Zuckerberg facebook 248.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
In 1995, Craig Newmark founded a website where he could update his close friends and the local population on cool events in their surrounding area of San Francisco. In the first few years, he did not work on the site full time and described his activities (until this very day) as non-profit. The site was named Craigslist.org and the initial method of dispersion was word of mouth.
Today, Craigslist has over 9 billion hits a month, it has a listing in at least 450 cities and 50 countries, employs 24 workers, and is listed as one of the fifty fastest growing sites on the web.
Mark Zuckerberg founded his website in 2004 from his dorm room at Harvard University. He established the site so that students at the university could communicate with each other. At first, the site was open to Harvard students only, and just as it happened with Craigslist, the site became known by way of word of mouth.
As of 2008, Facebook has over 100 million users, 65 billion page impressions, over 400 employees and is estimated as being worth over $15 billion, at least by the fact that Microsoft bought a mere 1.6% of the company for $240 million.
The stories of Craigslist and Facebook are somewhat similar and are the type of stories I like to call 'garage' - stories that began as someone's hobby (in his 'garage') turn into a successful business and in some cases, empires. In some cases - even because of some 'error' - the inventor or entrepreneur made it happen without intending to - it just happened.
As I've already mentioned in my previous article, when there is a need, "all that is left" is to identify the content in such a way that it meets that need clearly. If you are the first to do it or at least the first to do it properly, your chances of success are high.
Another example where content is the most important component that can determine the success of a website is the [Matt] Drudge Report. The term 'minimal design' would be a compliment to this site. At first glance, the Drudge Report looks unimpressive - not more than a bunch of links and pictures, without a navigating menu or any impressive features. However, the site has over 15 million unique users per month (according to Drudge's statement a few days ago), over 20 million page impressions a day. And to be clear, it is a site that is run by two people and is simply composed of links to articles, which can be best summarized by one word: Interesting, or what Matt Drudge KNOWS will be of interest to his audience.
By the way, I am not saying that anything other than content is unimportant. There are many important features a site should have if it seeks to be successful, for example design or more specifically the site's architecture and html construct.
Another interesting aspect of such websites is the influence they have on the surroundings in which they operate, whether in the real world or the virtual one.
Craigslist for example, has become a synonym for all that is related to the threat of the impending demise of the classified section in the print newspapers. In 2007, the advertising budget for print media dropped 16% to $14.2 billion. Although Craigslist is not the only one to blame for the loss in print advertising budgets, it still has had an indisputable, decisive effect and poses a very serious threat to all advertisement listings that operate in areas where Craigslist is dominant. Also, in certain instances, when Craigslist has a strong presence in a specific city, it causes papers to shut down their classifieds sections.
The Drudge Report has used an especially simplistic format edited by only two employees, whose decisions at times play a major role in determining the national agenda (in the US). Furthermore, websites which have had their articles linked in the Drudge Report have enjoyed a sudden boost in visitor traffic numbering hundreds of thousands in a short period of time.
Unintentional success stories exist not only in the Internet worldâ€¦ History has taught us that quite a few brilliant inventions were discovered accidentally.
Thomas Edison for example, who invented the first efficient light bulb, accidentally discovered a unique electrical phenomenon which later led to the invention of television.
Radioactivity also came to life in a purely coincidental manner after French physicist Henry Becquerel wrapped a fluorescent substance in photographic plates and black material in preparation for an experiment requiring bright sunlight. However, prior to actually performing the experiment, Becquerel found that the photographic plates were fully exposed. This discovery led Becquerel to investigate the spontaneous emission of nuclear radiation.
One thing's for certain, all of the above inventions have one common denominator: They all answered a need. There's a simple lesson to be learned: Anyone can make it and you don't need millions of dollars from venture capitalists to become the next Google. Speaking of Google, the company started off, at least according to one legend, in a rented-out garage.
Amir Orni is the CEO of JPost.com
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