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The early buzz about some of today’s most popular websites

We all know which sites are popular today, but at one point they were new up-and-comers with an uncertain future. What was the buzz around these websites when they were just getting started? What was being said? We’ve done the digging so you can do the reading.

We looked for early mentions of YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Google in the press and blogosphere.

Early buzz about YouTube, launched in 2005

YouTube launched in February 2005. Today it is the 3rd most popular site in the world according to Alexa and people are watching hundreds of millions of videos every day on the site. In November 2006 YouTube was already such a huge success that Google bought it for $1.65 billion.

TechCrunch about YouTube, August 2005:

The service has recently been launched but seems to have quite a few users who have posted lots of content. Our absolute favorite is Matt Dances around the World. It shows an ex-programmer who’s travelling the world and dancing at famous locations – it’s awesome and very popular on the site. Other favorites are this and this (that’s me in the red shirt. ok, not) (how do people do this?).

I suspect YouTube will be quickly acquired and/or duplicated. We love it.

SiliconBeat about YouTube, August 2005:

Check out YouTube, the Palo Alto start-up that launched earlier this year.

Slashdot pointed us to it. YouTube is the latest “folksonomy” website, similar to Flickr, except that it is for sharing and hosting short video clips instead of photos.

[…] So we have no idea how YouTube plans to make money off this.

GigaOM about YouTube, October 2005:

The Web 2.0 funding frenzy is in full effect. YouTube, a self described “Flickr of Video” was one day being told to go raise less than a million dollars and grow the business. A few weeks later the word is that they have raised $5 million from Sequoia Capital at pre-money valuation of $15 million.

USA Today about YouTube, Nov 2005:

YouTube, Vimeo, Sharkle, ClipShack and Blip.tv all aim to be video versions of Flickr, the Yahoo-owned site that has drawn millions of people who post photographs, then discuss them.

[…] But YouTube, by far the largest of the independent video sites, says it has more than 200,000 registered users and is showing more than 2 million videos per day. YouTube recently raised $3.5 million in funding from Sequoia Capital.

Mashable about YouTube, December 2005:

Nathan Weinberg at Inside Google is claiming that YouTube (YouTube) has moved ahead of Google Video (Google Video) in terms of popularity. I totally agree. But it’s not just Google (Google) – these guys have moved ahead of everybody!

[...] YouTube is way ahead of many of these services – YouTube videos are appearing on blogs and websites all over the place.

Early buzz about Wikipedia, launched in 2001

Wikipedia launched in January 2001 and has, as everyone knows, become a hugely successful free online encyclopedia. Today the site has 13 million articles (over 2.9 million in English alone). Wikipedia is the 7th most popular site in the world according to Alexa.

NY Times about Wikipedia, September 2001:

Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.com) is one such site, a place where 100 or so volunteers have been working since January to compile a free encyclopedia. Using a relatively unknown and simple software tool called Wiki, they are involved in a kind of virtual barn-raising.

Their work, which so far consists of some 10,000 entries ranging from Abba to zygote, in some ways resembles the ad hoc effort that went into building the Linux operating system.

NY Times about Wikipedia, December 2001:

The most ambitious Wiki project to date applies this governing principle to the encyclopedia, that Enlightenment-era icon of human intelligence. The result is the Wikipedia, created in early 2001 by a philosophy Ph.D. named Larry Sanger and billed as ”a collaborative project to produce a complete encyclopedia from scratch.” Wikipedia has attracted more than 1,000 new entries a month on everything from astronomy to the visual arts. With a total of 16,000 articles in the database, the Wikipedia is already large enough to be a source of generally reliable information, though stronger in some areas (”Star Trek” spinoffs) than others (the novels of Charles Dickens).

Early buzz about Facebook, launched in 2004

Facebook launched in February 2004 (initially as “The Facebook” and located at thefacebook.com) and is the largest social network today with more than 200 million users. It is the 4th most popular site in the world according to Alexa.

The Harvard Crimson about Facebook, March 2004:

But users of both sites said it would be unlikely for Greenspan’s site to achieve the remarkable success of Zuckerberg’s, which ballooned in its second week from 650 to over 4,000 members.

[...] “The FaceNet isn’t as easy to use as thefacebook.com. It might be too little, too late,” said Miller. “It will be hard to compete with thefacebook.com when thefacebook.com already has about 5,000 members and lots of momentum.”

The Daily Californian about Facebook, April 2004:

The latest online networking fad hit UC Berkeley like a whirlwind this month, sending thousands of students into a cyber-stalking frenzy and a quest to collect friends like baseball cards.

Thefacebook.com is the next popular Web site to arise out of the ashes of the Friendster.com phenomenon.

Wired about Facebook, June 2004:

Maya Chard-Yaron, 19, was poked about 10 times last week. But rather than getting annoyed at the unsolicited jabs, Chard-Yaron kind of enjoyed it — especially since friends and acquaintances were doing the poking through a social-networking website, Thefacebook.

[...] The site’s founders are banking on its long-term health. Though the costs of running it have increased from about $85 to almost $3,000 a month, Thefacebook is now self-sufficient, thanks to an influx of ad revenue, Hughes said. Ads from search powerhouse Google will pay for the site for a while, Zuckerberg said.

The Phoenix about Facebook, November 2004:

Has instant messenger been replaced? The Facebook phenomenon has struck Loyola and is capturing many students’ free time. The Facebook, www.thefacebook.com, is essentially a voluntary online directory of students at colleges across the country.

Early buzz about Twitter, launched in 2006

Twitter launched publicly in July 2006, and in 2007 the service really started to take off. Today Twitter is everywhere, it seems. It is the 30th most popular site in the world (14th in the United States) according to Alexa and easily the world’s most popular micro-blogging service.

The Washington Post about Twitter, November 2006:

For the ultimate in solipsism, check out Twitter.com, a site where — once you register — you can answer the question “What are you doing?” At 7:47 am on Monday, for example, Lynda was going to get a glass of cold water.

TUAW about Twitter, December 2006:

Twitter is another new-ish service that has also weaseled its way into my daily activities (they launched this past summer). While there are a few explanations for what Twitter really is and does, I like to think of it as a ‘status message for your life.’

CNET about Twitter, March 2007:

One question heard more than any other this week at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi), “Are you on Twitter?”

I have to admit that I’m not–yet. So, the first time I heard the question, which was literally as I was getting off the plane and encountering dozens of familiar faces, I wasn’t sure what these folks were talking about.

Newsweek about Twitter, 2007 (month unsure):

Twitter has become the viral craze du jour and traffic is booming. The lightning speed of its adoption, though, has cast doubts on its staying power. People can’t decide whether it’s the next YouTube or the digital equivalent of a hula hoop.

Cox News Service about Twitter, April 2007:

The application is run by Obvious Corp., a small company in San Francisco. Jack Dorsey, who created the technology seven months ago, said the company doesn’t disclose how many users it has, but said the number has been doubling every three weeks. The San Francisco Chronicle recently pegged the number at 60,000, but that could have doubled by now.

Early buzz about Flickr, launched in 2004

Flickr launched in February 2004, just like Facebook, and is today arguably the most popular photo-sharing site in the world, hosting more than 3.6 billion images. Flickr is the 31st most popular site in the world (18th in the United States) according to Alexa. Yahoo bought Flickr back in March 2005 (if anyone knows for how much, let us know).

The Guardian about Flickr, February 2004:

Ludicorp’s Flickr, which could become a hot site, also has a function: sharing photos. It started with the basic idea: “What if we put live chat together with social networks and enabled people to share media with one another in real time?”

The Christian Science Monitor about Flickr, November 2004:

For those who choose to subscribe to the service and post their images online, Flickr offers free personal webpages with a 10 MB per month upload limit and a restricted feature set. (More features, more bandwidth, and a promise of ad-free browsing are some of the perks available for an annual fee.)

Forbes about Flickr, November 2004:

I tried a new service called Flickr, created by a company called Ludicorp, based in Vancouver, Canada. It’s still in beta. After using it once, I became fascinated by the potential of instantly publishing photos taken on a camera phone.

Wired about Flickr, December 2004:

Flickr is a new breed of photo site offered by Vancouver’s Ludicorp. It takes the online posting capability offered by photo printing sites like Ofoto or Snapfish and adds a palette of features that make images easier to share.

[...] “It’s kind of like trying to describe why Blogger.com was wonderful in 1999,” Haughey said. “Flickr’s really onto something. They’re going to blow up like Blogger eventually.”

Salon.com about Flickr, December 2004:

Flickr allows its more than 176,000 members to meet each other through both images and words in an ever-evolving visual playground. The onslaught of images that appear on the site range from the truly artistic to the bluntly documentary, a pool of more than 2.2 million photos that’s growing at the rate of about 30,000 a day. What’s unique is that 82 percent of the pictures on the site are publicly available to anyone who cares to look at them and riff off them.

Early buzz about Google, launched in 1998

Although Google as a research project began in 1996, the official launch of Google was back in September 1998. Today Google is, as you all know, the world’s dominant search engine and Google.com is the most popular site in the world according to Alexa (they’ve done pretty well for themselves…).

Suite101 about Google, July 1998:

In the split-second world of the Internet, search engines like Yahoo and Alta Vista, founded in 1994 and 1995, are considered “established” and past their youth. New search engines are continually being created, and it’s safe to assume that many of them won’t survive. Three that seem to have good prospects for commercial success are PlanetSearch, Google, and GoTo.com.

[...] Despite a name that sounds like a baby babbling, Google (http://google.stanford.edu) is all business. (The name Google is actually derived from the mathematical term googol meaning 10^100. Please don’t ask me to explain.)

Salon.com about Google, November 1998:

There is a better way to build a search engine. And a Silicon Valley start-up company with the unlikely name of Google.com is showing the way.

[...] Google isn’t a finished product yet. Its creators, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, started their company only three months ago, and the Google.com home page calls itself an “alpha test.”

Page says the current version of Google, which has indexed about 60 million pages, will continue to be improved as the company expands. He adds that the search tool, which is running on Linux systems, ought to “scale up” well as the Web keeps growing.

Forbes about Google, September 1999:

This site, founded by two Stanford Ph.D. candidates, is an uncluttered delight. No blinking ads or promos, just search.

It’s been fun tracking down these old quotes (resulting in plenty of chuckles here at Pingdom), although it wasn’t easy. We hope you liked it!

Judging by the comments we found, these websites were all doing something fundamentally right from the start, which probably did wonders for them in the long run since they didn’t have to carry around any luggage with early negative impressions. Success has no doubt been well deserved for all of them.

Do you have other very early quotes (or early memories) about these sites to share?



4 comments
Sergey Ilinsky
Sergey Ilinsky

I wonder how do they get all these well-respected media to react/write on something that has just been launched for several weeks/months ago and yet had not got any popularity, users base or sometimes even the technology in place?

Eric Anderson
Eric Anderson

I remember hearing abt Wikipedia way back in 2001-2002 and thinking it was a crazy idea doomed to failure. :)

Moody
Moody

Thanks for sharing. "Despite a name that sounds like a baby babbling, Google is..." Gotta love that one. If they'd only known back then that googling would become an actual word.

Bingboi
Bingboi

Excellent research and a fun read. It's hard to imagine these days that Facebook (or The Facebook :) ) was ever small, and not that long ago!

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