In our marketing materials you can find some assumptions regarding the growth of the number of users on the ccFOUND.com platform. This number translates into the revenue and income projections and thus an important question arises: why do we assume this kind of growth? Let us delve deeper into these numbers and what they mean.
For our projections, we have assumed what we believe to be a realistic growth structure, taking into account:
a) the scale of investment planned in ccFOUND,
b) we have a more educational profile than some of the social media that we analyzed.
We must also take into account that many of the platforms we examine have been around for a while and, for the most part, were established during a time when internet adoption was at a much lower level, however the market was not as saturated.
We first took a look at YouTube, which was launched in December of 2005. At the time, 8 million videos were being watched per day, hitting 100 million video views per day in July of 2006. Months later, in October of 2006, Google purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion. Viral videos are credited as having been the main factor of growth in the early days, videos like Charlie Bit My Finger, Evolution of Dance, David After the Dentist, and more. From 2006, when YouTube had roughly 20 million users per month, the site grew eightfold within two years to 160 million users per month in 2008. From 2008 to 2012, it grew fivefold, to 800 million users per month in 2012. The site grew to 1 billion monthly users in 2013, growing 10 to 20% annually in the years thereafter. YouTube remains a subsidiary of Google and has more than 2 billion users per month at present.
Now, we take Reddit on the table – a site that aggregates social news, discussions and web content. The site was founded in 2005, later being bought by Conde Nast Publications in October of 2006. Various rounds of funding took place over the years, but the majority stakeholder continues to be Advance Publications, Conde Nast’s parent company. Those behind the company’s initial growth say it wasn’t about creating community but jumping off a community that already exists and figuring out how to help them grow and serve them. In Reddit’s case, the initial audience were people interested in programming and engineering who read Paul Graham’s blog. It started small and focused, similar to the community ccFOUND is basing its user growth on. Amazon started as just books. eBay as a marketplace for collector’s items. Craigslist was an email list for events. Facebook was just college students rating each other. But, back to Reddit. It most of all gave its audience a way to have conversations that they couldn’t have elsewhere and a strong sense of belonging. Often things that we know today as popular, or mainstream, started out as tiny subreddits with early adopters. Reddit’s user base basically doubled every 12 months, steady but never explosive, up until 2015, when it grew around 25% per year. It now has around 430 million users per month. As of February 2021, Reddit ranks as the 18th-most-visited website in the world and 7th most-visited website in the U.S.
Moving on to Facebook, it was a definite late comer to the social networking market. Before it was LiveJournal, SixDegrees, Friendster and MySpace, among others. Some of them had massive, explosive growth, only to be shut down several years later. The site that grew the most, MySpace, even reached 100 million users and, for a time, was the most visited website in the US. Focus on advertising revenue and lack of focus on technology led to it ultimately losing the race to Facebook. Facebook rode the wave of consumers being open to such networks and had several case studies of what to avoid – among the most important lessons was to sustain controlled growth. Launching in 2004, Facebook first began as a Harvard network, expanding to other schools and corporate users. The site had 1 million monthly users in 2004, 5.5 million in 2005, 12 million in 2006, and 20 million in 2007. In 2008 there were 100 million monthly users, in 2010 608 million, and over one billion in 2012. The site now has 2.8 billion users.
Launched in 2003, everyone knows LinkedIn as the platform for business professionals. One of its founders Reid Hoffman had been on the board of Google, Ebay and PayPal, so he had solid experience. At the very beginning, after one month, it had 4,500 members, but surpassed 1 million users in 2004 when it added new capabilities. In 2005 it launched its jobs and subscriptions options and had over 4 million users. By 2007, there were 17 million people on LinkedIn, and by 2008, 33 million. In 2009, this number grew to 55 million, one year later to 85 million and when it hit the New York Stock Exchange in 2011, it had 135 million users. In 2013, this number grew to 225 million, now standing at 740 million members with over 50 million registered companies. Experts credit the site’s success with leveraging champions to drive early membership and once there was a critical mass, it was the network effect associated with using the platform that drove penetration.
And how about Quora? The question-and-answer website that describes itself as the “best source of knowledge” was founded in June 2009, and the website was made available to the public in 2010. Its founders were no strangers to the internet, having both previously worked at Facebook. The first traffic was generated by word of mouth and the founders say they did “nothing special” other than inviting friends of friends at the beginning. Users immediately took to the site due to its interface and quality of the answers, many of them written by experts in their fields. Experts were given a forum to express and engage in a structured manner, also the experienced founding team managed SEO extremely well. There were no ads on the site until 2018. In the beginning, the website had trouble handling the spiking traffic. In 2011, there were around 200 thousand unique monthly users, with over 1 million in 2012, and more than 3 million in 2013. There was huge growth in 2014 and in 2015, there were 80 million monthly active users, 100 million in 2016 and 200 million in 2017. There are now over 300 million unique monthly visitors, with the site having reached a plateau in 2018-2020.
And now, here’s Stack Exchange, a whole network of Q&A websites on diverse topics, where questions, answers and users go through a reputation award process, and which are self-moderating. The most viewed sites in the network are Stack Overflow, Super User, and Ask Ubuntu. Stack Overflow was created in 2008 for professional and enthusiast programmers and was sold on June 2, 2021, for $1.8 billion. Although user data is not readily available, in 2015, there were around 1 million registered users. As of 2021 Stack Overflow has over 14 million registered users and has received over 21 million questions and 31 million answers. The success of the sites is, according to experts, due to the founders addressing the need for developers to have a free, quality resource where they could get and give good answers. Despite the forum being free, combined within it are job listings, reputation points and privileges and it is also welcoming to established experts and new ones.
Last but certainly not least and in a category of its own, is Wikipedia. The free content encyclopedia was launched in 2001 and very quickly became one of the most popular sites in the world, entering the top ten in 2007. It now has more than 18 billion page views per month; however it depends entirely on donations from its user base for revenue.
Most of the sites we mention grew big very fast, with a huge initial jump. Like Stack Overflow and Reddit, ccFOUND bases its initial user base on an already existing group of users and isn’t starting from scratch. We project a tenfold growth of users over each of the first two years, in the third year – fivefold growth and then 50%, 105% and 15% and 10% thereafter, with a projected user base of 99 million in 2031. Our educational/wisdom focus has also been considered when comparing ccFOUND to sites like YouTube or Facebook.