Strong opinions, weakly held

How big a Web business can you build with no engineers?

I was reading Andrew Sullivan’s announcement that he is going independent and starting his own company to publish his blog, and what interested me most is the employee list. He has editors and interns, and that’s it. No designer. No engineers.

My understanding is that his blog has been published using Movable Type forever, and probably will continue to be published using Movable Type. Maybe that’s incorrect, but I assume it’s some canned publishing tool. He’s going to be using TinyPass to collect subscription fees, and there won’t be any advertising so he doesn’t need advertising technology.

What I wondered was, what’s the biggest Web-based business that has no in house engineering resources? There are merchants on Amazon, eBay sellers, and Etsy sellers that have pretty big businesses. There are also existing blogs that don’t appear to have engineering resources that do well, like Daring Fireball and The Wirecutter. There are certainly other types of businesses as well, like musicians and writers who offer their products only through digital downloads, or people who produce videos and make their money by publishing them on YouTube.

This is another aspect of the Web as an industry. You can build a big Web-based business without actually digging into any of the details of how to build things on the Web.

Update: Here’s a post from Andre Torrez on a related theme.

1 Comment

  1. As technology matures, it moves up the stack and becomes accessible to more people without a deep knowledge of how it works. For example, it wasn’t long ago that building websites required understanding servers, HTML, and networking. Now it’s simply a matter of pointing and clicking and dragging and dropping.

    Because our tools and frameworks have never been better, you can build a large web business with no engineers. Perhaps more impressive, however, is the work that small engineering teams of 1 or 2 can create because the leverage they gain from using these tools (and building their own where no good tools yet exist).

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