How did stackoverflow become a success when most of its predecessors/clones are not?


There are hundreds of stackoverflow clones, but none as successful as the original.

What is the secret behind the huge success it has got?

Is it the initial pool of developers who answered the queries swiftly with exemplary correctness?

Or is it the web design aspect?

Or is the wiki part of the Q & A site?

What is the biggest innovation(idea) behind the site's success?

This should definitely help startups to think on similar lines

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asked Jun 13 '11 at 22:01
126 points
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  • This belongs on meta I think – Tim J 13 years ago
  • It's not about the semantics of the site perse. So I thought it belong here... – Aib 13 years ago
  • I agree that it belongs here. – David 13 years ago
  • Joel and Jeff discussed this quite a lot on their podcasts. Go listen to them. Basically it was the fact that they each had thousands of fans/followers that jumped on the website early on. And there was a need for it. But I repeat - this belongs on meta or closed. – Tim J 13 years ago
  • This is either "too localized" (As it relates only to SO), or it is generalized, in which case it is a duplicate. In addition, it looks like a Meta question. Another issue is that this is a discussion "question" - not a real issue/problem/question that the OP has. – Tim J 13 years ago
  • If you ask a question about Firefox-addons on `SO` you get the answer more quickly rather than asking it on Mozilla developer network. – Xaqron 13 years ago

5 Answers


I don't think there is a single aspect which was decisive -- there were several aspects working together to ensure Stack Exchange's success.

  1. A large end user need. People are always looking for better answers for common problems, and the programming community was under-served.
  2. Smart design, deep understanding of the problem: Watch this Joel Spolsky presentation at Google to understand how much thought went into the design.
  3. Celebrity endorsement: Stack Overflow began with the programming community, and Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood already had great recognition in that community, due to their excellent past work.
  4. User generated content, viral growth: These words are almost cliché in the startup community, but when user generated content can be made to work it works very well indeed.
answered Jun 13 '11 at 22:56
Jesper Mortensen
15,292 points


The magic of usability, responsiveness and other factors. Behind the scenes the surface, it's a simple database application, but on the surface, it's about the ability to make "Friendly-User" software -- NOT "User Friendly". All of us can do "User Friendly", but making a user love an application to use it again and again when they have choice -- that takes special skills.

answered Jun 14 '11 at 04:08
Ron M.
4,224 points


User rating system is awesome, human nature is to strive for growth and people see it happening over here by getting better privileges as a reward for effort. Once you sign up, it won't be long before you find yourself stuck with this site just because of the nature how everyone gets the reputation they desires / capable of. Negative voting helps to increase the quality of the site which makes it even better.

answered Jun 14 '11 at 21:20
171 points


The consensus seemed to revolve around the popularity of the founders - Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood have both devoted a considerable amount of time to their craft. They’d used their reputation in the developers’ circles to spread the word about their new venture, and managed to strike gold! And honestly, that did sound like a plausible answer to my questions.

That was, of course, until I remembered having subscribed to get updates from Joel’s blog ‘Joel On Software’ about 5 years ago. I remembered a few emails that spoke extensively about Stack Overflow’s genesis. I revisited them… and found that the true reason for Stack Overflow’s success was hiding in plain sight!

answered Aug 2 '18 at 14:28
Prasad Lingawar
1 point


A piece of software can be as great as it can be but if there is no one to check out then who will use it and talk about it?

Before launching Stackoverflow, Joel had around million pages views per month on his discussion forum and blog. I don't know the exact figure but it was definitely a huge and combined with Jeff's blog traffic it is massive traffic.

So obviously if you show your visitors something new and shiny they are definitely going to check out and if the product is real good then the users are going to be falling in love and spreading it all over the web. That is what happened in my opinion. This just seems all automatic but there is lot of effort spent on marketing and timing the actions.

Every success requires hardwork and lot of effort. And every effort and hardwork needs marketing in one way or the other. To the outsider it always seems like an overnight success but it is not.

Do the copycats have that kind of visitor volume? I guess not

answered Jun 14 '11 at 03:06
420 points

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