What’s up with WebPutty

February 27th, 2012 by Dane Bertram

Update: We’ve finished open-sourcing WebPutty!

First, the short version:

  • WebPutty’s going to go open-source! If you want to host your own installation, you’re going to be able to.
  • While the official WebPutty.net site has had a wonderful reaction from the community, we can’t justify keeping it around as a Fog Creek product. WebPutty.net (and any stylesheets hosted there) will continue to be available until at least December 31, 2012. Past that point, you will need to migrate to your own WebPutty installation, or find another provider.
  • If you’re concerned about any of the above, you can export any of your stylesheets hosted with WebPutty by opening those stylesheets in WebPutty’s editor and clicking the “Export” button in the upper-right-hand corner of the editor.

Questions? Concerns? Interested in taking over the hosting? Please contact us at webputty@fogcreek.com.

And now the more detailed version…

WebPutty has been unique for Fog Creek from day one. The initial idea for WebPutty came up during a one-off brainstorming session Tyler and I held with Jason, a former Creeker (and good friend). Tyler and I had already spent a few weeks brainstorming ideas for new products with Joel and Michael, but when the idea for WebPutty (code-named “CSSFiddle” at the time) popped into our heads, we couldn’t resist getting a simple proof-of-concept version of it up and running.

So that’s what we did. We sat down in Tyler’s office one June day in 2011 and in just one single afternoon got the basic premise behind WebPutty, a live preview of as-you-type-it CSS, working on Google AppEngine. When we showed it to Joel and Michael, we all agreed to give WebPutty a shot. We had no idea whether it would be successful; we just knew it was awesome, and we wanted to try. On July 20th, a mere six weeks later, we launched WebPutty to the world in an announcement that was one of our most popular blog posts ever!

Needless to say, we were very happy to have received such a warm response, and after coming down from the high of shipping, Tyler wrote up a more detailed summary of how WebPutty came into being in just six weeks.

Fast-forward seven months. Where is WebPutty now? Well, despite us doing effectively zero marketing for WebPutty, we’ve gotten some pretty respectable numbers:

  • Over 25,000 people have logged in and taken a look around
  • Over 9,000 sites (collections of stylesheets) have been created
  • Millions of CSS requests have been served by our WebPutty CDN
  • Thousands of happy tweets from customers using WebPutty have graced our feeds

Not bad!

…but also not good enough. Despite these promising numbers, WebPutty has not seen the broad user adoption we would have liked. Given Fog Creek’s current size, we do not plan to continue developing WebPutty. Instead, we’re going to open source the code and see where the community takes it.

But don’t worry! We will continue to host WebPutty.net until at least December 31, 2012. We’ll be blogging again with more details after we’ve had a chance to clean up the code base for public release, including providing documentation for getting your own copy of WebPutty up and running.

WebPutty has been a giant experiment from day one. It’s the first product we’ve come up with in this manner, the first product we’ve launched so quickly, the first free-right-off-the-bat product we’ve launched, and now will be the first complete product we’ve ever open-sourced. WebPutty’s taught us a lot, and we’re proud of how it’s been received and the things it’s helped others question when it comes to making website design and development easier. Did it change the world? Not quite. But did we have a blast working on it and make the lives of others at least a little easier in the process? You bet we did.

We appreciate everyone who’s taken a look at WebPutty and hope that at least some of those same people will consider contributing to WebPutty’s code base once it’s been open sourced. We’re excited to see where the ideas behind WebPutty can be taken once a broader audience of people are able to contribute to it.