Rating

8

Qualities

  • Comprehensive
  • Applicable
  • Engaging

Recommendation

In 2000, the “Naked Scientists,” a group of Cambridge University physicians and researchers who popularize science, satirically described the viral path of an odd growth industry: Elvis Presley impersonation. At that time, more than 85,000 Elvis impersonators actively performed around the world, “compared to only 170 in 1977 when Elvis died.” The Naked Scientists jovially argued that, at that rate of growth, “by 2019, Elvis impersonators will make up a third of the world’s population.” Of course, this is deliberately ridiculous, but “viral growth” is not. Just note the astounding expansion of such Internet juggernauts as YouTube, Google, Ning and Facebook. Indeed, based on Facebook’s remarkable current popularity, it is not inconceivable that everyone on the globe with an Internet connection could be a Facebook member in 30 years. What accounts for such incredible growth? If you want an answer to that question, getAbstract recommends Adam L. Penenberg’s absorbing and detailed (perhaps too detailed) book. He examines this timely subject with a focus on the Web’s ability to foster sites that are social trendsetters and economic powerhouses.

Summary

Hot or Not?

In the fall of 2000, two 20-something entrepreneurs, James Hong and Jim Young, had a simple idea for a new Web site: Am I Hot or Not allowed visitors to vote on whether they thought the men and women in photographs displayed on the site were good-looking. On October 9, Am I Hot or Not debuted with a few dozen “candid” shots gleaned from the Internet. Hong invited 42 friends to be the first visitors. By the end of the day, the site had drawn 37,000 guests, and people had uploaded 200 more pictures. The next day, more than 100,000 people viewed the site. That is a viral bonanza in action.

To avoid an expensive bandwidth problem due to their soaring popularity, Hong and Young quickly began to use Yahoo as the posting destination for new photos. They set up commercial Web hosting. The two young men made all the right moves. By its eighth day of operations, Am I Hot or Not had reached 1.8 million page views daily, a remarkable figure considering that it had started out with a few dozen visitors a week earlier. Within six weeks, this number grew to three million daily page views and 3,000 volunteered photos.

Hong and Young monetized their Web site with...

About the Author

Adam L. Penenberg teaches journalism at New York University, where he is assistant director of the Business and Economics Program. He has written for The New York Times, Forbes, Slate magazine, The Economist, Mother Jones, Fast Company and Inc.


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