Yahoo killed Upcoming.org, but thanks to Kickstarter, a passionate founder and a surprising bit of generosity, the community events calendar is on its way back.
Before it fell apart, however, Upcoming had to be invented. It all began more than a decade ago in Los Angeles, where Andy Baio was inspired by weekly dinners with friends to come up with a site where like-minded people could meet offline. It was called Meaty. Unfortunately, after months of working on it, a little site called Meetup launched. Knowing there was no way he could compete, Baio scrapped the project.
However, Baio had another idea. "I had this recurring problem that was happening over and over again," he said. "I would hear about events and then I'd forget about them." At the same time, Friendster was taking off in a major way, but was only used for socializing and not for planning events. Baio's idea was to marry the two concepts -- event listings, but with a strong social element so you could figure out what your friends were doing in any given city.
Baio worked hard to get what was eventually dubbed Upcoming.org out the door. He did it in four months, purely as a side project that he worked on during evenings and weekends while keeping his day job as a site administrator for a financial website. Almost immediately, Upcoming.org found a small, cult-like audience, which in turn built the site's large database of venues and cities -- entirely from scratch. About a year into the project, Baio's son was born, leaving him little time to run the site on his own. That's when he brought in friends Gordon Luk and Leonard Lin to help him run Upcoming and add new features like tagging and private events.
Baio's idea was to marry the two concepts -- event listings, but with a strong social element.
When Yahoo bought Flickr in March 2005, things started to change. Caterina Fake, one of Flickr's co-founders, was tasked with finding interesting people and projects to bring into the company's fold.
"It was at a time that Yahoo seemed really interesting," Baio said. "Google felt like a giant robot. Yahoo felt friendly, like a community. ... It seemed like a cool place to be."
So when Yahoo offered to buy Upcoming.org, Baio didn't flinch. "I told my boss 'Yahoo acquired my website.' There's no counteroffer you could make for that." When asked how much Yahoo paid for Upcoming.org, Baio declined to answer due to a non-disclosure agreement, though Wired UK reports a $2 million price tag. Beyond the money, though, it was finally a chance to work on Upcoming.org full-time. The thinking was: Yahoo would finally give them more resources to build and strengthen the site.