Internet companies with few employees but millions of users
The Internet has given even small companies the chance to reach a huge audience worldwide. This has resulted in a number of companies and organizations that provide services to a huge number of users in spite of having a relatively small number of employees.
The companies and organizations we’ve included here have at least an estimated 10 million users or more.
Automattic is famous for being the company behind the open source blogging software WordPress (WordPress.org) and the hosted blogging service WordPress.com. WordPress blogs are split almost 50-50 between the two, with 16 million blogs hosted on WordPress.com, while 16.7 million are self-hosted WordPress.org installations.
- Employees: 250
- Users: All Firefox users. The latest official version of Firefox, 3.6, has so far been downloaded almost 400 million times.
Mozilla is the company/organization behind Firefox, which is one of those open source projects that truly benefit from its surrounding community. As much as 40% of the work on Firefox is done by volunteers.
Firefox is of course far from the only project at Mozilla. There’s also the email client Thunderbird, to name one example. Firefox, though, is by far the project with the most users. Firefox has roughly 30% of the web browser market.
- Employees: 18
- Users: 12 million blogs on Tumblr
Tumblr was one of the big successes of 2010, and the rapidly growing blogging service is now hosting 12 million blogs. They’re on a hiring spree to catch up with their growing user base and the strains all that traffic has put on their infrastructure (they’ve had some wobbly times lately).
- Employees: 300
- Users: 175 million
Twitter has boosted its ranks significantly in the last couple of years to keep up with its explosive growth, but they still only have a staff of 300. Not that much considering the amount of users the service has.
- Employees: 757
- Users: 150 million users across all versions of the Opera web browser (desktop, mobile and other devices).
Opera is only the fifth-most-popular web browser (after IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari) on the desktop. However, the majority of Opera’s user base is due to Opera Mini, which is very common on mobile phones across the world. Opera is based in Norway, so we’re proud to call them neighbors (Pingdom is based in Sweden).
- Employees: 350+
- Users: Estimated to at least 12 million Ubuntu Linux users.
Canonical is the company behind Ubuntu, the most popular Linux distribution on the desktop, and second-most-popular on servers. It’s also the most popular for use in cloud computing (virtual servers on the Internet, we presume, we’re quoting Canonical).
- Employees: 57
- Users: Wikipedia has more than 408 million monthly visitors.
Wikimedia Foundation is the organization that operates Wikipedia and several other similar wiki projects. Wikipedia’s content has famously been created by hundreds of thousands of people through the years. There are currently more than 100,000 volunteers who write and edit Wikipedia (and its much smaller sister projects).
- Employees: 500
- Users: 560+ million (and that was a year ago, the number should be higher now)
- Employees: 30
- Users: More than 50 million in the United States each month.
Craigslist, offering free classified advertisements online, has been around since 1996 (it began life as a mailing list in 1995). In other words, it’s a real web veteran, and it’s probably quite a surprise to most to see that they have so few employees. And note that the number of users we mentioned here is just for the United States. Craigslist is also available in other countries.
We almost included Facebook in this article, but we didn’t really think they were small enough anymore (Facebook has more than 2000 employees). We would have also loved to include ourselves, but Pingdom isn’t quite there yet…
Can you imagine a traditional, “offline” company managing these kinds of user numbers with a moderate number of employees? Probably not, right? These numbers only really become possible in the economy that the Internet and the World Wide Web has given us. It’s a true gift to all those tech-savvy entrepreneurs out there. You can accomplish great things with just a small team.
Data sources: Aside from the articles we’ve linked to, most of these companies have the number of employees (and sometimes users) readily available on their website. Where possible, we used those sources to get the most up-to-date information.
Photo credit: Crowd pic courtesy of Anirudh Koul.