Article bookmarking and submission sites have become a commodity on the web today. There have been only a few veterans that have been around long before it was “cool” to have a site in the social news niche, and Drew Curtis’ Fark.com is one of them. Fark is social news with a twist: comedy. A great site to find tons of very interesting, funny, and just plain entertaining articles, Fark’s founder Drew Curtis was willing to sit down and answer a few questions for us regarding Fark.com. So if you’re a big fan of the site and want to learn a bit more about it’s creator, or if you’ve never heard of the site but are interested in social media marketing, please read on!
What is the idea behind Fark, and how did you come up with it?
The idea was to tell friends about news items I found interesting using as little effort as possible. Which I think is really interesting considering that in the years since all roads have lead to Twitter. The other concept was kinda blog-related, in that I liked that people were curating news for other audiences, but I didn’t like that their personal opinions crept into the mix. So I went the comedy angle. I have always liked comedy news.
What was Fark like in the early days, and how has it grown into what it is today?
It wasn’t a whole lot different. You can see exactly what it looked like in the archives. We’re pretty much the same with some more bells and whistles.
Were there any specific struggles you went through when just starting out that you can share with us?
We had an easier time of it because Fark wasn’t a business initially. On top of that, the ad market had collapsed so expectations were pretty much zero. It was kinda nice. We had the usual issues, getting traffic and getting notoriety, which are mostly the same things.
How does Fark compare to other sites in the social bookmarking niche like Digg and Reddit?
We don’t allow people to select links for us. What the vast majority of people like is crap. Even worse, the voting system is highly susceptible to spammers. I’m afraid that’s what’s going to happen to twitter at the end of the day. It’s going to turn into a spam-haven. They have no motivation to change this too, because spammers count as traffic. We don’t feel the same way about this. For example, we noticed that almost all of our traffic from China and India was spammers so we blocked both countries from Fark. Fuck em.
How did you come up with the slogan “It’s not news, it’s Fark”?
In the beginning I was interested in highlighting non-news in the media A couple things have changed since though.
1) non-news is now highly integrated into mainstream media to increase traffic and 2) we’ve started covering mainstream topics as well.
What type of backend is Fark built on (PHP, ASP.NET, Ruby on Rails, etc..)? Did you have anything to do with the actual programming and development of the site?
Perl, MySQL, Apache, FreeBSD. I did all the initial coding of the site, others are doing it now because I’m too busy. Having a coding background is great though, because I can call bullshit on their deadline estimates in some cases. I don’t know how people who run non-tech companies can do it.
How many members are there on Fark, and about how many visits does Fark get every month?
We’re closing in on 500k accounts and we get around 4 million unique, 20 million visits, and 65 million pageviews per month.
Can you share any plans you have for upgrading or adding new features to Fark in the near future?
We have a ton of stuff on deck that is mostly minutiae. The general theme is don’t disrupt what’s already there, add some extra fun stuff and don’t force people to use the extra fun stuff.
What was one of the strangest or funniest submissions on Fark that you’ve seen?
There are too many to name. This week though it was the Bring Your Gun to Church Day link, a local church here in KY is having a BBQ where everyone is invited to bring sidearms. That link’s going up tomorrow BTW (link).
What is your favorite social networking / social bookmarking website and why?
I don’t like any of them. Aside from the fact that I’d rather get together with people offline, they’re all a huge pain in the ass. I tell people I think of Facebook like I think of my lawn. I’m glad I have a lawn but I hate having to constantly mow it. Same goes for Facebook, it’s fun sometimes but it needs constant attention.
If I didn’t do Internet stuff for a living I probably wouldn’t use it at all, mainly because it’s wasted effort. No major social site of any kind going back 20 years has lasted more than 5 years at the top. Facebook hasn’t started to slide yet but it inevitably will. I don’t know what will replace it but I guarantee you some kid in their garage has a beta version of whatever it is up and running right now.
If you had any advice for someone starting their own web 2.0 application, what would it be?
Don’t do what’s already been done. Don’t remake YouTube or Twitter or Facebook. Do what isn’t being done already that YOU think is needed. Don’t make something for an audience that doesn’t exist, make something for yourself because you can’t find whatever it is already. Then allow other people to use it. Sit back and see what happens. And here’s a big hint: I think the next step in social whatever is human curation. Web 3.0 is good editing. Head in that direction.