“I have 250,000 users, now what?”

Craig Ulliott is a web developer in Philadelphia, PA, USA. 3 weeks ago, he built the Where I’ve Been Facebook application, which lets you create a map for your profile page showing visitors where you’ve traveled. Cool experiment, right?

Where I've Been Facebook Travel AppWell, Where I’ve Been has struck a nerve with travelers, and now has over 400,000 users on Facebook! It’s creating serious challenges for Craig: keeping the servers running is getting pricey, and he’s not making any money from his app.

He recently wrote:

Well my application has become incredibly popular, and I’m very excited about it, don’t get me wrong!

But I’m a freelance developer, not a company, and its put a powerful 4GB $450 a month dedicated server on 3 backbones at maximum load and is pushing 2000GB a month in traffic. It doesn’t make me any money and I’m getting hundreds of comments and emails daily about it.

How can i support it and maintain it? What do i do with it now? its growing at a few users a second, so should i get another server each month?

Right now, Craig’s servers are holding on for dear life and he’s put out the donation hat hoping to get some help while he figures out what he’s going to do with Where I’ve Been.

This got me thinking: why wouldn’t someone come along and scoop up a few of the most popular Facebook apps on the cheap and build a little app network? (I’ve heard that RockYou and Slide are buying up apps, can anyone confirm this?)

Getting wide distribution within Facebook is harder than most people think.

[tags]facebook,apps,applications,whereivebeen,travel,acquisitions[/tags]

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40 Responses to ““I have 250,000 users, now what?””

  1. Insider Chatter by Donna Bogatin » How Facebook IS the Next Google says:

    [...] Are they right? After all, news of F8 “killer” application success is not lacking. [...]

  2. brandonmullins says:

    Justin –

    In response to your comment regarding a “Facebook App Conglomerate” which acquires & owns some of the most popular apps on Facebook is a great idea, and an idea I had even before this developer platform was announced at F8. If someone/company were to do this, the sooner the better; once these apps grow even larger in user base, and these apps can figure out a way to monetize their user base, the acquisition costs are going to be pricey.

    “(I’ve heard that RockYou and Slide are buying up apps, can anyone confirm this?)”…

    RockYou: Horoscopes(3.5 M), Slideshows(1.1 M)
    Slide: Top Friends (6.4 M), Slide Shows(91k)

    Brandon Mullins
    Co-Founder/CEO
    BookMesh.com

  3. Zuckerberg: the Greenspan of Facebook’s economy » mathewingram.com/work says:

    [...] actually using it in any real sense is debatable), or one like Where I’ve Been, which is the latest to experience rocket-fueled growth that is pushing the developer’s resources to the point where he is [...]

  4. Hoover’s Business Insight Zone » End-of-week updates. - Hoover's says:

    [...] –The success of Facebook’s new platform strategy comes at a cost — especially for the little guys. [...]

  5. Facebook News | NathenGrass.com says:

    [...] “I have 250,000 users, now what?” – I think his article hits the nail on the head about the issues a freelance developer will have if his app becomes very popular on Facebook. [...]

  6. The issues that ail Facebook Platform | King Gary says:

    [...] a map of the world and highlight what countries you’ve visited. The creator, Craig Ulliott, says that his application has been installed by nearly half a million users, and the bandwidth costs are nearing $500 a month. That’s a lot of money, considering that he [...]

  7. mind new media » The Facebook Problem says:

    [...] A week ago, I started thinking that there was a key problem with Facebook.  This problem is directly linked to the absolute strategic brilliance of the Facebook folks around the launch of the Facebook platform.  This problem is clearly articulated in in the post “I have 250,000 users, now what?” [...]

  8. Is Facebook a walled tumblelog? (with updates) « Marketing Nirvana says:

    [...] Is Facebook a walled tumblelog? (with updates) June 21, 2007 Posted by Mario Sundar in evangelizing technology, linkedin, social networking. trackback Quick Update: Feld Thoughts has stirred a mini-storm with his Facebook problem. His recent post summarizes what that problem with the new f8 platform is: None of these Facebook apps developers are deriving any real benefits (if you are a Facebook apps developer and ARE deriving a tangible benefit, other than customer acquisition within the Facebook infrastructure, please weigh in.)  In addition, Facebook has shifted all of the infrastructure costs to these apps developers, creating the “I have 250,000 users, now what?” problem. [...]

  9. I'm quitting, since I'm over 30 | Michael Gracie says:

    [...] 2: The money isn’t even there for [...]

  10. Blogging Away! » Blog Archive » Feld Thoughts - The Facebook Problem says:

    [...] I completely agree with Brad’s assessment of the Facebook problem.  The Problem: As of today, Facebook is deriving massive benefit in all the application development that they?ve enabled.  They?ve brilliantly created an open community that allows developers to quickly create applications that can rapidly acquire hundreds of thousands of users.  This dramatically extends the functionality of Facebook by offloading the R&D and feature development to the apps developers.  (How about all of them there adverbs ? I sound like a press release.) However, as far as I can tell, none of these Facebook apps developers are deriving any real benefits (if you are a Facebook apps developer and ARE deriving a tangible benefit, other than customer acquisition within the Facebook infrastructure, please weigh in.)  In addition, Facebook has shifted all of the infrastructure costs to these apps developers, creating the “I have 250,000 users, now what?? problem. [...]

  11. carnet says:

    Craig,

    There’s a new money collection Facebook app called Chipin (http://apps.facebook.com/mychipin) that you could put up a pretty cool widget to ask for donations. Maybe set up a monthly goal of $X to keep your app running? If each person that used your app donated $1 you could probably pay for lots of hosting and upgrades. Maybe donors can get access to a special version of your app that has a bit more features?

  12. Facebook apps at Scattered says:

    [...] The repercussion of contributing to a community through developing apps. [...]

  13. Will Facebook Take Over The Internet? | iFranky - ongoing live redesign. says:

    [...] Finally it seems other people start to think buy Facebook [...]

  14. amisare says:

    “It’s becoming fashionable to question Facebook’s importance recently.” so states Jeremy Liew in his blog “Top four multi-app companies on Facebook ” see link: http://lsvp.wordpress.com/2007/06/21/top-four-multi-app-companies-on-facebook/.

    Marc Andreessen put up a good post analyzing the facebook platform . See http://blog.pmarca.com/2007/06/analyzing_the_f.html

    See also Jeremy’s blog “Social Media: Facebook commoditizing the social map” at lsvp http://lsvp.wordpress.com/2007/06/13/social-media-facebook-commoditizing-the-social-map/

    Accoding to Jeremy Liew of lsvp in an interview with Inside FaceBook “The monetization path for widget companies is still evolving. The IAB is starting to address the issue of standards in widget advertising and social media advertising more broadly, and I think that this is one of the areas that will need to be resolved before we really see an explosion in widget advertising.” See a “VC Perspectives on Facebook Platform: Lightspeed’s Jeremy Liew” at link: http://www.insidefacebook.com/2007/06/17/vc-perspectives-on-facebook-platform-lightspeeds-jeremy-liew/

    “The first conference designed specifically for widget marketers” is to be held in NYC in 11 july 2007. Widgetcon 2007 was organised by Shervin Pishevar of Freemium. See link
    http://www.widgetcon.com/speakers.html

  15. I will not comment on a blog if I have to register first « Oatmeal Stout - Justin Thorp’s Web 2.0 blog says:

    [...] I was reading this interesting blog post on InsideFacebook.com about how a guy wrote a popular Facebook app and is now suffering because he is getting more users then his systems …. [...]

  16. Daily Links for 06/26/07 says:

    [...] “I have 250,000 users, now what?” (tags: Social Media facebook) [...]

  17. Swandives » Blog Archive » If you build it, they will come - by the millions says:

    [...] Inside Facebook has this really interesting article online about the developer of the Where I’ve Been widget for Facebook, the MySpace-esque social networking site for GenXers. I must admit that, against all better judgement, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying using the Facebook, as I’ve mentioned before. [...]

  18. Wistrel says:

    If people can suggest where they want to go can’t he sell that data to a travel agent? Totally evil I know but I doubt people will donate for a silly little map (fun though)

  19. The Facebook Problem: A New Perspective « J-Squared Media: Inside says:

    [...] post “I have 250,000 Users, Now What?” describes some of the growth problems on Facebook, and prominent bloggers such as Brad Feld have [...]

  20. Figuring out Facebook « methememe says:

    [...] Inside Facebook - an independent blog written by Justin Smith and Jonathan Lipps in Palo Alto, CA seem to concur in their brilliant post entitled ““I have 250,000 users, now what?” [...]

  21. Joining the Gold Rush on Facebook at Entrepreneur 27 Singapore - Web 2.0 Unconferences, Websites & Cool Tech from a Sunny Island at the Equator says:

    [...] you a Facebook application developer? Are you facing problems to maintain your popular app like the “Where I’ve been” guy? Well my application has become incredibly popular, and I’m very excited about it, don’t get [...]

  22. dantiernan.com Blog » Blog Archive » Facebook platform is so cool, no wonder Linked-In is reacting says:

    [...] As a 40-something professional focused on business applications, I have had little interest in using Facebook. But Facebooks new platform initiative compelled me to join. The world has been waiting for object-oriented solutions with plug-and-play integration for years. It’s still a long-ways away in business applications, but it looks like Facebook is off to a great start. I played around with this for an hour or so today and was impressed with some very cool independently developed services – like “Where I’ve been”. [...]

  23. eha2 » Facebook Developers, Application Advertising says:

    [...] In the end the only real sense in having a Facebook application, is to gain social fame, and possibly some awareness in your networks. Business on the other hand which target users who may be interested in a paid service, have the potential to make thousands by attracting the younger crowd with their flashy applications. Moral of the story is, don’t expect to make much with Facebook, you’ll likely be disappointed. [...]

  24. Facebook Fliers. And you can’t argue with 30,000,000 avid users « Green Tea Ice Cream says:

    [...] what are we left?  Facebook applications – but the potential required entry level infrastructure for a successful campaign via application is intimidatingly high for a little not-for-profit like [...]

  25. Butterflies breaking wheels. » Some Random Blog says:

    [...] numbers of Facebook users over a short space of time) has led to similar problems, where simple but popular applications are attracting more users than they can cope with and end up costing significant amounts of money to [...]

  26. Inside Facebook » Biggest Facebook App Acquisition Yet: TripAdvisor Acquires Where I've Been for Reported $3 Million says:

    [...] two months after asking, “I Have 250,000 Users, Now What?”, Craig Ulliott has an [...]

  27. VentureBeat » Facebook application bought for $3M — land grab still in progress says:

    [...] previously reported that founder Craig Ulliot complained in June that he had 250,000 users and expensive servers [...]

  28. All of My Ex-Girlfriends and Stuff « The Rupe says:

    [...] to want more, right. The funny thing is that when putting together FaceBook with GoogleNews, the “Where I’ve been”application with GoogleMaps, the send a virtual gift with Amazon, you can really start to see [...]

  29. All of My Ex-Girlfriends and Stuff « The Rupe says:

    [...] funny thing is that when putting together FaceBook with GoogleNews, the “Where I’ve been” application with GoogleMaps and Travelocity, the send a virtual gift with Amazon, you can [...]

  30. Cabe says:

    So, are you telling me that ads don’t really pay off? I was hoping to see some income after creating some apps for FB, but reading this blog just killed all my enthusiasm about doing it.

  31. social security says:

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  32. John Joseph says:

    Oh please, I don’t want to be rude but why don’t you find some travel related ads for your members or some sort of contribution they can make,donations,travel commentary,linked page of some sort, be real, promote something you like and make some money, send me half of it, good luck,

  33. Biggest Facebook App Acquisition Yet: TripAdvisor Reportedly Acquires Where I’ve Been for $3 Million (Update: TripAdvisor denies…) | Facebook Applications and Developers Directory says:

    [...] two months after asking, “I Have 250,000 Users, Now What?”, Craig Ulliott has an [...]

  34. PC says:

    email me i can buy your app !!!

  35. Amal Perera says:

    Cool post, Thanks a lot.

    Amal
    Top 100 Celebrities
    (Vote your favorite celebrity)
    http://apps.facebook.com/top_celebrities/

  36. Sell Your Facebook Application | theapptrader.com says:

    [...] play to Facebook users interests. However, for some developers successful applications can become a costly experience. As the number of people signed up to, and using, your Facebook application grows, the amount of [...]

  37. raj says:

    Is it maybe because the ad in the app isn’t above the fold? It’s not even visible on the page without scrolling the scroll bar. That reduces the chances that someone will click, no?

  38. ear gauges says:

    I was hoping to build a successful facebook app, but if i cant find a way to monetize, then th

  39. KPT says:

    The most difficult part in a facebook app is its hosting. Whether u have used FBML or other programming language in iFrame, it is very important to have a super fast facebook app.. With this huge amount of subscriber to your app it is time for you to start puting adverts to generate extra revenue. I am sure many products / services would like to reach out to your subscriber base.. Best of luck.. I am one of your subscriber and you have done a great job.

  40. Zynga, Pincus, And Embracing The Edge | Boris M. Silver says:

    [...] memories of my earliest days of building apps on the F8 Facebook platform. I remember Craig Ulliot posting about hitting 250k downloads on his app and not knowing how to handle all of the traffic. Keep in mind this was 2007 — Facebook with [...]

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