The Story Behind The Success Of StackOverflow

The Story Behind The Success Of StackOverflow


4 min read

This time I'm breaking the rule, and I'll be talking about the story of Stack Overflow: probably the most well-known website among software engineers.

Stack Overflow inspired me to start this blog.

Stack Overflow has been bought by Prosus for $1.8billion.

It has over 100M monthly users.

That's how successful it is!

What Is Stack Overflow?

Stack Overflow is a Questions&Answers website where you can share a technical problem you might be facing in your work, and you will get an answer within a few hours.

[...] It is by programmers, for programmers, with the ultimate intent of collectively increasing the sum total of good programming knowledge in the world. No matter what programming language you use, or what operating system you call home. Better programming is our goal.[Introducing]

Who Are the Founders?

Jeff Atwood, a software engineer, author, blogger and developer, and Joel Spolsky, a software engineer and writer, founded Stackoverflow in 2008.


[Picture from Wikipedia]

Jeff Atwood has a popular blog called Coding Horror, where he shares his passion for the human side of software development.

Joel Spolsky also has a successful blog (Joel On Software) with over a thousand articles about software design, product management, technical leadership, and much more.

How Did Stack Overflow Come Into Existence?

Software engineers don't buy programming books anymore.

Programming is done via a trial-and-error approach.

When you get stuck on a problem, Google is the first place where you type a question.

Stack Overflow came into existence from both Joel and Jeff blog's where they shared the problems they were facing back in the days when Googling a programming question led you to websites which didn't offer any help, or if they did, you would have to pay a small fee because the answers were behind a paywall.

Related:13 Best Reasons Why Developers Should Blog

What Made Stack Overflow Successful?


Jeff and Joel shared a passion and excitement about the problem that Stackoverflow is trying to solve.

They looked at all existing successful and unsuccessful forums and Q&A websites and understood what worked and didn't.

In the end, Stack Overflow is a mixture of:

  • The upvoting/downvoting feature of Reddit.

  • Wikipedia's feature of ensuring content is kept updated.

  • The sense of ownership blogging provides.

They started the website using plain HTML.

Related:Pros And Cons Of Running A Blog

Why "Stack Overflow"?

The name was chosen after a contest on Jeff's article "Help Name Our Website".

Several names were proposed to name the website, and Stackoverflow won above all the proposals.

If you're a software engineer, you know that naming things is often challenging.

Is Stack Overflow Too Strict?

Often I've seen people complaining about Stack Overflowbeing too strict.

The idea is that a question on Stack Overflow shouldn't help just you. It should help you and the entire community. And if it's too specific, then it shouldn't be on Stackoverflow in the first place. And this leads to tension within the community.

Every question in Stack Overflow is like the Wikipedia article for some extremely narrow, specific programming question. How do I enlarge a fizzbar without overwriting the user’s snibbit? This question should only appear once in the site. Duplicates should be cleaned up quickly and redirected to the original question.[Stack Overflow Launches]

How Does the Company Generate Revenue?

Stack Overflow is entirely free for developers.

The revenue from Stack Overflow comes from:

  • Stackoverflow for Teams: dedicated to companies who have proprietary projects.

  • Ads.

Key Points

Stack Overflow is a massive success for engineers and companies—a lifesaver in terms of time, money, and headaches.

The key factors that made this project successful are:

  • Having an idea you're excited about.

  • Find another person with the same excitement as you so you have dual leadership.

  • Looking at all failures because they provide more wisdom than successes.

  • Researching the entire field.

  • Research things that work and understand why they work.


What's your favourite thing about Stackoverflow?

Let me know in the comments!

Until next time.


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