Chess.com launched to the public at the end of May 2007 - 1 year ago. Happy Birthday Chess.com! And now I'm sitting here trying to think of how to sum up the past, present, and future of Chess.com... (You can catch up to speed on the Building Chess.com series here!)
Chess.com - The Past Year
I think I can sum it all up by saying this: everything about building a website like Chess.com (a social site with lots of content, pages, users, & features) is harder than I thought. :)
The technical challenges were much bigger than anticipated - MYSQL headaches, hardware failures, browser differences, cutting-edge technologies for live interactions, bugs/QA... it was just harder, more tedious, and much more rigorous than I had planned on. Things you think will take 1 day can take anywhere from 1 day to 1 month. There are just so many factors. And when you have a small team spread out around the world like we do, sometimes that makes it even crazier. All that said, I think we're really created some tremendous technologies and solutions to help people around the world enjoy chess more fully, and there is still much to do! On a personal level I have learned heaps and heaps which will (hopefully) make my next web venture easier.
The members/users challenges were more exaggerated than I expected - both for good and bad. I have been blown away by some of the amazing people who are generous with their time to help others, give back to the community, and embrace the vision of Chess.com. Thank you to all of you! I have also been shocked at the behavior and attitude of some people who are so bitter and cruel, especially to somebody who is providing them a free/low cost service. I have been amazed at how insightful some of you are who post amazing suggestions or help us think through difficult issues and challenges. I have also been floored by how... un-smart... some people are or how unwilling they are to take a second to think for themselves before whining or demanding help. All that said, I think we've succeeded in creating an amazing online community! And personally, I have made a ton of friends and have also improved some interpersonal skills like dealing with mean people, giving bad news, enforcing rules in a positive way, and many others.
The "business" challenges have been more fun and more wild than expected. I am putting in WAY more hours than expected. The administrative details of running a site like this are just baffling. Bookeeping, legal stuff, documents, expenses... it just all adds up. And then there is the management side of helping the amazing team of programmers we have be focused on the right projects and communicate effectively. Every day there are hundreds of email and dozens of critical decisions. It's maddening! Finally, add to that a competitive landscape (where some are respectful and friendly, others are _____), knowing that you are spending more money than you make each month, and a healthy dose of uncertainty about everything. Fun!
Chess.com - Today
Despite those challenges (and in some ironic ways because of those challenges), here we are - the #1 online chess community with what we think is the most complete set of chess features and tools available in one place (and tons more in the works). The core Chess.com team has survived intact emotionally, physically, and (somewhat) financially. We've all learned a ton about ourselves and how to develop & run a site of this magnitude. And, we've played WAY too much chess.
Chess.com - The Future
What will the future hold for Chess.com? We hope for 3 things:
First, we hope that more and more chess players will find their online chess home at Chess.com. We hope that our members will continue to be vibrant, friendly, and engaged in their enjoyment of life and chess.
Second, we hope to be able to build more amazing chess features and products. We will focus more on live chess, improved learning content, and redesigning the site to be a bit easier to navigate (the curse of offering so much is having to present so much!). We will also work on chess teams and one-by-one tackling the features you have requested (thank you!).
Thirdly, we hope we don't have to go out and get jobs which will take us away from "building Chess.com".
Thanks for your part in this first year of Chess.com.
Onward an upward!