How to create a high traffic blog

20 07 2019

I know this blog has a long way to go, but we are off to a good start. I am not an expert. I don’t have the experience. I gleaned good ideas and/or inspiration from each of these people and sites. If you intend to create a high traffic blog, apply the knowledge provided by these people.

 Steve PavlinaHow to Make Money From Your Blog – This post is not only about making money, it is about providing value in your blog. He is brutally honest in this post. Do you have what it takes?

Darren Rowse – His site Problogger.net provides value each day. I found this post valuable.

Wendy Piersallemomsathome.com provides value with every post. Her Values Conflict series (post 1, post 2, post 3) are great.

Brian Clark – His tips at copyblogger.com about writing on the internet are gold. A powerful post.

Richard MacManus – He compiles great information on next generation web technology at Read/Write Web. This post helped me understand social bookmarking.

Creating Passionate Users has four authors, Kathy Sierra, Bert Bates, Elisabeth Freeman, and Eric Freeman. This is a powerful post on writing by Kathy.

Lyman ReedCreating a Better Life linked to some of my first posts. Lyman gives great advice on dealing with comment trolls, ask him and he might tell you. 

Josh KaufmanHis blog and his concept of the Personal MBA inspired me to break through my own limiting beliefs about education and success.

Uncommon Business Ideas - It forces me to think outside my limiting beliefs.

Charles Haanel – In The Master Key System, Charles shows us how power lies within ourselves. I recommend this book to everyone, no matter what you want to accomplish.

The Balanced Life CenterThis blog inspires me to be the best I can be.

Seth Godin – Every post is a gem. But this one stood out.

Jonathan Leger – SEO tips. The advice in this post has worked wonders.

Steve at The Fast LaneThis post says it all. Do you intend to be successful? Then what do you think about?

Jakob Nielsen – This article from 1997 is buried treasure.

Tony ClarkSuccess from the Nest inspires me. The design is perfect. It’s simple and classy. Tony is living a lifestyle I intend to live.

The blog starter checklist on Squidoo.

Blog Carnival.com – Find your niche and join a carnival.

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How the evolution of websites is necessary to stay in business - Case Study: MSN.COM

17 07 2019

David Lithman ( Lithman ) did a post on the evolution of Yahoo! which did great things for his website. Here I am going to talk about another top ranking website, MSN.

Evolution is defined as ‘any process of formation or growth; development’. In order to be successful in the dot com industry, you must learn to adapt and evolve. Web sites have to stay current with the latest trends or they risk losing visitors, or even worse folding all together. MSN is the perfect example of an ever evolving website. Their new innovations and designs helped them not only survive the dot com bust, but come out even stronger. Today MSN is one of the most visted websites in the world and currently is ranked at number 2 on Alexa.

October 1996
This is one of the first captures of MSN on the internet. It is a pretty basic webpage with the only bit of colour coming from the advert for msCASH at the top. They also advertise their Microsoft Expedia travel service and Microsoft Investor. Their slogan is one I have never heard from them - MSN.com - Made Fresh Daily

Fast forward to November 1999 and we see a fully functional website set up with a host of MSN sub domains such as entertainment, games and sport. Note the old MSN logo - I have never seen that one before. Making the front page that day were the top wireless phones and something about ‘taking barbie on a trip’. What???? Also, you could have won a cool survival kit - You never what could have happened when the clock struck midnight and we entered the Y2K!

December 2000 saw the addition of the MSN logo we see everyday - however it has been spruced up for Christmas with snow etc. The webpage is very similar to the previous year except for the addition of new MSN services such as Maps and Bargain Center.

December 2001 saw a change in the look of the site. I personally find the brown and purple disgusting. They now have the MSN channels list up, but apart from that, the content is the same.

October 2002 saw the hideous brown header at the top go and was substituted with a girlish pink. The website looks very feminine now. Introduced here was a list of worldwide MSN sites but apart from that, nothing else new. Bring on another year.

November 2003 again saw a change in colour. The website is now all blue, yet the features are still the same. Front page is more content rich than subpages - similar to previous years. Hmmmm, not much going on..

Finally, a major change was seen ( July 2004) on the website. The layout completely changed and got itself a new user friendly interface. Each category is sectioned off nicely and there is a different colour for each area. The four most used tabs look appealing (my msn, hotmail, messenger, new search), and the subpages include adverts, interesting images etc. Heck, they even have a most searched section.
Notable items on site - the most stolen US vehicles & how to teach your child to ride a bike.. awww bless.

MSN didn’t hold out on that design for too long as in February 2005 they introduced another design which is more well known to me. Notable inclusions with this was MSN desktop (beta) and the ability to change colours. Nice.
MSN also ditched the array of colours and decided to stick with blue and white. Something for the better?? Perhaps…

2006 again saw a change in layout. The background is a brighter blue and MSN finally ditched the sidebar listing of categories. I thought that it was a pretty nice touch. A big new feature was the introduction of their 3D maps - to rival Google? - and QnA (beta).

Hit the present day and it all looks similar to 2006. And why not, seeing as the site has been changed enough times. The only slight difference I see is the page options where you have a choice of four exciting colours and extra stuff such as increasing the width of the page.

What this has shown you is that for websites to be a success, they gotta keep changing to meet the current trends. Okay, some of you may say Google has not done much to its layout -it has, just very slightly. Plus the array of services it provides is reason enough for it to be one of the greatest websites of all time.

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How to get your post dugg on Digg.

17 07 2019

Are you one of the millions of bloggers out there who are trying desperately to use the power of Digg, but can’t seem to get dugg? Are you foregoing the high ideals of user-powered content and just trying to send more traffic to your site? Then this information is for you.Stuart Brown took the time, effort and technological talents to attempt to answer the unanswerable, “How many Diggs do you need to make the homepage?” He set up a script that logged the average number of diggs per homepage story. The results are detailed and interesting to decipher. For example, most of the front page diggs occur between 6am and 8am, when most people are starting the work day. This is in stark contrast with the people I know who spend most of their work day reading blog posts and digging them. By the way, you didn’t hear that from me.

Read it for yourself. It’s a well thought out post with solid data to back it up.

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3 Internet Marketing Tools you need to use, but probably aren’t

13 07 2019

If you are using the Internet to market yourself, your company or your service, you certainly know there is no lack of expensive tools being promoted promising you a flood of free traffic simply by turning them “on”.

We all get the same emails, from the same relatively small group of “Gurus”, promoting the next ” Secret Weapon” that you need to add to your internet marketing arsenal if you have any expectation of making big money online. And of course, we all know how the story ends -you are out 27, 47 or 67 bucks, ( or much more ) and the fantastic piece of promised software doesn’t work at all, or as advertised, or rarely, does work well but 3 months later is discounted by the search engines and all of your sites are de-indexed and you are back to square one.

The truth is - for those of us in the know - other than a few requisite must have tools - most of the things you really need to effectively market your product, service or site can be found for free.

The three tools below are just a few of those resources - I picked one from each major search engine to illustrate just how much competitive intelligence you can get - for nothing - if you know where to look!

MSN Search Funnel

This is a bit of a buggy, beta tool from MSN - but it is really a gift if you are trying to quickly identify search funnel patterns in your niche or chosen industry. Essentially - you type in your keyword phrase and tell the tool whether you are trying to identify “incoming” or “outgoing” funnels - and MSN will query their database and give you the search patterns that identify words that either precede the search or follow it. For example, want to know what people search for after immediately after typing in ” dog food” ? All you need to do is type in “dog food” and MSN will spit back out a nice little funnel tree, showing you logical progression that their users follow after keying in your seed word! You can * dig* down or out several levels deep with this great free tool to get into the mindset of your potential customer or website visitor. It’s amazing and powerful stuff as not only does it illuminate the key word map as your potential site visitor “finds” you and your site, it also gives the strategic marketer a window into the mindset that gets them there. Still a beta tool ( meaning it’s reliability might not be as good as it’s going to get ) but get in on this now, before your competition does!

Google Trends

Google offers a great free service that follows the trends and patterns of different markets, regions and volume. This is a finger on the pulse tool - keeping you abreast of what is hot now - what was hot then - and what will be hot when. Want to compare two different power phrases for your market - to see which ones are hot during which seasons? Google trends will give you that kind of targeted seasonal related information. Want to know what specific geographical areas are most likely to be searching for your product or service? You got it. And again - for free. How about what what is popular right now - keywords, news and blogs? It’s all right there for you to jump on. Compare what news is hot on the wire and compare that against the blogs that are editorializing the same stories side by side. Really powerful stuff. Graphs showing historical trends on your keyword topic and industry, with newstories iluminating the high points on the spikes so you can see live links that successfully drove momentum in the market. If you are a proactive sort of person and want to zero in on exactly the what and when of your market, if you use Press Releases and Articles in your online marketing, this is a must have free tool to add to your marketing mix.

Yahoo Buzz

Yahoo Buzz is like a professional bloggers fantasy - a hyperlinked heaven of everything buzz worthy in the blogosphere. If you have a blog, and you have readers, well - you need to be checking out yahoo buzz. It will tell you what is popular today, right now - what is related to what is popular today and how you can get in on the action. Looking for some easy low hanging fruit in your keyword search universe? Well - using a little bit of simple ingenuity and creativity you can get major traffic surges to your blog or website simply by *posting* and joining the conversation on any number of popular topics.

Yahoo Buzz will show you how to leverage the related points on interest within the blog universe so you can hone in and jump on a popular topic by keying in on tangential, but highly related keywords. For example, as of this writing in July of 2019, “the Transformers” is the topic Du Jour in the blog universe. Not going to be too easy to rank for that, right? Megan Fox, one of the stars of the movie, trails just a little behind in popular searches. Not going to be easy to rank well for her either. But - did you know she is engaged to Brian Austin Greene ( of Beverly Hills 90210 fame)? I didn’t - ( until I logged into Buzz this morning) and It’s not going to be too tough to rank well for him.

Further, because according to Yahoo Buzz, you know that his search popularity has gone up over 200% since the movie has been released, a little creativity and effort should give your blog a huge boost if you can say something funny or topical ( how about - what could she possibly be thinking - or even better - post a video on Youtube of that terrible Vanilla Ice-esqe rap album he released a few years back branded back to your site - maybe with a recent picture of the two of them at the movie Premiere.  and if you running contextual ads on your site, your bank account will thank you ( and yahoo) for the effort!  

Remember - there are lots of free tools out there if you know where to look. You don’t need to settle for the ones that the “Gurus” would have you believe you need to make a living online.

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Gays not wanted on Facebook

13 07 2019

I read this on the train this morning and thought I would post it up and put it on to Digg. I just wanna see how much Digg traffic I can get.

logo_facebook-rgb-7inch-785733.jpg

Billed as the ’social utility’ that connects you with the people around you, Facebook has taken the world by storm. More than 30 million people have signed up to the site, but if you happem to be called Gay, you may run into a problem.

It has emerged that the website has banned the surname Gay - and prompts users to enter a legitimate name instead. Also banned are Ben Cock, Elvis Presley and Mickey Mouse. However strange names such as Helen Smart A** and Chris Dogs B******* are all acceptable.  :???:

Yannick Gay from London, admitted you have to have a sense of humour when born with the surname Gay, but said it was unreasonable for the site to ban his name.

Facebook was contacted yesterday but had nothing to say.

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Ashwin’s Blog Extravaganza!! Win $2500

11 07 2019

John Chow uses it, Stephen Fung uses it. Hell, even John Cow is using it. What am I talking about?? Its a blog competition! Some bloggers may not be aware of the power of running a competition. People like free stuff. John Chow has been giving away free stuff on his site and look at his stats! They are incredible!

So to my competition, aptly named Ashwin’s blog extravaganza. You could win $2500 worth of cold, hard cash by entering alone! To do so, just post this on your blog:

Over at Ashwin’s blog, you will find one crazy blog owner!! You can win $2500!! To enter just copy this text and paste it in your blog!! But hurry, this competition will not last long! So get posting!

So all you readers, what are you waiting for?? $2500 could be yours!

 UPDATE: So I woke up this morning and found a whole host of emails and some comments about my competition . Here I will answer some questions.

Closing Date: As its quite a big prize, the closing date will be the 20th of August. Also the payment will be sent by PayPal as it is more secure than sending a cheque. Hopefully you all have a PayPal account.

Finally, I would like to say to all you doubters that this is a genuine competition. Heck, I thought a competition like this would spur some interest and get visitors to my site. I thought I might as well use the $2500 in a blog competition rather than spend it on Google Adwords or something. The $2500 is made up of earnings from my previous sites and donations from them also.  :smile: 

Please feel free to comment or ask a question.

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The Secret to Web Success

10 07 2019

As Scobleizer puts it, the secret to web success is “anti-marketing”. Here he recalls meeting Markus Frind.

At the Northern Voice conference I met Markus Frind, founder of Plentyoffish.com. He’s Google’s #1 Adsense user in Canada. His site is pulling in more than $10,000 per day from Google, he told me, and has millions of passionate users. Tens of millions of page views EVERY DAY. Whew!

What’s the secret to his success? Ugly design. I call it “anti-marketing design.”

Huh?

He says that sites that have ugly designs are well known to pull more revenue, be more sticky, build better brands, and generally be more fun to participate in, than sites with beautiful designs.

Ahh, yet another example of anti-marketing marketing.

He joins a good list. Google. Is it pretty? No. Craig’s List? Pretty? No. MySpace? Pretty? No.

He says he designed his site to be easy to use, fast to load, and uncluttered, but he didn’t pick pretty colors or fonts. He did, however, spend a lot of time learning how search engines indexed their contents.

Why does anti-marketing design work? Well, for one, big companies will never do a site that doesn’t look pretty. Why? Cause of the prevailing belief that great brands need to be beautiful. Look at what corporate branding experts study. Apple. Target. BMW. Everything those guys do is beautiful. Aesthetic. Crafted by committees of ad marketing department experts.

But, go deeper: we’re sick of committee-driven marketing. We don’t believe it. If we ever did. We’ve built a bulls**t filter that filters out well-designed things in a commercial context. We trust things more when they look like they were done for the love of it rather than the sheer commercial value of it. That’s why my Channel 9 videos work. What kind of company committee could come up with something like that? Let some goofy guy with a goofy laugh go around with a cheap camcorder, no lights, no makeup, no editing and record conversations? Fire the guy who came up with that!
Look at Plentyoffish again. It was designed and coded by one guy: Markus. Seriously. One guy did that and is making all that cash. No committees. No experts. Just a guy who wanted to learn to program and did.

Oh, and I love that he picked .NET to code his site. It’s all running in .NET 2.0 and you should hear the praises he has for .NET. I wish I could film him and put him on Channel 9. It’d end all the talk that Windows isn’t scalable, isn’t secure, and can’t keep up a highly trafficed site.

But, back to the anti-marketing design. I think I accidentally fell into this as well. My design is ugly. Anti-marketing. Why? Because I wanted to make it fast. I didn’t choose a pretty font because doing so would have added a little bit of weight to my CSS file. Does this matter? I think it does. I read a LOT of blogs on my cell phone and mine loads WAY faster than many blogs out there.

It’s amazing how few corporate types get that the quality and engineering thought behind your HTML matters more than whether your site is pretty or not.

Maybe MySpace is kicking blogging’s behind because most blogs are simply too pretty!

By the way, his anti-marketing message continues right to his about page.

If it’s ugly is authentic. Not corporate. It is good. No?

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15 websites that changed the world

10 07 2019

1. eBay.com

Founded: Pierre Omidyar, 1995, US

Users: 168m

What is it? Auction and shopping site

You cannot buy fireworks, guns, franking machines, animals or lock-picking devices on eBay, the internet’s premier auction site, but almost everything else is OK: sideburns, houses, used underwear and of course Pez dispensers.

Pez is where it is said to have all begun for eBay’s ponytailed founder Pierre Omidyar when he responded to his fiancee’s worries that she would no longer be able to expand her toy collection when they moved to Silicon Valley. Omidyar developed a car boot sale anyone could use wherever they were, and without the need for getting dressed. The name sprang from Echo Bay Technology Group, Omidyar’s consultancy company, and the first sale was a broken laser pointer.

Things have moved on a little since then. We spend more time on eBay than any other internet site. There are more than 10 million users in the UK. And eBay is far from just a second-hand stall. New items are sold by global companies; many people have abandoned their jobs to eBay full time, and normally sane people fret about ‘negative feedback’ and being outbid by ’snipers’. eBay owns PayPal and Skype, making dealing almost effortless.

2. wikipedia.com

Founded: Jimmy Wales, 2001, US

Users: 912,000 visits per day

What is it? Online encyclopaedia

As a young boy growing up in Hunstville, Alabama, Jimmy Wales attended a one-room school, sharing his classes with only three other children. Here he spent ‘many hours poring over encyclopaedias’, and faced the familiar frustrations: their scope was conservative; they were hard to navigate and often out of date.

In January 2001 he created a solution. Wikipedia was a free online encyclopaedia and differed from its predecessors in one fundamental regard: it was open to everyone to read, and also to edit. If you had something to add - from a pedantic correction to an entire entry on your specialist subject - the Wiki template made this easy. The software enables entries to be updated within minutes of new developments. There is nothing you cannot find - how best to make glass, the use of the nappy in space exploration - and if something isn’t there, you may wish to take matters into your own hands.

Like any fast-moving venture - the site attracts 2,000-plus page requests a second - it has not been slow to attract criticism. Occasionally a libellous article will lie undetected for months, as happened with an entry linking one of Robert Kennedy’s aides with his assassination. But Wales says his creation is abused only rarely, and swiftly corrected by other users. ‘Those who use Wikipedia a lot appreciate its true value and have learnt to trust it,’ he says. ‘Sometimes a prankster will substitute a picture of Hitler for George Bush, and within an hour someone would have changed it back.’

3. napster.com

Founded: Shawn Fanning, 1999, US

Users: 500,000 paying subscribers

What is it? File sharing site

Shawn Fanning created Napster in 1999 while studying at Boston’s Northeastern University, as a means of sharing music files with his fellow students. Of course, it was entirely illegal (home taping kills music, remember) and was quickly attacked by a mainstream music industry already struggling to make profits on its money-guzzling artists. Its popularity reached a peak in 2000 with over 70 million registered users before Fanning’s company was forced to pay millions of dollars in backdated royalties: a move which bankrupted the original, free-to-use Napster the following year. By then, however, the premature leaking and sharing of hotly anticipated albums by some of the major labels’ most bankable artists had proved to be a stimulant, not a thief, of sales once the CD version was released. The new Napster - effectively a renamed version of a pay-to-download MP3 site owned by the original Napster company’s buyers, the German giant Bertelsmann- has never recaptured its original cool, precisely because it is now legitimate. What it did in its brief period of illegal notoriety was popularise the notion that making music freely available on the internet - through MySpace, one-off downloads or artist-sanctioned ‘leaks’ - does artists no harm at all; indeed, it’s helped to launch the careers of many.

4. youtube.com

Founded: Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, 2005, US

Users: 100m clips watched a day

What is it? Video sharing site

When Chad Hurley and Steve Chen began working out of a garage in San Mateo in late 2004 to figure out an easy way to upload and share funny videos they’d taken at a dinner party, they had no idea just how huge an impact their creation would make. The former PayPal employees launched the user-friendly site in February 2005 and it has since become one of the most popular sites on the net, with YouTube claiming that 100 million clips are watched every day. Through the grassroots power of the internet and good word-of-mouth, the site quickly went from a place where people shared homemade video clips to users posting long-lost TV and film gems such as bloopers from Seventies game shows to ancient music videos. It has also taken off as a place for amateur film-makers to show off their talents - take David Lehre, a teenager whose MySpace: The Movie became such a popular clip he’s already fielded job offers from major movie studios.

Not all television studios immediately embraced the idea of their archived copyrighted footage being shared. ‘We’re not here to steal,’ insists Chen. ‘When [US television network] NBC asked us to take something down, we did.’ In fact, NBC only last week announced plans to work alongside YouTube, airing exclusive clips and trailers and eventually hoping to post episodes of The Office and Saturday Night Live on it. The company has had several offers to be bought out, but the pair swear they will not sell out. They continue to work out of their San Mateo loft, overseeing 27 employees and developing ways to make the site easier to use while whirling lucrative deals with studios.

5. blogger.com

Founded: Evan Williams, 1999, US

Users: 18.5m unique visitors

What is it? Weblog publishing system

There weren’t too many computers lying around in the cornfields of Nebraska in the 1970s when Evan Williams was growing up. But he was drawn to them when he found them. He was also drawn west, to California in the 1990s. Williams founded Pyra Labs with two friends. At first it made project-management software for companies. It was not glamorous. Then it made Blogger and changed the world.

‘The funny thing was I actually hesitated before working on Blogger because I didn’t see the commercial applications,’ says Williams. ‘We had started a company and we needed to make money. We didn’t see how this little hobbyist activity was going to make anyone money.’

The little hobbyist activity was blogging, the art of keeping a weblog - of diarising, theorising, satirising, fictionalising your life and observations online. It had already taken off among the tech fraternity in the Nineties, but it required building and maintaining your own website; the luddites were excluded. Williams created a tool that made self-publishing online as user-friendly as word-processing. It is hard to exaggerate the importance of this innovation. It didn’t just create a new form of creative expression, it turned the media upside down.

Content was once made by companies for passive consumption by people. After Blogger, people were the content. They wrote about and read about their friends, their opinions, their cats. (There was a lot about cats in the early blogs.) None had a huge audience but collectively they were massive. ‘Now you see TV networks saying: “We’ve gotta get on the web because that’s where the audience is,”‘ says Williams.

There is no accurate count of the number of blogs in existence now. There are millions. One is created every minute. The revolution might have been possible without Blogger but it would have taken everyone a lot longer.

‘Something like it would have existed anyway,’ says Williams. ‘And lots of things like it do exist. It was a combination of helping push an idea as well as just being in the right place at the right time when the idea was right.’

6. friendsreunited.com

Founded: Steve and Julie Pankhurst, 1999, UK

Users: 15m

What is it? School reunion site

In July 2000, as the dreams of the internet boom crumbled around them, a husband-and-wife team were busy launching a rough and ready web phenomenon. Friends Reunited, which was sold to ITV for £120m last December, was Julie Pankhurst’s brainchild. While pregnant, she became obsessed with finding out what her old friends had been up to since they left school. Her husband Steve, a computer programmer, had been brainstorming with his business partner Jason Porter for an original internet-based idea, and Julie suggested a website to cater for her newfound obsession. It took her some time to convince them. ‘In the end,’ says Steve, ‘I designed Friends Reunited just to shut her up.’

The site took off slowly, getting half a dozen hits per day, but everything changed at the start of 2001 when its lone server collapsed. ‘The Steve Wright show on Radio 2 had made us their website of the day. Tens of thousands of people had tried to access the site at the same time.’ Within a month membership rose from 3,000 to 19,000; the couple were working 18-hour days. Friends Reunited quickly became a household name and membership soared into the millions.

7. drudgereport.com

Founded: Matt Drudge, 1994, US

Users: 8-10m page views per day

What is it? News site

What began as a gossipy email newsletter has, since its first post in 1994, developed into one of the most powerful media outlets in American politics. Today the Drudge Report has evolved into a website, drudgereport.com, and its threadbare, no-frills design belies the scale of its influence. It received an estimated 3.5 billion hits in the last 12 months; visitors regard it as the first port of call for breaking news.

Fedora-wearing founder Matt Drudge monitors TV and the internet for rumours and stories which he posts as headlines on his site. For the most part these are direct links to traditional news sites, though occasionally Drudge writes the stories himself. In 1998 he was the first to break news of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Named this year as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people, the 38-year-old regards himself as a maverick newsman working free from the demands of editors and advertisers. Others, particularly critics from the left, view his reportage as biased towards conservatives, careless, malicious and frequently prone to error.

A report in 1997, alleging that White House assistant Sidney Blumenthal physically abused his wife, generated a $30m lawsuit against Drudge, which was dropped in 2001. In June 2004, Drudge apologised for a February ‘world exclusive’ claiming that John Kerry had had an affair with an intern.

Drudge has been labelled a ‘threat to democracy’ and an ‘idiot with a modem’ as well as ‘the kind of bold, entrepreneurial, free-wheeling, information-oriented outsider we need more of in this country’ (by Camille Paglia); his importance in the US media is undisputed.

8. myspace.com

Founded: Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe, 2003, US

Users: 100m

What is it? Social networking site

When business-school alumnus Chris DeWolfe set up the social networking site MySpace with his partner, ex-band member and film studies graduate Tom Anderson, three years ago, there was little indication that the one-stop online friend-making shop would soon boast 100 million members and more page visits in Britain than the BBC. The pair envisaged a site that would bring together all the qualities of existing online communities such as Friendster, Tribe.net and LiveJournal, with added features including classified adverts and events planning.

They got the formula just right: the MySpace-opolis is growing by 240,000 a day, making it the fourth most-visited website in the world. DeWolfe believes that the key to the site’s success is its founders’ rapport with the people who use it. ‘We looked at it from the point of view of how people live their lives,’ he says.

One of those features is the ability to upload and listen to music, which has attracted 2.2 million new bands and artists to the site, some of whom - most famously Lily Allen and Arctic Monkeys - can attribute their chart success to having spread the word through MySpace.

MySpace’s parent company, Intermix, was bought by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp last year for $580m, causing consternation among some of the music world’s more politicised acts, but no large-scale boycott. The site is simply too valuable and effective - and ubiquitous - to ignore.

9. amazon.com

Founded: Jeff Bezos, 1994, US

Users: More than 35m customers in over 250 countries

What is it? Online retailer, primarily of books, CDs and DVDs

The earth’s biggest bookstore was originally called Cadabra, but Jeff Bezos thought again after his lawyer misheard it as ‘cadaver’. He chose Amazon as something large and unstoppable and so, with current annual revenues of $8bn, it has proved. It was just a trickle to begin with though: the first office was in a Seattle suburb with desks made out of old doors. But it quickly became the headline act of the dotcom miracle and Bezos was Time magazine’s man of the year in 1999. Amazon’s continued dominance rests on price-slashing that would make Wal-Mart wince, and a reputation for reliability. Though selling books (and now almost everything else) on a vast scale, it has tried never to forget the value of intimacy.

10. slashdot.org

Founded: Rob Malda, 1997, US

Users: 5.5m per month

What is it? Technology news website and internet forum

‘I’m just a geek that likes to poke around with hardware,’ says Rob Malda. His site, Slashdot.org, hosts news and discussion for techies and is one of the most visited websites in the world. Time magazine included him in its top 100 innovators, stating: ‘Malda has taken the idea of what news can be, hacked it open and rebuilt it for the internet age.’

Most of the site is written by users; posts include a short synopsis paragraph, a link to the original story and a lengthy discussion sometimes running to 10,000 comments a day. Slashdot pioneered this user-driven content, and influenced sites including Google News, Guardian Unlimited and Wikipedia. In 2002 the site leaked the ruling of a court case involving Microsoft before the verdict had even been delivered to Microsoft or the US government. There is also the Slashdot effect, where a site is swamped by heavy traffic from a Slashdot link and its server collapses.

In 1997, 21-year-old Malda started what we would now call a blog, hosted on his user account at university. As the site picked up users he divided his time between college, paid work and the site. ‘It was a blur. There were many nights when I did not sleep.’ Two years later Andover bought Slashdot for $5m, shared between Malda, co-founder Jeff ‘Hemos’ Bates and other partners. They also shared $7m in stock between them. In 2000 VA Linux (now VA Software) bought Andover for $900m. Slashdot now has 10 employees dedicated to maintaining the site, most of them based in California. Malda has remained in Michigan, where he grew up and went to college. He is director of Slashdot. He proposed to his wife Kathleen on the site in 2002.

11. salon.com

Founded: David Talbot, 1995, US

Users: Between 2.5 and 3.5m unique visitors per month

What is it? Online magazine and media company Salon grew out of a strike. When the San Francisco Examiner was shut for a couple of weeks in 1994 a few of its journalists taught themselves HTML and had a go at doing a newspaper with new technology. They found the experience liberating, and David Talbot, the Examiner’s arts editor, subsequently gave up his job and launched the kind of online paper he had always wanted to work for. Salon was originally a forum for discussing books, but the editors quickly realised it had to be more journalistic than that. They aimed at creating a ’smart tabloid’, not afraid to be mischievous while maintaining a rigour with news. Talbot believes that online journalism came of age with the death of Princess Diana and the Lewinsky scandal. It proved with those events that it could be nimbler and more gossipy, it could update itself continually and, crucially, let readers join in. Salon’s Table Talk forum established a new relationship between a news outfit and its audience, letting readers write themselves into the story.

Salon was not afraid of muck-raking. When Talbot decided to run a story about Henry Hyde, who was to sit in judgment of Bill Clinton after the Starr report, he was roundly criticised not just by the entrenched Washington media but also by some on his own staff. The story concerned Hyde’s extramarital affair of 30 years before, and the more august sections of the American media, not to mention the right-wing impeachers of the President, thought this was beyond the pale. Talbot recalls how Salon ‘got bomb threats, I received death threats… [but] I think if as a new organisation that comes into the world, a new media operation, you don’t take risks with stories that no one else does, then what’s the point?’

For all its journalistic success, Salon has always struggled financially. A couple of times the site has nearly gone under; on one occasion Talbot was forced to fire his wife who ran a women’s page. A subscription system saved it, along with the growth in online advertising. These days Talbot sees Salon’s competitors as the big news organisations, the New York Times and so on, who have strong online presence. Having shown a few of them how it’s done, Salon now faces a daily battle to stay ahead of the game.

12. craigslist.org

Founded: Craig Newmark, 1995, US

Users: 4bn page views per month

What is it? A centralised network of online urban communities, featuring free classified advertisements and forums

Craigslist is one of the most deceptively simple websites on the internet. It is also one of the most powerful. It is - pretty much - simply a free noticeboard. But its astonishing popularity has given it immense power. Want to rent an apartment? Sell a car? Find a job? Meet someone to spend the night with? Craiglist will provide the answers. For free. It has revolutionised urban living in America. It has also undercut one of the main reasons for newspapers: classified advertising. As nearly all Craigslist’s content is free, it rarely censors ads and its readers number in the millions, it is far more useful to post an advert on the site than in your local newspaper. Thus a huge decline in newspaper ads and revenue, triggering cost-cutting which will see reporters tossed on to the scrap heap… and the end of a free press and democracy as we know it (if the critics are to be believed).

The website was founded by Craig Newmark, an ubergeek with a hippyish mentality. It started as a simple email that he would send around listing various events going on in San Francisco. From such humble beginnings Craigslist has grown into a multi-million-dollar business. Yet Newmark refuses to sell his company or charge for every ad.

Why should you care? Craigslist is all over the world - and coming to your home town soon.

13. google.com

Founded: Larry Page and Sergey Brin, 1998, US

Users: A billion search requests per day

What is it? Search engine and media corporation

Its name is listed as a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary. It commands the largest internet search engine in the world. It is the fastest-growing company in history and its founders are worth almost $13bn each.

The search method devised by Larry Page and Sergey Brin was instrumental to Goggle’s success. Rather than ranking results according to how many times the search term appeared on a page, their system measured the frequency with which a website was referenced by other sites. Another key factor was the site’s stripped-down design, which made it speedier and more accessible than its competitors.

From such plain foundations a gigantic empire has sprung and is branching out into email (with Gmail), news (Google News), price comparison (Froogle), cartography (Google Maps), literature (with the much contested Google Book Search), free telephony (Google Talk), and, most strikingly, Google Earth, an incredibly detailed virtual globe. Google styles itself as a laidback, hippyish organisation but its founding motto, ‘Don’t Be Evil’, is already being tested: the compromise it reached with China over censorship has proved particularly contentious.

14. yahoo.com

Founded: David Filo and JerryYang, 1994, US

Users: 400m

What is it? Internet portal and media corporation

It receives an average of 3.4bn page hits a day, making it the single most visited website on the internet, but in recent years Yahoo! has been eclipsed by Google. Both companies were launched on a very small scale by Stanford University graduates and, very soon the portal that Jerry Yang and David Filo had started as a hobby was en route to becoming the most popular search engine on the web. On the back of its early success, Yahoo! (an acronym for ‘Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle’) branched out into email, instant messaging, news, gaming, online shopping and an array of other services.

It also started buying up other companies such as Geocities, eGroups and the web radio company Broadcast.com. Yahoo! survived the internet collapse at the start of the decade and brought former Warner Bros chief exec Terry Semel on board in 2001 to navigate the difficult waters of the post-boom period. Semel began to address the challenge of making money out of the internet without relying on advertising revenue alone. Google notwithstanding, Yahoo! is still very much a contender.

15. easyjet.com

Founded: Stelios

Haji-Ioannou, 1995, UK

Users: 30m passengers last year

What is it?: Budget airline

It’s easy to forget what it was like back in the old days, when we didn’t just pay a tenner, pitch up at Luton and pop over to Rome for the weekend. We mini-breaked in Bournemouth. Travelling to Scotland was an all-day affair. Airlines issued quaint old-fashioned things such as meals. And tickets. And seats.

And then along came Stelios. That’s Stelios as in Haji-Ioannou, although he now, alongside Delia and Jamie and Sven, belongs in that rare category - the surnameless celebrity. He’s also that other elusive British beast - the celebrity entrepreneur. In 1995, after borrowing £30m from his dad, a shipping magnate, he leased two second-hand Boeings and began selling flights to Scotland for £29 each way.

EasyJet was the first low-cost British airline and, presciently, the first to start taking bookings over the internet, although, as Stelios admits, he wasn’t won over straight away.

‘We started off as something very obscure like 1145678.com. And I said: “This is never going to fill the planes. It’s just for nerds.” Then some time in 1997 we bought the domain easyjet.com for about £1,000 and put up a proper website. At that time we had the telephone number in big letters on the side of the plane. And we put a different telephone number on the website. Week after week I watched how quickly the numbers were growing and that gave me the confidence in April 1997 to launch a booking site.’

It was, he says, the neatest and simplest way: ‘you outsource the work to the customer’. And it turned him into an internet evangelical. The first company he set up after easyJet was easyInternetcafe and all 15 companies in the easyGroup have some sort of web component.

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