In 2005, in the dark age of pre-Murdoch Myspace, we started a site called Underskog. Underskog was supposed to be this ultra-niche site where we could hang out with our hundred closest friends. Mostly to discover interesting nightlife and cultural activities in our home town of Oslo. Alas, it was not to be.
Before Underskog we kept running into people that had been to interesting stuff we hadn't even heard about. Getting information on what was on and who was going seemed like a full time occupation if you wanted to do it properly.
So we built a simple community system with a forum, an event calendar and a social network that let you keep up with what your friends were up to. We prototyped it in a couple of months and opened up a closed beta to get some feedback.
Something must have resonated and before long we were swamped in rabid wildfire hockeystick demand. This was great apart from two small problems. Underskog was designed as a single room – any insensitive individual could ruin it for everyone. The way to scale intimacy in social software is to let everyone see only what their friends are doing. But that would defeat the purpose of Underskog for us. Also: we had promised never to charge for the site, and to never riddle it with advertising. Underskog was like a party where we had solemnly promised everyone free beer, forever.
To this day Underskog therefore remains a niche social software, growth limited by a slow, but steady trickle of invitations awarded to the most active members. The site has seen some 160 million pageviews since 2005.
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