Portland, Oregon-based AboutUs, a site which launched back in August, announced this week that it has managed to raise $1 million in Series A round of funding from 16 individual investors. The site is essentially a Wikipedia for websites (no relation to my previous post on CogMap, which is a Wikipedia for organization charts). The idea? Every site has something to tell, wikis are hot right now, about pages have been hot for more than a decade, so what better than to have a Wikipedia for websites’ about pages?
First thing that strikes about AboutUs is its striking similarity to Wikipedia — same design, interface, style, everything. Of course, once you notice the “Powered by MediaWiki” (the same software that runs Wikipedia) button at the bottom, it’s all clear. In reality, AboutUs runs on a modified version of MediaWiki — there’s not really a whole lot they’ve done to it except for a few things here and there, but it works. With their newly arrived $1 million, I do expect more on this aspect in the future.
If you’re a website owner or you own a domain with something other than a “Parked” page behind it, there’s a big chance that your website is already listed on AboutUs and contains some relevant information. That’s because there are 3 million domains which have an article so far — what they’ve managed to obtain with a combination of human submissions/contributions and robot spiders, data-mining, information gathering, etc. I guess this is some technology on their end, and it’s been pulled off quite nicely as well.
With over 3 months of Internet visibility, you might be wondering if the idea has caught on. The answer? It sure has. If Alexa graphs are any indication, it’s been successful in gaining traction since day one. They’ve even used this as a selling point to investors.
What I love about AboutUs is that it’s far far beyond a simple wiki with some data-mining magic — it essentially contains everything from A-Z on a domain, and if you feel like there’s something missing you can edit it really easily. As a result, this has the potential to get a lot of link love from the blogosphere and websites, as well as a few Firefox add-ons behind its name and natural addiction from a group of users, including me — if I want to find out about a site, I’ll just AboutUs’ it from now on (e.g. http://www.aboutus.org/Rev2.org).
I think this is the beginning of something cool. I would easily put the idea with that of sites like MyBlogLog, YouTube, Digg and others. Although completely unrelated, they have a few things in common: they’re very simple, they’ve gained users very fast, and they’re very controlled by them.