't want to spill the beans just yet.
For now he has no plans to stray from the FreeOnes brand and create any outside programs or events. Snow Gatherings are still on hold as a result of the drama and hassle that led to the cancellation of what was meant to be the second annual event, though he won't eliminate the idea 100 percent.
"Everything I do and everywhere I go I see business opportunities — that's a bit of my problem," Maurice said. "I often went snowboarding in Kaprun, Austria, and really liked that. Because there were no shows like this I thought it would be great to organize such a thing: Having fun in the snow and doing the ‘après ski' with cool people from the adult industry."
Maurice said offering a gay version of FreeOnes, as well as a similar portal for female visitors, both are somewhere on his project list but certainly aren't priorities — "The most important reason why it still hasn't been developed I guess is because I prefer women," Maurice laughed.
But whatever he does come out with next, he said he knows others are likely to copy the model, as he said many have in the past and continue to do today. But he's more proud than upset.
"As long as we are the ones making them up and being the first to launch them, we will always win over our competitors," Maurice said.