AddToAny officially launched five years ago as “Add to Any”, the world’s first all-inclusive sharing button. Five years is a really long time for a tech company, and today we’re as proud of our milestones as we are proud of our never-ending pursuit of a perfect offering.
As part of a series of new stuff we’re doing to celebrate 5 years, let’s start with something new and basic, a sort of FAQ and tour down memory lane from the founder of AddToAny himself:
Who started AddToAny?
AddToAny was founded by Yours Truly, Pat Diven II. I was in college in San Diego at the time of inception, working on several side projects alongside school and a couple of part-time jobs.
Why start AddToAny?
AddToAny solved what some geeks have coined the “ NASCAR ” problem. Circa 2005 websites and blogs were ugly (broad statement!). Users were visually assaulted with an agglomeration of “Add to” buttons. It looked a lot like sponsor logos on a race car: Add to Yahoo! Add to Windows Live! Digg it! Submit to Reddit! Bookmark with Delicious! People who made websites were, how should I phrase it… very free-spirited when it came to placing third party “chicklet” images of varying sizes on their sites. Such chicklets included hot bookmarking & sharing services like Digg and Delicious, and fledging feed subscription services like Netvibes and Pageflakes. Multiplied by five. It looked crazy, and I wanted to calm the madness with something free and easy.
Enter “Add to Any”
“Add to Any” initially solved the problem by placing all of these “Add to…” chicklets onto a single “Add to Any” page. Publishers could then replace all of their chicklets with a single “Add to Any” button, thus curing the design bug immediately without affecting a growingly important feature.
The first public version of AddToAny didn’t have a logo image (that’s all CSS2, baby). The primary call-to-action was a long search-like input box to enter a URL to share/bookmark or subscribe to. The homepage had just two links. Speaking of the homepage, I originally offered AddToAny on a different domain back in 2005, but back then it was pretty exclusive to a small circle of friends.
To be fair, just as I insulted all webmasters in 2005 above, I’d like to point out that the initial “Add to Any” was equally (if not more) unappealing! Actually, it took a long while for the homepage to not appear so lackluster.
Where is AddToAny now?
In San Francisco. AddToAny has remained one of the most popular universal sharing platforms in the world. It kicks ass on the shoulders of open source software, particularly WordPress and Drupal. AddToAny is one of the most distributed widgets on the web, and the most distributed widget from a self-funded company. All organic growth. All without spending a dime on marketing. Also, without really asking for help or ever announcing the localization feature, some amazing users have translated AddToAny in over 50 languages!
Why haven’t you raised a bunch of money?
Primarily to keep things simple and stable. For one, AddToAny started as a side project well before it became a startup company. Raising capital for something so simple and obvious without a clear path to revenue didn’t make sense at the time. Fundraising right now would be relatively easy, but we don’t need it. In many ways, I think the lack of outside funding has been advantageous.
Why haven’t you sold for a bunch of money?
There have been many, many serious and casual offers over the years, but why bother? AddToAny is self-sustaining, lucrative even, and in a very happy place for both publishers and users. If AddToAny is ever sold, top priority will be to make damn sure that publishers and users are taken care of.
How do you make money?
Some publishers are clients, and we help optimize the advertising you may see on different websites across the web. It’s the data economy, and it works without mucking with anyone’s personal privacy. Ads are everywhere, they’re better when they’re relevant, and we’re happy to participate if it means legitimately better advertising while keeping AddToAny free. We’ve experimented with different models, and I have to say:
It’s an awesome privilege not having to plead for your donations, or to offer a ‘full’ paid version and a ‘crippled’ free version. Perhaps the last thing I’d want is to do is sales for a product that has always been free and awesome but is suddenly awesome at a price. The last thing you’d want is my face plastered on your sharing button like Jimmy Wales on Wikipedia. [Share/Donate $ $ Pat's Face]
Without sobbing all over these pixels of reminiscence, I’d like to thank everyone who’s ever interacted with or supported AddToAny. To everyone who has sent a note in via our simple contact form, blogged about, posted a forum topic, submitted a patch, praised, bitched about, competed with, or [gasp] shared what started as my humble little project – THANK YOU.
We’ve innovated a lot in this space. AddToAny was the first all-inclusive sharing button, the first to offer a drop-down menu, the first to have a “find bar” for narrowing down services, the first with a “smart menu” to automatically prioritize services based on usage, the first to offer localization… you can expect a lot more of that. Of course we strive to be the best sharing platform in the world, but there’s also loads more that can and will be done. As always, you can expect constant product improvement based on your feedback. Adding to that, five years is widely perceived as a benchmark for celebration, so expect some celebratory surprises soon.
Bonus FAQ for Pat:
What were your side projects?
The first major one was iOS (mpios.com), a human-powered directory and search engine. It was covered by USA Today and flailed after that. For a modern comparison, see: Mahalo‘s first public product and Apple’s, uh, revolutionary mobile and touchscreen operating system.
The second major one was stealth and I quickly flipped it.
The third major one was FeVote (fevote.com), which was a CRM product & platform that surfaced popular feedback for anything (think companies, products, events). This one was cool, had some traction, and more notably it’s the side project turned startup that I abandoned to go work on AddToAny. I am glad I did that…
The fourth one is your guess. Five years it’s been. And I’m quite happy that the cosmos aligned and I had the opportunity to take this thing seriously.
Thanks again, everyone, for your support and kind words over the last 5 years and onward!
(Feel free to share this post with the following little button I made five years ago:)
To start using goo.gl short URLs for your AddToAny button or standalone services, please see the AddToAny documentation on URL shorteners & “click-back” tracking. If you’re coding manually, just remember to drop the ‘e’ – the value should be ‘googl’ instead of ‘google’. Even we screwed that up once, twice, maybe a few times during testing.
This new feature comes in thanks to a Twitter message from Neasan. Thanks for the request, Neasan!
Last weekend, from Dec. 11th to the 12th, AddToAny’s static content was unavailable due to our then-CDN getting sabotaged by two upstream providers. To be clear, users were still able to share through addtoany.com, but AddToAny’s static content such as hosted buttons and sharing script were unavailable. We are deeply sorry for any and all unintended consequences that this caused publishers. SimpleCDN, and all of SimpleCDN’s customers including AddToAny were innocent parties in, as we understand it so far, a sudden and unexpected termination of SimpleCDN’s contract by their upstream providers (namely, by a company called SoftLayer).
The slowness and downtime checks we have in place were immediately triggered on the first downtime event, then we spent the weekend ensuring a successful migration of AddToAny assets over to a new CDN, which was a three-party collaborative effort between AddToAny and the CDNs. We were able to switch CDNs within hours, but it took longer than expected to get some services back online. For HTTPS, which some publishers use, we waited far too long for our CDNs to reprovision our SSL certificate, but HTTPS was fully functional by Sunday night PST.
Nothing like this has happened since AddToAny first went online in March 2006. Very rarely if ever does a Content Delivery Network disappear overnight without notice. Such an occurrence is truly unprecedented and we’d like to offer ways to mitigate the fallout effects of this sort of doomsday event. We don’t expect something like this to happen again in the future, but we want to promote preventative measures and let publishers know that we’ll be taking some more industry-firsts ourselves.
One key advanced feature we’ve offered for some time is asynchronous script loading. To explain the power of this feature, publishers that were using AddToAny’s script asynchronously were unaffected by our script’s downtime over the weekend. Publishers using our popular Drupal sharing module were also unaffected thanks to asynchronous loading. If you’re comfortable with code, we definitely recommend implementing AddToAny in an asynchronous way.
Again, we are very sorry for any slowness this caused your sites. Please contact us if you have any questions at all about the downtime, or for advice on taking relatively easy preventative measures. Thanks for the reports, your patience, and for your understanding during what was a very unfortunate weekend for all of us.