Happy Birthday, Drew. Happy Anniversary, Fark.
Today, February 7, is Lexington native Drew Curtis’s birthday. Thursday, February 12, 2009 is the 10th anniversary of Fark.com, the globally popular site he founded, and still operates from his home that backs up to a local horse farm. Sometimes, he wears pants.
This week IS the real, actual anniversary of Fark. He says, “I ran through my old emails recently to see if I could confirm that Feb 12th was the actual date Fark went online. It was. I have an email to Mike Andrews, who at the time worked at an ISP we ran together, asking him to direct the fark.com domain name to my personal webspace account on Feb 12th. We had 50,000 pageviews during the first year, which sounds like a lot but it was probably a few hundred people coming back multiple times. One day in September of 1999 Fark had zero views, which means I didn’t even look at it that day. We added comments during the summer of 2000. You can still see them in our archives. Many of the original commenters are still active readers.”
Fark has evolved in the last ten years from its origins as a home for mostly weird news. He explains, “On Sept 11th 2001 we switched to an all-news format in response to the terrorist attacks. I tried to switch back to weird news only a week later and got several email complaints from people who had started using Fark as their primary news source. Such a thing hadn’t ever occurred to me. So we kept posting real news. Luckily it’s few and far between, and most of it can be tagged with a funnier headline. We still have a kill-switch in place in our code in case anything of that magnitude happens again. All the images and ads drop off the site instantly; it helps keep up with an increased volume of traffic. We’ve never used it but it’s still there.”
Fark — and Drew — have always been popular among media types. He says, “Fark got mentioned in Playboy’s October 2001 issue. Over the years, Fark has had mentions in pretty much every major media publication and random appearances on every cable news station. I’d probably be on more if I actually lived in NYC or LA, but we get plenty of exposure as it is (our national press section on Fark has daily updates). I’m still waiting for LA’s comedy writers to hat-tip us once in awhile for making their lives easier. Terrestrial radio and sports news folks are already doing it with awesome regularity (you guys rock). This past January, Fark was a category on Jeopardy – for the second time. The first time was in October of 2007. The Jeopardy folks are cool as hell. Their selections for questions kinda surprised me, much edgier than I figured they’d choose.”
Fark hasn’t just survived, it’s grown wildly over the past ten years, and prospered. Curtis says, “Two years ago our traffic reached 40mil pageviews per month. Currently it’s approaching 70mil pageviews per month. We’ve never been on any kind of meteoric trajectory — flash in the pan sites like to quote traffic increases in percentages. We’ve survived for 10 years and through two dotcom busts because we’re small and don’t spend money that we don’t have. I’m sole owner; there’s no venture capital. I work out of my house. People are constantly surprised that I answer random inquiries sent to the site personally. Sometimes I wear pants.”
In his 2007 book, It’s Not News, It’s Fark, Curtis wrote, “If I had to sum up the state of the world today, I would say that certainly things are bad, but not really any worse than they ever have been–not very many people believe me on this point. No one wants to read a news article entitled ‘Things Are Not All That Bad.'”
Asked if he still feels that same way today, Curtis responds reassuringly, “I would definitely [still] say that, even given the current state of the economy. I have a much longer explanation why, but my shorter explanation is you don’t see Warren Buffet panicking. He knows more than any of us about what’s going on. He’s buying stocks.”
Pick up this week’s Ace for more info on upcoming Fark 10th anniversary celebrations.