A while back, I noticed friends on an online community repeatedly asking “is some site down for everyone, or just me?” This odd scenario, in which users of the same global Internet have an inconsistent view of the network, is often caused by local ISPs having outdated DNS caches. Being able to check with a third-party often lead to the conclusion that, no, some major site was not down, your Internet connection just sucked.
One morning, I was inspired enough by seeing this plaintive inquiry for the umpteenth time to throw together the absolute bare minimum web service to check to see if a given site was up or down. I got it working, picked out a cheekily literal domain name, tweeted about it, and left it at that. Over the course of the following weeks, the site was linked to from a number of popular blogs and link aggregators. Before long, it was climbing the Alexa rankings.
I had numerous feature requests after the site launched, but turning it into a robust, multi-homed uptime checker was never my goal. All I’ve ever done with the site is:
- Ported it from a simple Ruby implementation to App Engine.
- Put some ads on it; first Google AdWords, then later individual campaigns that I negotiated by email. I made about USD $300/month from the site, on average.
- Wired up a Twitter account that would tweet out sites that were frequently seen by the service as “down” within a short time period. (This functionality has been inactive since November, 2008.)
Given the site’s popularity, it’s sort of silly to let it lie so fallow. I have no inclination towards improving the site, and it deserves an owner with an active interest in its improvement.
Over the weekend, I sold Downfor to Bweeb, Inc.. One of their related ventures, Site5 Web Hosting, have been the primary advertiser on Downfor for the past few months, and they’ve been pleasant to work with. I don’t know quite what their plans for the site are. I also don’t have their permission to disclose the amount of the sale, but suffice to say that it was proportional to the amount of time and effort I’ve put into it (that is, not much).
And that, friends, is the story of an odd little single-purpose website with a silly domain name that, for some reason, thousands of people keep coming back to every day.
PS The source for the site is open once again.