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Ask HN: Inspirational money making web apps made by hackers.
107 points by clyfe on Oct 6, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 96 comments
Please post money making web apps that you know of, like 37signals stack, dabble etc. That

1. were made by single hackers (or verry small teams)

2. make money

If possible add a short description.

I've made three:

http://www.boostcam.com - Built it in a weekend a couple of years ago. costs next to nothing to run and makes money on adsense.

http://www.sproutvideo.com - SaaS video hosting platform that I built with a partner (I coded everything and he's the business man) in a couple of weeks. We've got a lot of paying customers already.

http://www.physicalfix.com - Fitness web app that I've been building with another partner (Again, I'm the coder and he's the talent) for a couple of years and just launched. Taking a little time to get tracking but doesn't cost much to run and has a few paying customers already.

None of them make me enough money to work on them full-time yet but it's a nice supplement to my day job salary.

(Again, I'm the coder and he's the talent)

Funny, I would have considered you the talent ;-)

> I'm the coder and he's the talent

I love this treatment for the role of your non-techical co-founder. Doesn't come across as false modesty either.

Wow! Do you do all the maintenance of these sites yourself?

Yes. Fortunately, I haven't touched boostcam.com in over a year and both SproutVideo and PhysicalFix only launched in the past few months but have both been pretty stable.I mostly spend my time building new features or dealing with customer support. Customer support is the largest time sink and something I wish I could delegate away.

This is a nice set of site congratz

What kind of video player are you using in the video hosting platform? I want to sell finance courses as screencasts but i am having huge problem with video hosting platform. All the html5 players i have seen are crap. Vimeo is good but it does not support commercial hosting.On the other hand Viddler is AMAZING. Their video player is amazing and the streaming is quite good as well but i am ready ready to pay $100 per month in the start. The only option i have is screencast.com. What do you recommend?

We use a flash player and 'fall forward' to html5 when flash is unavailable. We do this because most people do have flash installed and this covers about 99% of the use cases. In the case that flash is not available, we fall back to the default html5 player of the browser and currently don't use any custom chrome of our own.

You want a flash player AND server streaming software. Check out Red5 or Wowza for the server.

For players, check out jwplayer and flowplayer.

If you can host from your home ISP connection, it might be a good way to test things out.

http://www.github.com seems wildly profitable and was created by a team of 3 hackers, afaik.

http://www.bingocardcreator.com - made by HNer patio11, here's his (amazingly interesting and useful) blog: http://www.kalzumeus.com/

I'll elaborate to answer what I think are the questions behind the question, since I answered them a hundred times in the last three days at the Business of Software conference and one more time won't kill me:

a) It makes bingo cards for elementary schoolteachers, which is one very specific problem a large group of people know they have, is close to trivial technically to solve, and for which almost all solutions suck. This makes it very achievable for one guy to tackle as a hobby project. (It eventually got to the point where full-time employment was my poor paying quirky hobby project.)

b) The business, as distinct from the application, works because over the course of four years I became very good at organic SEO and metrics-based optimization. These are broadly applicable skills in software (and marketing generally). Surprisingly few people can do them well.

c) No, I do not see myself being the bingo guy for forever. If you wanted to address a similarly small niche yourself, I would say it is a wonderful learning opportunity and has been lifechanging for me. I wouldn't recommend starting with bingo cards for elementary schoolteachers, because if you are capable of beating me at it your skillset is worth a heck of a lot more money than can ever be extracted from that market for that problem, but virtually any developer can find something similar and learn enough to make it work. The amount you learn from having your own experimental laboratory is better than grad school, and you get paid to study. I wouldn't particularly recommend that route if you take money from investors. Two models, vastly different lifestyles, pick your favorite.

http://appshopper.com - I contracted out the design, some of the backend code. I coded the rest and tied it together. Since then, have hired a programmer to handle maintenance, new features. pays his salary + makes a profit.

Cool. How does it work? How does it make money?

ads + affiliate referrals.

I love appshopper b/c iTunes is blocked at work so I can't check my app rankings without it =)

I'd love to see rankings for other countries besides the US.

http://lighthouseapp.com — Bug tracking app created by 2 people. Used by businesses big and small, as well as some popular open-source projects (like Ruby on Rails)

http://tenderapp.com — Customer support app created by 2 people (out of necessity when Lighthouse started getting big).

Both apps are by ENTP. We have 2 programmers & 3 designers now and are working on redesigns for both Lighthouse & Tender. We actually just released a sneak peak yesterday: http://hoth.entp.com/2010/10/5/sneak-peek-tender-admin-2-0

Oh boy, I love Lighthouse (worked for Bluenotion over the summer). Pure joy to use!

Thank you!

http://anynewbooks.com is made by me and it's already bringing in some revenue. Not serious money yet (hundreds not thousands of dollars), mind you, but it has been profitable from day one and growing relatively fast.

I've been using this since you mentioned it a couple of weeks ago on HN. I like it. Can I offer a couple of suggestions?

1. The first thing I go looking for is a synopsis. Amazon isn't always good at this, you should try to incorporate this somehow. (I realize the difficulty with email)

2. On your "staff pick" could you do a bit of a review?

3. Canada. Give me some Canada options eh! (I know, I know, bigger market etc etc)

Keep up the nice work... I will buy books from this.

Thanks for being an anynewbooker, and for the feedback.

> The first thing I go looking for is a synopsis. Amazon isn't always good at this, you should try to incorporate this somehow.

Unfortunately, I tried this one week and it didn't work. The emails ended up being very long, the click through fell down, and I received a few emails of complaints from people who liked the more compact email without descriptions, because they didn't feel obligated to read the whole thing.

It's possible that I may make this an option in the future, but at the moment I'm dealing with other items on the todo list.

> On your "staff pick" could you do a bit of a review?

This is a very valid suggestion and it will probably be implemented soon enough. I think even a one liner saying why it's our pick would help.

> Canada. Give me some Canada options eh! (I know, I know, bigger market etc etc)

I added this feature this week: http://blog.anynewbooks.com/2010/10/new-feature-for-internat... BTW, I'm in Canada myself. :)

> Keep up the nice work... I will buy books from this.

Thank you.

This looks useful. Well done!

One strange thing I noticed is that when I search for something, say javascript, there are lots of results but the page automatically jumps all the way down to the sign up form. Why don't you let me see the results first? If you want me to sign up, you could have a link next to each result saying something like "Don't miss out on more good books like this. Sign up now for weekly updates." If your suggestions are any good, I would love to sign up anyway. Please don't force me to.

WOW. Thank you so much for reporting this; you just found a bug that makes me look evil. :)

Basically, the Sign up page contains the word "javascript", so if you search for it, that page will be included by the search function. Given that the email textbox grabs the focus, you'll get immediately sent to the bottom of the page.

If you try to search for something else you will not experience this behavior: http://img.skitch.com/20101007-xpcmkm4ebj4kiwsbsfiknsc7m4.jp...

Thank you again for reporting this. I'll fix this ASAP.

Haha, what a crazy funny bug!!! Sorry for my false accusations.

But I'm still not clear how the sign up page is included. Aren't you searching a database based on keywords and generating pages on the fly? What do you mean by "that page will be included by the search function"? I don't see any dedicated pages for individual books.

I use a customized Wordpress instance as the front-end for the website. Worpress search includes both posts and pages by default. I fixed the bug by excluding pages from the search with a filter function. Now only archived newsletters will show up when you search for a given keyword.

In the future I plan to make the search a much more prominent feature, sort of like a search engine for new books. At that time, I will use a backend which will contain the individual books, rather than simply do a text search through the newsletter archives.

kudos for hacking wordpress to do this. very clever.

This is pretty cool. I'll check it out!

http://10MinuteMail.com was written by me as a learning exercise. It's profitable and low maintenance.

Out of curiosity, when did you launch the site? Did you do any marketing or was it natural growth? I ask because the temporary inbox market seems pretty saturated already.

I launched it in November of 2006. The temp inbox market had several players in it already, and if I'd actually looked around at all I wouldn't have built it:) But it was just something to learn Seam and scratch my own itch, so I didn't even check to see if there was already a product in the space, much less several.

I didn't do any marketing, just mentioned it to a couple of friends. Apparently those friends know some crazy people because in ~24 hours it was on the front page of Digg, Slashdot, and Yahoo Tech.

Since that initial spike of traffic, and the settle-out afterward, it's been growing slowly but steadily ever since.

10minutemail.com is cool. Thank you. But recently it has not been working for me. Are websites catching on and blacklisting 10minutemail domains? Anyway to counter that?

By not working you mean sites won't let you register with e-mail addresses ending in lhsdv.com? Or that they do, but there's some issue with 10MinuteMail.com itself that doesn't show you the e-mail? If it's the former, then not much I can do, other than rotating domains every few months, which I do. If it's the latter, email me with an example and I'll try to fix it. devon@digitalsanctuary.com

Maybe you can have people donate their junk domains that they bought out of whim. I'm sure every HN reader probably have a few dozen domains that they let expire every year.

How does it make money? With the ads?

About 80% from ads.

10MinutesMail is a cool app. I use it a lot. Thumbs up. :)

http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/ - by HNer paraschopra is arguably the best A/B split testing tool available. It was developed without any outside funding, by an extremely small team (1-3), and it is making decent amounts of money AFAIK.

Thanks for posting this Niyaz. Yep, it is a specific niche tool developed by me (but have tiny part-time team now) and is making decent money, which I expect to grow.

http://www.w3counter.com - developed and operated by myself, profitable since 2006 - real-time web stats, which I've been offering since before Google Analytics and such existed, tracking all activity on over 50k websites

http://www.w3roi.com - developed and operated by myself, profitable since 2009 - real-time conversion tracking for online advertising

I made http://nicetranslator.com in Nov. 2008.

Probably 2 weeks of work all said but by far my biggest success in terms of sheer numbers.

It makes money to help pay bills now via AdSense and is totally hands off.

Actually, given our analytics, I think that it's really underperforming monetarily. My partner and I have largely moved onto other things, but if anyone out there loves to do that kind of stuff, maybe we can work something out?

Wow. That works really well - hilarious results for a few lines from 'The Wire' translated to Hindi.

Possible bug: The 'link' button shows a nice popup but did not generate either of the two promised permalinks in 15 seconds, at which point I left.

Wowwwwww! Hats off to you sir. I cannot believe how good the translation is.

Do you mind talking about how you are doing the translation?

http://www.weebly.com - made by a small team, 2 1/2 hackers if you count myself as 1/2 time :)

we're very profitable.

Are you telling me there are only 3 people at Weebly? Now that is very very impressive.

Not quite. Chris (cofounder) works 100% on infrastructure, Dan (cofounder) works on finances and product. We have a full-time designer, a full-time analytics person, and a full-time "head of customer satisfaction".

Customer support for 5 million users also takes a bit of time, and we have several part-time support staff that help people with any issues they run in to.

Having said that, both of our full-time developers are amazing and get things done at a pretty incredible pace.

That is still well below what I would think.

Weebly has the best WYSIWYG website designer I've ever seen. The output it produces is beautiful as well.

How do you make money from it? it's free and no ads

Freckle - http://letsfreckle.com/ - made by a very small team, very usability oriented. Came into a tough space, and is now making a ton of money.

Oh, I knew this one, I couldn't find it anymore. It's made by some Ruby star guy and Amy Hoy designer.

Technically he's a javascript "star guy". Thomas Fuchs, creator of the script.aculo.us library and core contributor to the Prototype library. Both libraries have been a big part of Rails development for years although many people are now moving to jQuery.

Yeah, that's true -- I (Amy Hoy) actually have more Ruby fame than Thomas does. But he's more hardcore in reality. :)

Hi there. Amy here. FYI, while yes, I'm the designer/interaction designer/ux/whatever person, I'd like to add that I do the project lead stuff. The idea was mine; the market research mine; the positioning, differentiation, the determination of our initial feature set, and pricing all mine. I find and hire the freelancers. I meet with the productivity coach. I come up with advertising/promo opportunities. Etc.

This is not me being all "I DID ALL THE WORK WOOHOO!" -- far from it. I'd just like to note that there is far more that needs to be done for a successful app than just code + design. I think people don't realize that, when they see 1 or 2 creators listed by narrow roles, for a successful product.

http://builtwith.com - made for fun not to make money but now its profitable by a team of 1 :)

I think the idea is to not start with the thought "I want to make a web app that makes money" but "I want to make a useful web app that solves a problem" - the money will eventually come if you crack that nut!

http://xpenser.com/ - Time and Expense tracking via voice/email/sms/IM/twitter/iPhone/Android/...

Made by a small team, doing well.

Let me start by saying I love xpenser. But note the following:


Why is Xpenser free? How do you plan to make money?

We'll be introducing premium accounts that'll carry a monthly fee in the near future. The goal is to keep the base product free and charge for longer data retention and other services. """

It's not yet making money, which would disqualify it from the criteria for this Ask HN

Thanks for the love :-)

Xpenser for Business is the commercial version of the product for businesses, and it's bringing in a good bit of revenue. At the moment it's by request/invite only, but will be generally available soon. Anyone interested in an invite can send an email to feedback@xpenser.com .

Users sign up for the free product, like it (or love it it :-) ), and ask to use it in their company. The free product is acting as a very good way of bringing users to our commercial product, so it's remained free.

Cool, I'm very happy that you guys are making money!

(For what it's worth, my love is not abstract -- I actually learned something about my spending habits in the mere two weeks of using Xpenser that helped my peace of mind. It's something that makes my life demonstrably better!)

http://vendder.com - made by 2 people with ruby and sinatra. just started but already have some paying users.

For a second I thought I was visiting http://shopify.com. I think it's a little too close to your competitor look wise.

It's true, there some similarities, mainly the color and wording, but in this e-commerce shopping cart business to describe the product we always need the words "shopping cart", "create online store", "sell online"... (at least in english)

But hopefully not the same colour scheme and general site layout ?!

Honestly speaking, we've put most of our effort on the back-end development. Our landing page is just Wordpress with a modified custom theme. A designer colleague gave us a help on the branding but the same way many banks / big corps use blue in their logo, green is very standard here. If you think you could do better we're happy to be helped ;) cause every Photoshop crop we do take us half of the day.

Looks great! Good luck.

nice!! thumbs up for vendder !

http://www.stormpulse.com - made by 2 people. Tracks and maps the weather.

http://shelfluv.com - Single hacker. just launched about a week ago but making some Amazon affiliate revenue from all the coverage it's getting.

Nico Nico Douga is a sort of youtube where users can write comments on the videos (like subtitles). The first version of was supposedly written by a couple of guys.


I have no idea why no one has made an English clone yet. Apart from messy copyright problems and hosting costs (which all youtube clones have anyway), it's practically a guaranteed success.

I made http://isitnormal.com, which is almost paying the rent now.

http://iWantMyName.com - built by 2 1/2 guys over the last two years out of frustration with the domain registrar business practices. we are not hugely profitable yet but we can live off it and work on our own project which is rewarding enough for the moment.

Just would like to add that we're completely self-funded and proud of it... :)

really nice :)

I think I'll use it to register my next website ;)

http://improffice.com - online email transfer / email migration for Gmail/Google Apps.

I built the prototype myself, then my current partner came onboard when the app started making money. He dramatically improved the code and I'm mostly working on the business stuff now.

http://www.eventhq.co.uk; online event registration/management for the UK/European market. Built by 1 person and bootstrapped through contract work. Still relatively small beer but seeing faster growth now

http://mmo-mumble.com is my one-man hobby project, and is solidly profitable. The app is really the control panel/management interface/widgets, but obviously the service encompasses more than that.

http://notarycrm.com - simple CRM for notaries (and an online directory for SEO-goodness)

http://www.mailfinch.com - on demand direct mail

Built by me and profitable.

http://codeboff.in is done by me. It's a screening platform for hiring programmers.

I switched on billing just this morning so it hasn't actually made anything yet.

http://www.ratemystudentrental.com - student rental housing ratings and reviews; sells private-label housing portal version to colleges and universities.

http://www.leadnuke.com - B2B sales lead generation by monitoring online conversations.

Both built by me. Both make money. Not yet enough to support me full-time. Still consulting to bootstrap.

http://simplemailer.pearachute.com/ - latest incarnation of a mailing list engine that has had subscribers since 2006. Pays for it's server!

(I feel like we just got Mechanical Turked to an SEO farm, but hey- $GOOG juice!)

http://www.seeyourhotel.com - Hotel locator with Google Maps. We (2 guys) did it in 2006 and added some features here and there. It's still making money, but we haven't added to it for more than a year.

So its all just affiliate revenue from the hotel bookings?

For the revenues yes, it's just affiliate revenue. At first it was a huge job to clean up the data for the locations. Back then about half the hotels had errors in their locations.

http://www.cupcalculator.com - Slightly profitable. Its essentially a static page with some adwords but the ad revenue has more than covered the cost of the domain name and hosting.

http://trackjumper.com - A simple bug tracker for freelancers and small software teams. I started last summer, and it's been growing ever since.

http://www.pingbrigade.com/. Not exactly profitable yet, but brining in some revenue.

Thats pretty awesome. Cute logo as well.

It would be great to add some more locations around the world.

If you add monitoring and alerts I would probably pay. Not that much as its already a corwded space, but I think a cheap alternative could get traction.

I wonder if its possible to have a business model of only charging when it alerts you to a site being down? E.g. we just alerted you to a site being down. Donate and we will do it again! Dont donate and I will delay my alerts by 1 hour next time!

Thanks for the response. Yes, monitoring is in the works. That is certainly an interesting business model, thanks for suggesting it.

This is pretty spiff. Revenue just from that little 123Systems Ad or are you planning some greater service rollout?

It seems like you could ad maybe 3 Square Button ads in various places and still be unobtrusive about it..

Don't get me wrong I don't sell online advertising or anything but your site design would make it really easy to add more inventory and have them still not be distracting.

Thanks. The ads rotate, I have three affiliate links atm. I am currently working on providing an API for this to see how much interest there will be in it. On top of the API I plan on building a monitoring solution which could be monetized. To an extent so could the API (say you get 100 free test an hour and have to pay to get 1000 or some such).

In the mean time I may add more ads but I would hate to detract from the experience for the small userbase.

This is possibly the most inspiring post on the internet. Thanks.

www.scriblink.com - made by me and partner in 2006. currently the number one online whiteboard. makes several thousand a month.

How about a money-making spell checker?

How about a monney-making spell checker. FTFY.

not. reddit.

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