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Building Chess.com: Part 4 - Unexpected Happenings

  • erik
  • on 8/27/07, 4:04 PM.

Sometimes people ask what it is like starting a website like Chess.com. I finally figured out how to explain it: it's like riding a bike. First you have to decide which bike to get on. That was easy for me - chess website, of course :) Then you have to start pedaling. The first few pushes on the pedals are hard as you have no momentum. The bike wobbles for a second, maybe you even touch your foot back down to brace yourself from falling. Did you pick the right idea? Is this the way I should be spending my life? Can we even DO this??

Soon though you are pedaling on a slight incline. Putting people and resources together. Working hard to line up design + product + coders + mission + etc. etc. It is tiring and sometimes frustrating because you just want to get the site open and going! But at the same time you aren't moving too fast, no hard deadlines, no major stress. It's exciting to see the next step up ahead!

And then, once you are ready to launch you find yourself at the top of an incredibly tall hill. You pause briefly at the top and catch your breath and look for any hazards on the hill. Then you nudge forward and put your feet up and grab the handlebars tight.... 

The first day a website opens you just can't know what to expect. Who will come? What will they think? How will they interact? And it is a little empty and slow-feeling. Day ONE on chess.com was totally uneventful, just as being on the apex of a hill. You can feel it slowly pulling you downward, but nothing much yet. But not 2 breaths later the momentum is irreversible and you are going downhill fast. The you realize you are on one of those San Francisco hills where you can't really steer too much - you are headed straight down. You're doing your best just to stay balanced, to avoid the trash and potholes (spammers, morons). You'd like to stop and rest for a minute, but then you realize you have tens of thousands of people counting on you and who would be REALLY disappointed if you stopped. And so you keep going, legs flailing, trying to keep everything under control. 

I guess two days ago somebody looked out their window and video taped our wild ride for a second and it made it on to the news. Chess.com was featured on the morning technology show "Click" on the BBC in the UK. We didn't even know it until we started wondering about all of the activity on the site and the crazy numbers of UK folks signing up (welcome, by the way! :). To see the brief clip click on this link and then find the PLAY NOW button on the right side of the page. Then fast-forward to minute 18:45 in the show.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/6960751.stm

The coverage was nice and simple, and we feel so lucky to have people noticing what we are trying to do! Thanks BBC UK!

 

All that said, we did hit a pothole this week. As our site grows and grows and grows we need to keep up with it. We recently ordered some beefy new servers to handle the traffic. But in the mean time we also found that our current database server is having a little trouble. If you have noticed, today (and a few times in the past) the site will just suddenly stop working for a few minutes. Well, the problem is either a bug in the MySQL code, a problem with FreeBSD, faulty memory from Dell, a glitch in the processors, or something we haven't even thought of yet!!

We did a rebuild of MySQL and will be installing the new servers and load-balancer next week, so hopefully we have the issue addressed. 

 

As if that wasn't enough, we are madly trying to get Live Chess done :). We want it, you want it, everyone wants it. But it just isn't an easy thing to build. Thanks for being patient!

 

Also, this week we are going to take our first investor meetings. Wish us luck as we try and get some more cash to keep us moving forward!

 

We are all having a lot of fun with Chess.com and appreciate all of your support, interest, help, and patience as we build what we hope is the best online chess community!

 

- Erik 

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Comments


  • 7 years ago

    archerfish123

    "Click" is how i discovered Chess.com, at 5am one morning feeding one of my babies

  • 7 years ago

    BigBoy

    Chess.com is going to be the biggest site on the net. Because it is Free Membership.  But there is Bound to be costs involved.  So if you are going to keep it free why not set-up a Pay by donatations only. So Our chess Community Donate towards the costs.

    Then them that are in a position to donate can and them that cannot don't lose out.

    Just a thought

     

  • 7 years ago

    peterfleminguk

    Click viewer.  Only Americans want to be my friends! I am thinking of emigrating.
  • 7 years ago

    GordonMcKinney

    Good luck with your investors. The Chess community has been needing a modern chess website for years now. Keep plugging along... There's plenty of us Brits here to help! (don't let my profile fool 'ya, I'm a Londoner through and through!).

    Best of luck and let us know how I can help!

  • 7 years ago

    Maestrus

    Eric & Team,

    Wow, what a wonderful project. Excellent domain name and website.

    Congratulations and the best for you all! Laughing

     .. Maestrus

  • 7 years ago

    ubik197535

    Excellent site! I play here every day! Big pleasure! Keep it up!!! Wink 
  • 7 years ago

    IanSteiner

    Love the site so far.  It is the best way to kill time when I am supposed to be working.
  • 7 years ago

    VampireLestrat

    What can I say, I have been searching for a site like that for AGES! Keep it up, Eric!
  • 7 years ago

    invisible1

    Oh i see, thanks for the answer! But erm start up costs? Do you pay from your own pockets first? Haha studying for my economics examination, my brain is on profit track, so I'm thinking quite a bit about benefits. I mean, cost and time must come at a price, doesn't it? =)

     

    Well, that aside, all the best with the premium part. It's a really good tactic to first be free and then people will want to go on premium later! Also must say i'm really glad to hear its not altogether going premium and marginalising others (the marginal social benefit curve would then shift down!) Thats what I call a true chess lover!

  • 7 years ago

    sk8erkid

    good job eric you deserve a "pat on the back".
  • 7 years ago

    Trickster

    I love your news! Is there gonna be a part five?
  • 7 years ago

    Charlie91

    I learned of the site through BBC's Click; when I tried to vote on the polls, I was directed to register, and I did.  From your 4-part series (so far), I realized that the only thing constant is change, but I'm now relieved by your statement above that "everything you have now will stay free"Smile
  • 7 years ago

    erik

    thanks for the questions! we aren't currently offering stock to outside investors :) and we don't make money yet obviously. i have outlined our monetization strategy in other posts, but essentially there will be premium memberships (everything you have now will stay free) and a few tasteful ads maybe, as well as premium content.

    thanks to all for your support! 

  • 7 years ago

    invisible1

    Erik and co., you've really done a good job! I once started a forum with a few friends, but it soon died off. Really good to see it running so well here! With the "correspondence online chess", forums, articles and everything, its everything a chess enthusiast would like to see. With the imminent arrival of Live Chess, its really going to be a mega-site! Thanks. Just wanted to ask- doesn't it cost quite a bomb to set up a web like that? I mean, buying the domain, getting people to maintain and everything? And lots of time? How do you kope with this and work at the same time? (sorry if my questions are weird, but just curious!)

  • 7 years ago

    chessiq

    Good luck at the investors meeting! Reminds me of the Google Story. You will be fine. You have a great product/service.

    Congrats on the BBC UK story... gotta go check it out! 

  • 7 years ago

    Sprite

    Finally, chess.com gets more of the mainstream attention it deserves!  To all those "click" folks, welcome to a great site!  I had no idea that in around two months, chess.com would become what it has today.

    Although chess.com might not have the best features out there (don't kill me erik, I love chess.com =D), what keeps old guys like me coming back is the fantastic community here.  I am relatively new to chess, and chess.com was (and still is) a great resouce for me to increase my chess knowledge, and in turn my chess experience!!  You've found a gem in chess.com, I hope you give it a chance to become a site you will regularly visit!

  • 7 years ago

    MolotovRuss

    Brilliant post, I'm glad you haven't realised that the brakes on your bike don't work yet :D

    How are you making money from the website though? Usually a website such as this plasters adverts across it, just to break even when paying server bills etc., but Chess.com has none! How do you make cash from here?

  • 7 years ago

    AlecKeen

    It's a community at the moment because the membership is still building. The trick will be to keep it that way when there are half a million members, as inevitably there will be, given the quality of the site. Here, last Friday, for a heady half-an-hour until I made an absolutely criminal blunder in my next game (with a win wide open for me), I found myself at the top of the list, even ahead of WGM Dembo. On the site I have played most of my Chess up to now, I'm a comfortable 300-400 points behind Yelena, and am ranked about 600+ to her 75. Once this site takes off, I will be lucky to be anywhere near the top.

    P.S. Like the others, will early members have the inside track on stock? 

     

  • 7 years ago

    7thllSpirit

    Thank u 4 making this WONDERFUL website....Laughing

    that what all chess lovers seek....any time, any where, we r just a click away from playing chess with anyone from any part of the world...Smile

     

    Well done... 

     

  • 7 years ago

    Jollyjoyjoy

    keep up the good work. New members like myself  are all loving this website thankyou so much Laughing

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