For as long as the web has been around, there have been entrepreneurs trying to build businesses around lists. And I’m having a tough time thinking of any company that has really nailed it in this category.

For one thing, there are two modes of listmaking; making lists for yourself (task management) and making lists for others (publishing). It would seem that by focusing on the single user case (making lists for yourself) a startup could bootstrap itself into a network (making lists for others). But to my knowledge, no startup has successfully done that. I wonder if nailing the single user case forces a company to build features that are orthogonal to the publishing use case.

It is certainly true that there have been some decent exits in this category. This past summer, Wunderlist was bought by Microsoft. Wunderlist is a great product, but to my mind focused more on the single user case and it never really broke out into a network.

Listmaking is the kind of thing that really lends itself to the internet architecture. There are a relatively small number of people who are obsessed with listmaking. But most people are into consuming lists. So, it would seem that, if you can get the obsessed listmakers on your platform, you can build a publishing network that millions will use without having to create any of the content. That’s a recipe for success.

Entrepreneurs continue to explore this area. Recently Expa launched Kit which is listmaking for products. This is an idea that has been tried a lot without any obvious breakout successes. So it is still vacant whitespace as far as I can tell.

I wonder if listmaking is really a vertical thing instead of a horizontal thing. That would suggest that there will be successes in verticals like food, travel, shopping, reading, film, music, etc but that each will be its own thing and not part of some meta listmaking community.

I frequently use the Foursquare app to make lists while I am traveling or doing something new and interesting. Yesterday the Gotham Gal and I went on an art gallery walking tour in the lower east side of NYC. I made this list of art galleries below Houston Street while we were doing that. It is simple to build a list on the go in Foursquare if you know how to do it. I would love to see Foursquare invest more energy in helping users make lists and consume lists. Using a geolocated and geosorted list on your phone while you are exploring a new area is a powerful and magical experience on a smartphone.

I am somewhat perplexed by the lack of breakout success to date in listmaking. It’s an obvious category. And it is certainly not for lack of trying. The commercial internet is 20+ years old now. So you’d think someone would have cracked the code by now. But I don’t think anyone has.


Comments (Archived):

  1. pointsnfigures… Thought this tweet was interesting, and combined with your post there might be a business case here. Maybe it’s not on Foursquare, maybe it’s somewhere on the blockchain.

    1. John Revay

      Saw Ben’s tweet yesterday, smile came to my face in reading Fred’s post from this AM.

    2. fredwilson

      wow. mind meld.

      1. PhilipSugar

        In some sense Quizlet is a list. Not of things to do but things to remember.

        1. William Mougayar

          If you extrapolate, a museum is a list too…of art that the curators decided to display.

          1. PhilipSugar

            Yes, that is correct. Curation is an interesting concept. It is the concept that I believe Foursquare is trying to solve. Yelp, and others as well.When I go to Toronto and take somebody who has never gone, I show them the Greek Place, the Sports Bar, and the Chinese Place (I don’t even know the names). Then we go down into the underground and see the lunch places and the train to Pearson which makes life liveable during rush hour.

          2. William Mougayar

            Here are the names for you :)- Greek place: The Danforth- Chinese place: Spadina & Dundas aka Chinatown- Underground: The Path (under the Exchange Tower and throughout)which sports bar were you referring to?

          3. PhilipSugar

            Looked things up:Greek Place: VolosSports Bar: BallroomChinese Place: Hong Kong style but not sure not on Google it is on Spandina.

          4. William Mougayar

            ah got it. try the new Cactus Club Cafe that just opened on Adelaide across from the Exchange Tower; maybe we’ll go there for lunch when you’re in town. they have an all-season rooftop bar with a retractable roof. It’s a 500-seat extravaganza restaurant.

          5. PhilipSugar

            Yes, that place is good. Minnesota has almost the same place The Union: travel too much.

          6. Mario Cantin

            Ha ha! You have a beautiful mind William :-)Who knows, deep curation might be the next big thing beyond Google. There is so much interesting stuff that is now searchable that it quickly saturates our capacity to find it.A curating facility “that truly rocks” would have to be a big hit.

          7. Jake Baker

            Per my comment above and in support of this idea, I have made more buying decisions via the Wirecutter (curation) than I have via search/PPC advertising in the last 18-24 months….

          8. matthughes

            DJ’s curate music for the radio.Retailers curate products for their stores.Event producers curate experiences.Etc.

          9. William Mougayar


        2. fredwilson

          great point

      2. Jake Baker

        In a lot of ways I’ve always thought of as basically a list of things that deserve to be included as endorsed by the Wirecutter and then also A LOT of text that defends their inclusion on the list…

    3. christmasgorilla

      One of the things that’s interesting about lists is that they’ve always felt a little bit like “tagging” to me. I think I’m the only person on the web still using Delicious and I try mightily to be consistent in the personal taxonomy I’ve created—but still completely suck at it.A Delicious-like service would be much more powerful if it had excellent search (and indexed the pages that were saved / tagged to augment the frailties of human memory). I wonder if lists would benefit as much from really powerful search (imprecise matching, related topics, etc)…

    4. Laura Yecies

      Actually – lists are the old search e.g. original Yahoo directory, dmoz etc

    5. Michael Elling

      Google monetized search by matching your discrete searches (lists) on products with others and then aggregating/referencing those matches into a new list which they presented to the brands. The question is how does one create the lists of intersecting points and monetize them with a lot of random lists?

      1. Vasudev Ram

        That made me think – does anyone know the *real* inside story of how Google came up with the idea of monetizing search via AdSense and Adwords? Be interesting to know, considering what a success it’s been. I had read the book The Google Story some years ago, but don’t remember whether it talked about that.

        1. Michael Elling

          Whatever, whoever. I agree, would be fascinating to know. In part I think it stemmed from their original notion that they were not the destination, but merely a stopping point. They eschewed advertising on their site which was contrary to popular opinion at the time.It’s a simple concept (the notion of being a stopping point or conveyance) that is hardly ever applied to any of the other apps or silos out there (that’s why they remain silos or destinations). The real value in networks is in the core and at the top. Google achieved that by crossing all the silos and boundaries. It solved the one-to-many, many-to-one problem to get sustainable network effect and value creation.

        2. bobwyman

          Monetizing search was obvious and had been done long before Google was even founded. Google’s innovation was the PageRank search algorithm, not the ad strategy. For evidence, consider this note I wrote in 1996 in which I say that we would “permit advertisers to link their ads to specific keywords which appear in user queries.” Even then, it seemed like an obvious thing to do. See:…So, there is no “story” there. In fact, for a long time Google had no ads and everyone in the business kept asking: “When will Google start doing ads?”

          1. Michael Elling

            A lot of people had the same visceral reaction to google the first time:1) wow, uncluttered2) wow, fast3) wow, lots of links4) wow, easy for me to find and figure out ON MY OWN (context)5) wow, i’m gonna return because i TRUST this page6) wow, in fact i’m gonna make it my HOME page (still is to this day, 16 years later)Brin and Page knew exactly how they were going to get others to create lists without burdening them up front with clutter and ads which created distrust. They were taking the opposite position of your note when they wrote, “we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers”. See the original WP: had less to do with technology (pagerank) and more to do with understanding demand (psychology/marketing).

          2. Vasudev Ram

            >Monetizing search was obvious and had been done long before Google was even founded.In my comment, I meant:”monetizing search *via AdSense and Adwords*, i.e. the specific method that they (Google) used.

          3. Hans Gerwitz

            Indeed, in the 1998 PageRank whitepaper, Sergey and Larry mentioned that high-quality search “erodes the advertising supported business model of the existing search engines.”I, too, am curious how they came to change their mind about the following statement:> we believe the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm.

    6. Kirsten Lambertsen

      I hadn’t seen this comment or his tweet when I left my comment about lists/search. I feel all super smart now 😉

    7. ShanaC

      except no.From experience of being part of the “we of the curly hair club*”- sometimes you really just want an answer, like what will make my hair not puffy* I had an infomral club in college of people in my hillel with curly hair, where the point was trying to figure out how to have not puffy, not frizzy hair, that was just curly. Lists were overwhelming

    8. Twain Twain

      On the blockchain, via IoT devices that can make lists of products+places “spotted” by a single user with utility for the wider network — where users don’t need to type into a text box or even take their phones out to snap the product and post it up to their “spotted list”?Check. The technology components exist. Integrate the moving parts.@@fredwilson:disqus @wmoug:disqus

  2. Ryan Etheridge

    My wife and I are on our way home from a few days in NYC. We used Foursquare (and your recommendations) frequently. We were doing the trip on the cheap so we walked almost 40 miles in our 4.5 day trip. I would love the geosynced Foursquare list to alert me as I walk by/near a point of interest on my list. Too often I realized at the end of the day that we had only been a block from a market, place of interest, or food truck I would have loved to visit.

    1. bangner

      Hey Ryan, currently working on something very similar. Any interest in a 5 minute conversation? Would love to learn more about how you travel and current pain points.

  3. awaldstein

    Makes me think–has anyone really cracked local at any substantial level.Exploring it, monitizing it, reifying it to make it more your own market even from consumer side.Or asked another way–every storefront in NY sits there and asks how do I let the tens of thousands of people who live around here know that I’m here?To get on all the local’s lists?

    1. pointsnfigures

      This might be Groupon’s opportunity if they have the data……and the ability to execute

      1. LE

        Groupon in theory has the ability to be what the Yellow Pages was. Why? They have or had feet on the street. This requires just like YP did actual people in the process as well as charging for placement. That system worked very very well for the YP (along with exclusive distribution) for the longest time. You could build a business off of YP advertising (I speak from experience on this).Mrs. Chinese restaurant owner curses groupon but uses them because they bring people to her restaurant. If they were able to deliver people to her restaurant w/o a discount she would pay for that.

    2. LE

      Part of the interesting issue with this is it’s a self consuming problem. By that (what I said even confuses me) is that if there are “thousands of storefronts” and “tens of thousands of people” (or even millions) then in theory, and just like search results (only 1 first page) it’s not possible to for everyone to get good results. There is only so much business to go around and attention.And NYC is different than anywhere else. Why? Capacity. Where I live there isn’t enough “supply”. If there is a good this, or a good that, if to many people know about it the lines and the wait become to long.Now if I go to NYC and want to know a great place to have brunch, what do I want to know about (me in particular), emphasis “what do I want to know”:In random order:1. Location (where I will be in general)2. Parking (yeah parking very important, self park preferred)3. Atmosphere (very important to me)4. Quality of food (not as important)5. How long a wait time I will have. (Very important)6. Price (Anything under $$$$ is fine.)If I send you an email you can give me all of that really quickly “this is where you want to go”. Anything online I have found, even in my own city requires to much work. Had a case yesterday where I discovered (after 20 minutes) what appeared to be a good brunch place but there were no pictures of the inside. So I figured “must not be good atmosphere”. Went to another site (think it was tripadvisor) and viola I was right (customer pics). To much work.

  4. JimHirshfield

    Happy to share my list* for today…1. Repair clogged drain in master bathroom2. Laundry3. Food shopping4. Make chili5. Watch football*Creative Commons

    1. fredwilson

      sounds like mine

      1. JimHirshfield

        Can the Jets beat the Dolphins?

        1. pointsnfigures

          Put that on Quizlet. maybe someone could solve it for you.

      2. JimHirshfield

        Let’s add some network effects: you do the food shopping for both of us, and I’ll watch football and tweet at you.

    2. PhilipSugar

      I too love chili with football. I alternate between Texas and Cincinnati styles. I never thought I would like anything but Texas but Skyline changed my mind. I hear Detroit has their own style but I have never tried it. My only rule is absolutely no beans.

      1. JimHirshfield

        I can’t forgo the beans… Key ingredient for me. Use 3 kinds plus ground tempeh.

        1. PhilipSugar

          De gustibus non est disputandum: In matters of taste, there can be no disputes. But I say hell to the no on vegetarian chili.

          1. JimHirshfield

            I can swallow that

        2. Vasudev Ram

          You eat tempeh for taste, nutrition or both? Know roughly what it is. Never tried it; interested.

          1. pointsnfigures

            A Fun Friday would be best chili recipes.

          2. JimHirshfield

            Nutrition; it’s a good source of protein. Tastes bland unless you steam it and then marinate it overnight. Or chop it up and put it in a stew.

        3. ShanaC

          favorite bean?

          1. JimHirshfield

            I vary the kinds of beans. Yesterday’s batch: red, white, and pinto

          2. ShanaC

            I’d eat it.I’m generically interested in adding more legumes (beans, lentils, other pulses) – so advice/recommendations/statements about yummy things that are interesting is always welcome!

      2. sigmaalgebra

        Okay, from one of my old list making efforts, right away I found:CHILI JUDGING CONTESTThe notes are from an inexperienced Chili taster named Frank, who was visiting Texas from Canada.Frank: “Recently, I was honored to be selected as a judge at a chili cook-off. The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge’s table asking for directions to the Coors Light truck, when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (Native Texans) that the chili wouldn’t be all that spicy and, besides, they told me I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted”.Here are the scorecards from the event:~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Chili # 1 Mike’s Maniac Mobster Monster Chili~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Judge # 1 — A little too heavy on the tomato. Amusing kick.Judge # 2 — Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.Judge # 3 — (Frank) Holy shit, what the hell is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway. Took me two beers to put the flames out. I hope that’s the worst one. These Texans are crazy.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Chili # 2 Arthur’s Afterburner Chili~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Judge # 1 — Smoky, with a hint of pork. Slight jalapeno tang.Judge # 2 — Exciting BBQ flavor, needs more peppers to be taken seriously.Judge # 3 — Keep this out of the reach of children. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to rush in more beer when they saw the look on my face.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Chili # 3 Fred’s Famous Burn Down the Barn Chili~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Judge # 1 — Excellent firehouse chili. Great kick. Needs more beans.Judge # 2 — A beanless chili, a bit salty, good use of peppers.Judge # 3 — Call the EPA. I’ve located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now. Get me more beer before I ignite. Barmaid pounded me on the back, now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I’m getting shit-faced from all of the beer.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Chili # 4 Bubba’s Black Magic~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Judge # 1 — Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.Judge # 2 — Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods, not much of a chili.Judge # 3 — I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Is it possible to burn out tastebuds? Sally, the barmaid, was standing behind me with fresh refills. That 300-lb. bitch is starting to look HOT…just like this nuclear waste I’m eating! Is chili an aphrodisiac?~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Chili # 5 Linda’s Legal Lip Remover~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Judge # 1 — Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.Judge # 2 — Chili using shredded beef, could use more tomato. Must admit the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.Judge # 3 — My ears are ringing, sweat is pouring off my forehead and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly on it from the pitcher. I wonder if I’m burning my lips off.It really pisses me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Screw those rednecks.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Chili # 6 Vera’s Very Vegetarian Variety~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Judge # 1 — Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spices and peppers.Judge # 2 — The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, and garlic. Superb.Judge # 3 — My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulfuric flames. I shit myself when I farted and I’m worried it will eat through the chair. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that slut Sally. She must be kinkier than I thought. Can’t feel my lips anymore. I need to wipe my ass with a snow cone.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Chili # 7 Susan’s Screaming Sensation Chili~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Judge # 1 — A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.Judge # 2 — Ho hum, tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. **I should take note that I am worried about Judge # 3. He appears to be in a bit of distress as he is cursing uncontrollably.Judge # 3 — You could put a grenade in my mouth, pull the pin, and I wouldn’t feel a thing. I’ve lost sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili which slid unnoticed out of my mouth. My pants are full of lava like shit to match my shirt. At least during the autopsy, they’ll know what killed me. I’ve decided to stop breathing, it’s too painful. Screw it; I’m not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I’ll just suck it in through the 4-inch hole in my stomach.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Chili # 8 Tommy’s Toe-Nail Curling Chili~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Judge # 1 — The perfect ending, this is a nice blend chili. Not too bold but spicy enough to declare its existence.Judge # 2 — This final entry is a good, balance chili. Neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge # 3 farted, passed out, fell over and pulled the chili pot down on top of himself. Not sure if he’s going to make it. Poor fella, wonder how he’d have reacted to really hot chili. —

    3. LE

      1. Repair clogged drain in master bathroomMust be wife’s hair, eh?2. LaundryI’m confused per #1 you are married???3. Food shoppingDitto.Hmm, What about leaf raking…

      1. JimHirshfield

        “It’s complicated”

        1. LE

          If it’s complicated in the way that I think you are saying feel free to write to me offline I have lot’s of experience in that subject.

    4. Vasudev Ram

      Can’t release under Creative Commons without mentioning which specific CC license. There are a few different ones. Never could wrap my head around them – for lack of trying, though 😉

      1. JimHirshfield


    5. Michael Elling

      Hey you stole that list. Just like Letterman claimed when he switched networks. And on the topic of lists and presidential debates, have to add this classic Top 10 from 2009 (caution, PG-13 rated):

    6. ShanaC

      hahahawell I got the laundry done on my end…and I totally didn’t have any clogged drains to worry about

      1. JimHirshfield

        You’re lucky!

  5. JimHirshfield

    There is a set of startups that are lists at their core, and you point right at it in your post: foursquare, yelp, yellow pages, etc.Many are layered onto maps.

  6. Avi Deitcher

    Trello doesn’t count? It is great as an individual, for families, and for business lists and even project management. I have introduced it to several clients, all of whom love it.

    1. Avi Deitcher

      And of course, it is local to you.

    2. fredwilson

      i put it in the same category as wunderlist, evernote, etcit’s a great single user solution but not a network, at least not yet

      1. Avi Deitcher

        I think it is a decent, but not great, network solution. But I absolutely have used it to coordinate lists across people in a family and in business.

  7. JimHirshfield

    Can we nuke the listicle please?

  8. LIAD

    On the whole making lists is a boring thankless task.I posit the top of the list-specific producer to consumer pyramid is a lot more acute than the standard 1-100 of other online activities.Its hard enough these days to get a grunt off young internet users. An emoji if you’re lucky.Altruistic list making. I don’t think so.Here’s my list of potential breakout list making companies….

    1. fredwilson

      a null set?

      1. Vasudev Ram

        Null sets can result from the intersection of two non-null sets (see examples of circles in Venn diagrams). So if someone nudges two of those circles closer together … :)…

    2. Steve Poland

      Agreed. There’s no “reward” for the creator. And bias by creator. Tribe-made lists are intriguing, but isn’t that what polls do? “Better chicken wings- Anchor Bar or Gabriel’s Gate?”

      1. fredwilson

        single user value is the reward for the creator. that’s why i make foursquare lists

        1. David Semeria

          The real gold is at the border between single user lists (incomplete and too personal) and general crowdsourced lists (too long and too impersonal). In other words, an algorithm which takes the same (perhaps very long) general list and orders it based on a single user’s personality and preferences.

          1. Jeffrey Woo

            @hymanroth:disqus that’s what I believe as well. Take food discovery for example, out of 5K of the best NYC restaurants, or 25K of the best NYC food items, how do we present an individual user just 10-20 items that are the most relevant? Let’s start with a crowdsourced generic list of the very best (sorted by rating), then apply some contextual filters (time & place) and then some user preferences. I believe bookmarked items (most relevant but requires time investment), following existing lists of items curated by others e.g. Thrillist, Eater or your friends (somewhat easy and relevant) or following users/friends (easy & somewhat relevant) are the most interesting, but there are numerous other ways.@fredwilson:disqus I follow your coffee spot list on foursquare. I’d love to see more lists of food recs from you but understand that it’s time consuming to put together a comprehensive list. It took me a while to put together this cold brew lists:

          2. Wyatt Brown


        2. ShanaC

          what is the reward of the list for you

        3. Twain Twain

          Amazon and eBay are examples of single user lists: actual transactions rather than topics of interest lists per FB and Twitter.Google is a list (an index).@hymanroth:disqus – It’s crowdsourced in the sense that the machines do the heavy lifting of pulling those links in from multiple sources. Then Google orders it based on the single user’s preferences (how many times they click on the links, location detection, other pieces of context).The reason list-making isn’t, generally, rewarding for the user is that they have to type into a textbox.Even Google knows that that UX has issues (it’s not as natural a human interaction as voice) which is why they’re doing……. Google Now.

        4. Brent

          If the right dynamics exist the possibility of becoming an influencer is also a reward that will drive some. If you’re the person creating the top restaurant lists in Brooklyn there will be perks that come along with that. Highly followed listers might be similar to program directors in top 40 radio.

        5. Mark Chin

          Agree single user lists reward the creator, but collaborative lists like ProductHunt could be very powerful because it aggregates the collective intelligence of its contributors. Another example might be Curate With Me – looks like an attempt to “friendsource” lists into searchable recommendations…

        6. Drew Meyers

          From my experience, I don’t think most people care about creating lists on platform X :(There is a massive, massive chicken and egg problem..I only care about lists from highly trusted connections. And how do you get all those lists onto any one given platform?We worked on something very similar to Foursquare lists in 2013 – “welcome kits” – which was supposed to be the cliff notes version of trip advisor for specific cities. Example:…On the traveler side, the first thing out of everyone’s mouth was “who is that and why should I listen to them?”. On the content creator side it was “why would I ever do that when I can easily email the people who ask me for advice?”Trover has built a better product around lists than we did…but content creation is still challenging. Example:

    3. Robin Eggenkamp

      It would surprise you how many people curate lists just for themselves, for example to organize thoughts or knowledge. An added bonus is that they can share it with others, so others will benefit as well.By publishing a list (or collections of them) on a platform like you have the added benefit of receiving useful suggestions to your list. That way you can learn more about your favorite subject too.Disclaimer: I’m Co-Founder of

  9. Stephen Voris

    Yeah, I’d go with more vertical than horizontal; while you have to-do lists, brainstorming lists, people lists, debate pro/con lists, and other list-types I haven’t thought of, having one company aim to be the best at all those lists is… problematic. Especially since lists are fairly close to fundamental in software – it doesn’t make for much of a moat.

  10. William Mougayar

    The trick to make a list stick is to have a quality factor. The quality of a list is directly related to the insights it provides, and when the list’s content is not so obvious, the value increases. Tell me who curated/created the list, and there’s a quality correlation factor.Creating a list is easier than maintaining it.The ultimate list maker is the Michelin Guide list of starred restaurants. Such a simple list, but packed with power and insights.

  11. jason wright

    the network of lists?this would be locally driven, communities of people coincidentally listing the same target, driving peer to peer engagement around the target?

  12. aminTorres

    Lots of challenges with lists. Lists, like you said, are good to consume but not easy to make, at least not in a way that scales and can sustain a network effect. *Lists come in many flavors but the most common are personal lists. I make a list to get something done. This category (list to self) is useful for the individual but often lacks properties like interactivity, feedback to make them useful beyond what one could already accomplish with simple pen and paper. The main problem with these lists is that they tend to highlight the work to be done and not the progress. On the other hand, people who use lists successfully to get things done, they have an inherit ephemeral relationship with lists. This is not conducive of networks in the list to self category.Content based lists, like what buzzfeed does or more interestingly what producthunt does suffer from similar symptoms. They are fun to consume once, but do not lend themselves to repeat engagement overtime which is need for network engagement.Both of these are publisher and community based lists.I suspect that a type of list that is ever-changing from self-input and input by a community with basic things like following the lists and that allows notifications could generate a network. * This will ensure list quality as it is not just lists for the sake of lists but the content they organize.Just some thoughts.

    1. joantune

      I guess that they are not good to create a “network effect”, but they are good on top of existing networks/communities, etc, to deliver curated value.

  13. MogulAzam

    I think product hunt is an example of lists. Also, Yahoo started out as list of websites to visit on the web. Craiglsist was started as a simple lists of events. Interesting how lists evolved in general and adding complexity maybe the reason why the concept has not been able to retain the simplicity.

  14. William Mougayar

    “I would love to see Foursquare invest more energy in helping users make lists and consume lists.” Amen. I recall making a similar comment 2-3 years ago about Foursquare. It could be an entry point for discovery. Especially if they surfaced the really good ones, e.g. my lists of coffee and pizza places in Toronto.

    1. pointsnfigures

      would you pay a satoshi to download a specialized peer reviewed list you wanted?

      1. William Mougayar

        yes…and a bit more.

        1. pointsnfigures

          if there is value, it shouldn’t be free. Suppose I curated a bunch of different lists and posted them to the blockchain-anyone could buy my lists for a fee that I set; and it would be up to me to maintain them, and build my own reputation to try and sell more lists. A network (4sq) could feature my lists-or I could advertise on 4sq. The various networks could comment on them and it could all be aggregated into the blockchain.

          1. William Mougayar

            Or you could pledge a % of your future earnings to a handful of co-curators who help you too. There’s something there 😉

      2. LE

        Never heard that “pay a satoshi” thanks for that. Kind of like the inverse of a “rats ass”.

  15. christmasgorilla

    The hard part about lists is that they might be like other types of organizational software—they’re incredibly particular to each individual user and their habits around their workflow. If that’s true, lists could be a little bit of a red herring—they seem like an atomic unit of functionality but are actually really fragmented. If that’s true, might be like calendar/email—which usually requires muscling in with platform power from somewhere else.It’s funny to think that it’s something that could be most easily in Buzzfeed’s wheelhouse…One of the more interesting stabs at turning lists into a network was the Berlin-based Amen—which used structured data to try to create a sense of a network from Day 0. I don’t think they ever got beyond a million users or so, which seems to be where most list-making products seem to stall out.

    1. Michael Elling

      Well said. Think of it as sender (list maker) and receiver (list reader). Even though it’s 1-way, it is inherently 2-way. That was the problem with unified communications. It was receiver centric and didn’t really care about what the sender was thinking or their context. In the case of lists, then some type of feedback or engagement loop from receiver to sender could probably help (including the receiver being able to reshape/repurpose/add to the lists) and also for the sender to constantly upgrade and maintain their lists so that ex ante they are relevant to the receiver. The latter could be some type of AI tool that anticipates which lists (or part of) are relevant to which receivers.

  16. howardlindzon

    Totally agree. We started a company called ‘spark’ app that uses live market data to build mobile ready and shareable, embeddable lists on the fly and also allow others to publish their favorite scans (that run lists). We are focused on unbundling a complicated and desktop workflow.

  17. OurielOhayon

    is Pinterest a business built around lists? (of visuals)

    1. LE

      I had heard of in the past but forgot about them and just visited again based on your post. The apparently renamed themselves to

      1. William Mougayar


  18. widepipe

    An argument could be made that Pinterest is a collection of lists.

  19. vaidy seems to have decent network effects. Although some (many?) of the lists are a bit over-the-edge.[My first comment here. Hi everyone :)]

    1. William Mougayar

      Wow, Ranker is great. thanks for sharing it.

      1. Drew Meyers

        Interesting, yes.But the lists are largely entertainment… what’s the core problem it solves, and for whom? Most lists don’t solve any sort of urgent problem, which makes building a business from it quite tough.

        1. William Mougayar


        2. ClarkBenson

          I would say that the broad concept of “needing recommendations in an increasingly cluttered world” is a relatively big problem. Even just figuring out what TV show to invest ~20 hours of your life is a pretty significant problem when there are 400 new shows coming out every year.

          1. Drew Meyers

            Right.. but it’s not an urgent problem you need solved right now. And not likely a problem you’ll pay for a solution to.

          2. ClarkBenson

            well, i suppose i can’t disagree that building a business from it is “tough”, but you could take a similar problem-solver like Yelp in that context and they have certainly managed to build a nice business out of something that people aren’t going to pay for, but clearly there is a need for that really scales

          3. Drew Meyers

            True. But I would argue Yelp is addressing an urgent issue for me as a user. I open it when I’m out and about, and the context is “I want to find a place to eat nearby, right now”.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Hi! Thanks for the input

  20. Joe

    43Things (… really nailed it back in the day… one of the first commercially successful ruby-on-rails sites. Won the 2005 Webby for best social networking site.Happy to discuss more if you’re interested. We had an exit to Amazon (and remained a subsidiary of theirs for many years) though I’d hesitate to say we “cracked the code.”(Full disclosure: I worked there)

    1. William Mougayar

      What happened with Amazon- did they bury it and use the technology for their lists?

      1. Joe

        We never integrated with Amazon in any way. We kept our own office and tech stack. Amazon already built some list functionality (branded as “listmania”) though it’s been long neglected.

    2. Vasudev Ram

      I remember seeing the site some years ago.

  21. Crissy Costa

    Does buzzfeed not count as a list maker? Or product hunt for that matter? More and more I see lists being made by users in buzzfeed that others consume (or share on Facebook). The infatuation makes lists in their restaurant reviews – ones you can filter by occasion. This intrigued me as I am obsessed with restaurants and always have my own list in a google doc that I share with friends and vice versa. An app to share lists around foods and neighborhoods from your friends is one I would use daily.

  22. howardlindzon

    Lists of products is not interesting to me. Too many biases over a list that dilutes the whole idea of it. List of Ideas always interesting to me specifically with some context…

    1. William Mougayar

      Any real examples?

    2. creative group

      Great Minds Discuss Ideas; Average Minds Discuss Events; Small Minds Discuss People——————————–Original source: ?“Men and women range themselves into three classes or orders of intelligence; you can tell the lowest class by their habit of always talking about persons; the next by the fact that their habit is always to converse about things; the highest by their preference for the discussion of ideas.”History scholar Henry Thomas Buckle

    3. joantune

      In the core, this is a list of ideas: it lacks some features, one of those are perhaps the context…I would use a stackoverflow style for these ideas, allowing discussions on them, moderators closing them and diverting people to ‘related ideas’ stuff like that, and gamified perhaps, to help support the task of doing those moderator needed things and giving out reputation rewards for great advices.It could be used not only to gather if a good idea is a good idea, but also some concrete advice (on implementation, marketing & others), and even possibly people that are interested in making that idea a reality, or joining someone who already is in that process.

    4. Douglas Crets

      What about lists that are actually product categories where you can actually buy something, which is how I would describe the Birchbox, and the home delivery boxes craze of three years ago?

    5. panterosa,

      Context, or perhaps story? I have been asked to produce a comprehensive list for my specialty, and have struggled to make it “interesting”. The story of ideas behind those items however is interesting. Clarifying the boredom/bias problem in this case is framing the history behind the grouping.

  23. aweissman

    The List App is worth considering (, if only becuase I think they are trying to do something different. That is, through the design and functionality there is not the explicit presumption that lists have any utility whatsoever. Instead, they can be fun. And in being fun, one may then want to “relist” or comment or otherwise share. In that way, there could be a network dynamicFor example, the “lists” I saw there this morning:- Things Bill Murray Has Said To Me- Reasons To Tune Into HBO 10:15 ET Today-Stuff I Wanna Watch But Can’t Find Anywhere-Some Things I Was Famous For As A Kid-Tricks For Traveling With A Dog

    1. William Mougayar

      Then, check out You’ll find lists of:- The best Musicians that didn’t exist in real life- Walking Dead characters that didn’t make it til the end- 22 musicians who sold Ad space in their lyrics- 24 best album covers of all timeetc. 🙂

    2. LE

      So it appears what you saw are essentially link bait headlines. Noting in particular the “HBO at 10:15 ET Today” [1] and “Things Bill Murray Said to Me”.[1] For example 10:00pm is not linkbait, but 10:15 is and 10:43 is even better linkbait.

  24. Kyle Fox

    Fred, I would be curious to know how lists are distinct from any other kind of collection or grouping.You could argue that many products and services are “lists” — for example:- Twitter is my list of interesting people- Airbnb is a list of people willing to share their home- Uber is a list of people willing to drive you somewhere- Pinterest is my list of interesting things- eBay is a list of things for saleWe don’t typically think of these products as lists, but you could argue that under the hood they _are_ simply lists. They just happen to be lists with novel interfaces and useful ways to interact with the list (searching, filtering, sorting, etc).Perhaps “lists” are just groups of items that have few useful ways of interacting with?

    1. Kyle Fox

      I think when we talk about lists we usually mean groups of items that:- have fewer items- are curated- are relatively static (ex: not constantly changing eBay)- have an extremely narrow theme- have more utility as a predefined set rather than some tool which gives you the ability to extract the same set from a much larger setBut I would be curious to know how Fred would define a list. It would help dissect the topic further.

      1. William Mougayar

        Rankings and ratings are also useful in lists.

        1. pointsnfigures

          but they can be gamed

          1. William Mougayar

            it depends who does it; a) professional curators, b) crowdsourced to a few experts, c) crowdsourced to the general masses. a) scales slowly and is expensive. c) you may get inaccurate results. I like b)

  25. MargaretR

    Foursquare lists are my #1 resource for traveling. I search lists and save places to a hit list before I go and then I discover many new places and add to my own list while I’m out and about.I like that I can send a link to my friends of all the places I recommend. I would like to see foursquare do more with lists too by making it easier for me to find curated lists by people with similar interests and for them to find me. I’d also like to see tastemaker lists – David Lebovitz’s is a great example of someone’s list I’d like to follow in Paris.

  26. aneela

    What about buzzfeed? They make lists like its their job. :)I’m very interested in the task/meeting management list space but no app out there has really ever worked for me long term. Good ol fashioned pen and paper are my best bet. If anyone has suggestions, i’d be grateful!

  27. JamesHRH

    A feature of many products.Not a product on its own.

    1. William Mougayar

      Michelin Guides….It started as a list. Multi-million dollar business for them, besides selling tires.

      1. JamesHRH

        That’s directory, not a list.Directories are one of the al time great business models.

        1. William Mougayar

          ok. but it started as a list, no? i love Directories and Almanachs when they are done well…i.e. before they become encyclopedias.

          1. awaldstein

            Then we are talking about packaging which has very little to do with lists and how they are made and everything to do with brand and how they are marketed.No?.

          2. William Mougayar

            well…the essence of it is the List (for the Michelin starred restaurants); either you’re on it or you’re not.

          3. awaldstein

            Yup–the essence of scarcity based marketing at its best.

          4. LE

            I think it’s a list because they have a ranking system, stars.The acquisition or loss of a star can have dramatic effects on the success of a restaurant. Michelin also publishes a series of general guides to countries.The “star” is what gives them the power. W/O the stars it would be just a guide. A list is orderable and rankable. Without stars you couldn’t have that. Also it doesn’t matter that I believe Michelin doesn’t have list rankings the fact that they have stars makes it defacto a list in some (but not all to James point) ways.

          5. William Mougayar

            yup, that’s why i said it was a powerful list.

        2. ShanaC

          what’s the difference

      2. LE

        Michelin Guides is a great example. It’s one of what I call “died and made them king” institutions similar to the Nobel Prize, Academy Awards, Genius Grants, Rhodes Scholars, Best Colleges (US News in particular). [1] It’s amazing that there aren’t more of these. And make no mistake the reason they are so powerful is because the media takes them so seriously and gives them free publicity. If it wasn’t for the media only a trivial portion of the public would pay attention.[1] The list is really endless.

      3. Vasudev Ram

        Would be interesting to know how they thought of the idea. Was it the sort-of-obvious connection of tires -> driving -> travel -> restaurants, or something else, maybe some inspiration.Can check in Google / Wikipedia.

        1. William Mougayar

          It started in 1900, 11 years after they started the tires company. The idea was that the 3-star restaurants were worth travelling to, hence using your tires. Marketing geniuses they were. 2015: I’m driving on Michelin tires and still travelling to Michelin starred restaurants (about 35 and counting).

  28. WhatsDue

    We found a really interesting use case where one person makes a list for a group of other people who all need the same list (of upcoming tests and assignments): Teacher –> Students/Parents. It’s one of the only areas I can think of where one person assigns the same tasks in one list to many people who all perform the same work. We’re also working on connecting these lists between teachers. Check it out at:

  29. Druce

    sounds like Dave Winer’s outliner maybe?…as a business, lists seems like it might be a 2-legged horse that doesn’t stand on its own, more like a feature that needs to be integrated in e.g. Evernote (which I use but is gradually tending toward bloatware), project managers etc.People do love their outliners, even emacs org-mode has a cult following.

  30. joantune

    We had that focus on Lists when we naively set out to build something a bit better than Foursquare, while ignoring the network effect that a social network has, and how hard it is to do consumer products, especially when someone filled the gap (maybe not completely, not sure of the TAM SAM SOM figures) . The result came out in the form of this app:… and I hope that at the least it can serve as inspiration for a more list based perspective on things, something that we also identified as missing.

  31. Gudjon Mar Gudjonsson

    Asana has a very list-passionate founders/team. As a task management venture I think they came close to be able to replace email for companies and teams, but decided not to chase that challenge. At least not directly.

  32. LE

    Recently Expa launched Kit which is listmaking for products.Kit to me seems like a service where anyone can be their own “Oprah’s Favorite Things”. And to that point what would make this takeoff is if they could get celebrities (even internet celebrities) to curate some of these lists. Also it appears that there is a clear way to make revenue from this site.

  33. LE

    Lists: I’ve never found anything so far (and I’ve tried a bunch of alternatives) to replace 3×5 cards which I use by the trailer load.I have found that automation doesn’t work for at least the following reasons:1) It’s effortless so you can just keep adding items to any list2) There is no need to review any list. When you use paper 3×5 cardsyou are forced to rewrite the lists which is very helpful in prioritizing what can be done.3) A 3×5 card can be planted or taped right on your desk (or by the door on the way out) to get your attention in a way that can’t be done with anything else electronically as easily.

    1. Joff

      I’m back to 3×5 index cards (although I also like the Clear app). Another advantage of 3×5 is that there is no social implication of whipping it out during a meeting to add a task vs. pulling out your phone.

  34. LE

    I frequently use the Foursquare app to make lists while I am traveling or doing something new and interesting.However that is not common enough with the average person to become a regular behavior and get reinforced. The average person is not traveling as much as you are nor is even the average millenial is my guess. Plus it’s not as much as a pain point since there is are ways to satisfice that w/o using foursquare. Google Maps on the other hand solves a pain point and provides a valuable solution which is why most people remember to use it even if they don’t need it that often. Devil is in the utility details.

  35. William Mougayar

    Speaking of Lists improvements, Twitter’s Lists could also benefit from some product management love 🙂

    1. joantune

      I think that lots of things on Twitter could benefit from product management love 🙂

  36. Guy Lepage

    I agree that lists have not been nailed yet. It’s strange that so many of these PM’ing tools, like Asana, have not nailed something as simple as lists. I’ve definitely heard of people using Foursquare as strictly a list system for geo based list items. But it still isn’t a perfect list system.My biggest concern with creating lists is to ensure that my lists be on an open source decentralized system. That way if the incumbent disappears I can just simply move my lists over to another provider.

    1. William Mougayar

      Have you seen anyone doing that?

      1. Guy Lepage

        No not yet. 🙁 but i’ve had a few conversations with devs about it.

    2. Vasudev Ram

      >incumbent disappearGreat point. Been there, burnt by that. Not sure what is involved, tech-wise, considering providers’ lists can be in different formats, including hierarchical, and others.Maybe something like MS Windows’ Registry key-value format, though it is a SPOF (Single Point Of Failure)

  37. Shaan Batra

    Just watched Tim Ferris’ most recent interview with BJ Novak, the writer of the Office. BJ Novak recently started the List app. looks promising with some big names already using it, such as the New York Times and Anthony Bourdain.

    1. jonathan hegranes

      The List App is fantastic. A longer, more structured form of Twitter — but for lists.Most importantly, as you point out, the early content is fantastic. Lena Dunham being my favorite.Though like Twitter, List App for most is purely consumption and the content creation for most users is still at the Twitter “what I had for lunch” phase.

  38. amberverde

    Some lists I might pay for, some I might prefer to borrow from a library.

  39. Jon Ferrara

    Fred, I think lists of people are fascinating and usefull in our over connected and over communicated world. I did a simple experiment this morning with Nimble to build a list of people I am friends with on Facebook and Twitter but not connected with on LinkedIn. I was surprised at how many key contacts I’d let fall through the crack.Imagine an intelegent relationship platform that worked for you by building it self with all of your key contacts, email and social conversations, calendar activities and the data behind teir profiles. It could automagicaly build lists for you that would help you connect to the right people at the right time on the best channels with a relevant and authentic touch.I agree that task lists are key to productivity but people and company lists are key to success.CheersJon

  40. Steven Kane

    Isn’t Pinterest a big listmaking success story?

  41. falicon


  42. William Mougayar

    In the startup world, is a list maker when you dumb it down, and they can be considered a success, or at least on the way to becoming one.

  43. Vasudev Ram

    Interesting startup topic, Fred. On first thought I would not have thought that lists are startup material, but then on reading the post, quickly realized you are right.Also, the post topic sort of reminds me of eGroups (which was a different kind of list – a list of email lists), which I joined and used before it got acquired by Yahoo! [1] and became Yahoo! Groups.[1] Now that I think of it, I had also used RocketMail before it got acquired and became Yahoo! Mail 🙂 Still remember the excitement of using a web-based email service, which you could access from work, home or any cyber cafe, without installing any software … though you had and still have to watch out for malware at cafes.Apropos, the founder of eGroups, Mark Fletcher, jumped into reinventing email groups a while ago (1 year or so), with

  44. Emily Steed

    I love lists! And I would love to leverage other people’s lists! Brilliant.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Emily’s List. Oh wait…..

      1. Emily Steed


  45. Emily Steed

    And how about a “to do” list that suggests the fastest order to do things based on google maps.

  46. Joff

    Your listmaking model overlooks a third state:- list for yourself (task management)- list for others (publishing)- list for teams (work management) <= missingAtlassian’s Jira, Asana, etc fit into this missing bucket. These products center on a To Do list for a project.Ultimately the power of these team lists won’t be in the project management of To Dos. The power will be in the ability to create conversation around how to solve the work (the To Dos) at hand. That’s what Slack shows.

  47. sigmaalgebra

    Tough to see any chance for a company based on helping people find, make, or use lists.(1) For one person or a small group, too easy to do with present tools. E.g., just use word whacking and, for a group, word whacking for groups. I use just a programmable text editor I use for much, much more.Selling list making tools for one person is like trying to sell some fantastic cutting machine to a chef who has a great 14″ chef’s knife and a terrific cutting board. For the machine, get it out, plug it in, use it, clean it, put it away. In a kitchen, we’re talking chef’s knife and cutting board — great pair.(2) The need is at best a ‘nice to have’ and not a ‘must have’.(3) It’s really important to have good tools, but convincing that have a better tool that deserves room in the tool box, on a screen, with startup learning costs, is difficult.(4) For lists of interests to many people, can often do that better with, say, Google. Or if such lists do become important, then at that time will be able to do better with Google.To be organized, I do some neat things with just my text editor. Once computer users see the potential of a good text editor, a lot of special purpose software will go to the bit bucket.

  48. bobwyman

    Lists of lists become outlines. Outliners have come and gone as popular apps over the years. Where is Dave Winer?

  49. Steve Poland

    Pinterest has accomplished this but as “collections” — recipes, modern office design, kids craft DIY, anything I want. I think we might say Buzzfeed polls are kind of lists. Foursquare lists I do as well, but a bit difficult and can’t find lists easily. Twitter needs to make lists simpler. TripAdvisor has great lists– I was recently in Tampa Bay and found a list of Kids Activities; we went to the aquarium and a playground that was a WOW.I still don’t have a good to do list that I use. I try to use Clear but then forget and doesn’t get in my routine. I also personally put too many things on my to do lists which simply overwhelms me. That’s my problem though.

  50. Nick N.

    I’ve been keeping a close eye on this space for a while, driven by recurring pain points. A lot of apps in this space with any modicum of success seem to be acquired prematurely – )i.e. Stamped by Yahoo.The problem with single-user vs. publishing use-case within list-making is that they only intersect for a limited subset of things. For instance, I’m only liable to make a list for new things to try, not catalogue all that I already have tried and loved, which would really be the most useful from the publishing standpoint, but has almost no intrinsic value from an individual standpoint.My favorite “single-user” list making apps are:Pocket – for any URLs, articles, and interesting videos. Virtually unrivaled in my view. – billed as a “to-do” / task app; but I use it frequently for list-making (too bad it’s extremely unstructured, because I suspect there would be a wealth of data just waiting to be tapped into)…Apps that do a good job striking a balance between the two:Goodreads – it’s limited to books, but they’ve done a fantastic job catering to the individual + collective use case. – Similar to goodreads but broader; the tinder-like mechanics lead to making lists in a more generative way, rather than a boring thankless way as @liad:disqus alluded to. And it does a good job powering the recommendations.…*Last.FM – “Srobbling” makes list-making a passive rather than active process; but they have not really delivered a great app experience; fantastic on the web however! Shame.Agree with Fred’s assessment that this is a pretty wide-open arena, with a lot of skeletons along the way. Look forward to reading more of the comments!

    1. Michael Elling

      “they only intersect for a limited subset of things”. Spot on. Some say that lists are the new search below. Not true, as search was so broadbased and multifaceted that through the law of large numbers Google could establish relevance and intent for the brands. Much harder to do with lists. One way is to think of all the ways the list makers (senders) might interact with list readers (receivers) and provide tools that make lists dynamic and actionable and create loop-backs and network effects between and across senders and receivers. Others have talked about curation below and so throw in AI to make the lists more relevant to the receiver ex ante.

  51. george

    Lists are a great way to stay focused on the most relevant things and streamline the natural costs of things, peoples time. Thought Evernote had a shot at this, to lead, to extend and to build across platforms but that apparently wasn’t their core strategy.When you point out that 20 years of commercial internet has swept by and we’re still waiting for a breakthrough, that’s pretty amazing. Lists really have the power to influence both in the quality of content and depth of networks. Perhaps, the personalization of keeping things short and simple is really much harder to do…even in today’s data rich environment.

  52. bobwyman

    We’re also never managed to “solve” the “personal data management” problem. Perhaps the two are related. Databases are, after all, just lists with good search, alternative sorting orders, etc. Hierarchical databases are lists of lists (i.e. outlines). Solving the “list” problem may involve solving the PDM or PIM problem.

  53. kenberger

    There are 2 kinds of people in this world:1. Those who put things into lists, and 2. Those who don’t.- and -There are 10 kinds of people in the world: Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

    1. Vasudev Ram

      There are only 3 problems in computer science: distributed computing and off-by-one errors.

        1. Deniz

          Dear Kenbergerİam a economy student in Europa,When i was doing my workforce,I saw ur comment about succesful of IBM.It was so impressive..İf it is possible, can u contact with me ? i have had some is my email: [email protected]

  54. David Barnes

    Isn’t a Pinterest board basically a published list?

  55. Jamie Gull

    What about the new ? It’s new but getting good traction and high profile users. Edited link.

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Did you mean ? doesn’t seem to go anywhere.

      1. Jamie Gull

        Yes. my bad.

  56. Carl Anchér

    We launched Soon a couple of weeks ago, an app allowing the users to create lists for any category, as well as follow what your friends are planning and what’s trending. It’s currently focusing on cultural consumption like what restaurants to visit or movies to watch, but we’re exploring product-categories and travel as well. Would love to hear what you think

    1. joantune

      It might be kinda hard to get things going for a social network based on lists.. Your priorities should be to fine tune that, so that it is compelling to use your app, and mostly, probably, your first problem could actually be how to start having people put in some content… frigging facebook did that masterfully IMO, with those: have you seen this: but then again, they already caught your eye and attention previously.Scroll up a bit and you’ll have the contact of someone who tried to do a social network (circa 2005) called 43 things.Me and a friend tried to do a list based Foursquare like application, we quit that idea, ( the resulting app is available here:… but one of the latest ideas was to use gamification to get us going on the lists (hence this apps name, although it still has no aspects to that).It’s just a thought, and what matters in the end are metrics telling you if people responded to that or not. (try to do customer development before you build the product, if you can).

      1. Carl Anchér

        Tanks for your input!

        1. joantune

          It’s not easy! If I was to attempt something like this, I would try the best to get a mentor who had been someone that did a social network from the ground up in any other field (the more proximate the better) and that actually formed it, and not by chance, IMO they probably have an analytical mindset to this and framework that worked.At the very least, lots of insight for you to filter and deem if valuable or not.Best of luck

  57. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Duck Duck Go came to mind when I read this. I participated in their virtual hackathon a couple of months ago. I submitted an “Instant Answer” for Go language. A DDG Instant Answer is like a list on steroids.My own personal use case is that when I use a search engine, it’s very often a list I’m hoping to find. Right now I’m trying to research the best, least expensive laptops for playing Minecraft. I often want to find a list of the best plugins for something I want to do coding-wise. Etc.If I don’t have a known go-to like FourSquare or WorkFrom, I’m at a search engine with something that starts with ,”best <thing> for <thing_i_want>…”So for me, search and lists go hand in hand.Just kinda thinking out loud.

    1. joantune

      If some Google engineer sees this, we might start having machine learnt lists shown to the user when they type those kinds of queries 🙂

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        🙂 Sim, ha! I hadn’t had thought of it like that, but of course it makes so much sense! They’re probably already on it.I was roughly envisioning a choice/filter that would show me results of already-created lists related to my search.But DDG specifically, perhaps allow the community to create lists on DDG, itself, in a similar way that they allow the community to create Instant Answers. (It would have to be easier to do than it is now, though. One has to muck with json to make an Instant Answer.)To me, the search engine environment is the ideal place for many list-creating use cases.

        1. joantune

          Cool, it sounds really cool, I didn’t know that DDG had those. I’m gonna check them out.Indeed, the search engine, and any other place that already has your attention is better than a dedicated place to build lists.God knows facebook managed to create quite a really nice portfolio of what I have watched and how much I liked it while I was idly looking at it 🙂

    2. ShanaC

      this totally does not help my curly hair problems

  58. ClarkBenson

    Hi Fred I’m the founder of Ranker, and someone who has spent years studying this space. Ranker’s focus is crowdsourced rankings, though Ranker is a platform and we have plenty of non-crowdsourced lists as well, along with widget-versions of Ranker lists as widgets on over 7500 sites. While we may not be a “breakout”, we are a Top 100 site in the US according to Quantcast, so we certainly have some scale. Another commenter mentioned Buzzfeed, who have scaled massively, but their growth has been on listicles (“25 Things About”) versus rankings (“The 25 Best”), so my guess is you are referring more to ordered rankings when you use the term “lists”.Your musings are pretty on point – it took us many iterations on the single user use case before we hit on one (voting on editorial lists) that really scaled for the publishing use case. And while we have a highly engaged userbase (we collect over 8 million monthly votes on items on our lists), it’s not a community in the typical sense where people are messaging each other. Without Yelp-like resources we have focused on lists like Best Actors Who Have Never Won An Oscar versus rankings of local restaurants. I am biased but think we have covered the global use cases of “what are the best <blank>” quite well – we have thousands of lists that have over 1K voters on them, more than enough scale to deliver a deep, credible ranking that is better than anything else out there if you believe in the wisdom of crowds.Product rankings are tough on multiple levels – we decided a few years back that our crowdsourced voting format wasn’t ideal for all product use cases (plus we had to stay focused) . Find The Best/Graphiq (mentioned below) have done IMHO a fantastic job on that front and beyond, by building rankings via aggregating data sources. But they are subjects to the whims of Google’s algorithms and probably aren’t getting the exposure they deserve. Product rankings are certainly far more monetizable than pop culture rankings but they suffer from a distribution problem.A big reason you haven’t seen a “breakout” is that rankings don’t lend themselves to social virality the way that listicles do. Ranker’s traffic has grown steadily, doubling year over year, but I suppose that’s not a breakout. But our biggest reason has been lack of resources. Scaling lists is hard on multiple fronts and requires a ton of detail work, and we’ve done this without big VC money ($7mil invested in 3 rounds over 5 years). And while we’ve had great seed-level investors I’ve always thought that one of our issues had simply been that we hadn’t found a VC champion who really “got” lists and how big they could scale – I’ve been told countless times to my face how this was “never going to be a billion dollar company”. Sigh – life in the Age of Unicorns.Anyhow, there is massive – if likely somewhat sub-Unicorn – value here beyond just the rankings themselves – we are working on using the data behind all our crowdsourced voting to power simple personalized recommendations among other things. And you are right in that the space is still open (maybe one of the apps we are working on, or the Novak app mentioned below that i still need to play with more, is what will have the secret sauce), but IMHO it’s impossible to deliver credible rankings without a lot of detail work in building the platform and the content. Happy to talk your ear off about it anytime . . .

    1. Zack Zatkin-Gold

      I’ve been trying to use the mobile version of Ranker for the last 30 minutes or so and am not getting the kind results I desire. I’m trying to find art galleries in New York City but am getting suggested to look at lists completely irrelevant to my interests, or the search is just not responding at all with any meaningful results.There is also a drop-down list of topics at the top right of the page and it rubs me in the wrong way to see that it’s not in alphabetical order.

      1. ClarkBenson

        Hi – the reason the search doesn’t respond with meaningful results is that we don’t have lists of art galleries in NYC. in general Ranker doesn’t focus on local content, though there are exceptions.

        1. Zack Zatkin-Gold

          Thanks for the reply. It would be nice if it said “No results found” 🙂

  59. Tal Lev

    “Naked” lists – without further content / context – are tough, as your “naked” list is either easily google-able or worthless for me.Lists with content / context that are not easy to just google (e.g., “10 best places to visit in Venice”) have been successful in specific verticals, e.g., GoodReads (books, succeeded both as self-use list and network, sold to Amazon) and TripAdvisor (hotels, network). I think that back in the DVD days Netflix had some user value in maintaining your “want to see” DVD list, but Netflix has not leveraged that use case (and never made it into a successful, network “your friends have seen” demand-driving, sticky feature).I do think however that there’s room for a good to-do list app unless one already exists. I use Evernote which, checkmarks aside, frankly sucks. Has anyone seen a good to-do list app?

    1. joantune

      I’m actually searching for that. I saw once lists where each node could have multiple N nodes, a bit like a concept map, but text only. I do not remember its name for the life of me, but as I recall it, it was simple and powerful enough for me to put all of the ideas/to-dos and whatnot in there.Anyone know what I’m talking about? it appeared on Hackernew a (long) while back

      1. roguish does this. And it has a great way of sharing lists. For example, here’s my list of high quality sentences in literature:

        1. joantune

          It was kinda like this, but it wasn’t a document, and it allowed one to extend bullets to make them more like a mind map.Regardless, thanks for the tip

  60. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Squidoo was pretty cool for this, for a while there.

  61. Ricardo Parro

    What about product hunt? I think they are tackling lists the right way. What do you think?

  62. William Mougayar

    “you’d think someone would have cracked the code by now.”- Fred, so what do you envision cracking the code on Lists would look like?

  63. Phil Chacko

    Good thing I’m working on this problem for places/locations! More to come soon, and I’m collecting emails… (

  64. Sarthak Haribhakti

    List making is an essential medium of consumption. Buzzfeed has been doing it for a while. Whats your take on that? Also, check out “the list app”. It has large number of users but the activity is not as much as it should be in terms of daily usage and network effects.

  65. kidmercury

    i am a full blown list-aholic and have eagerly tried many list apps. for the longest time, a google sheets doc was the best solution. simply because ease of accessibility is the ultimate requirement. now i use google keep and it is one of my top 5 apps — probably top 3 (excluding browser) on mobile.IMHO you are 100% correct in that it is a vertical thing and needs to be contextual. if it is personal, like the way google keep is for me, it should be integrated with whatever platform is the user’s “home” or operating system; this would narrow the contenders to aapl, googl, msft, and possibly fb (maybe yhoo for folks trapped in the 90s). i could see slack doing well here in some kind of an enterprise user context.

    1. Michael Elling

      but what if other apps used your google keep with your permission to improve your productivity (and maybe those around you?). isn’t that, then, horizontal?

    2. David Parker

      I’m glad someone mentioned Google Keep- it solves the singular use case very well- it’s by far the best, most accessible list tool I’ve used.For the network use case, I think there are “levels” to it- some of which Keep solves. For my wife and I, we share lists for groceries, errands, restaurants to try, etc.Keep is absolutely fantastic for sharing with few people.I think there may be a level at which point Keep wouldn’t handle a lot of people- though I’m not sure exactly what the level would be.

  66. Adam Sher

    At work, if my “to-do” list is greater than 3 things (it always is), it never gets done. At home, if my chore list is greater than 5 things, it is unlikely to get done.I always add more to my reading list (books and RSS feeds) than I finish.On vacation, the itinerary almost is always accomplished and my family manages to do extra.When I travel for work, my friends or colleagues typically have a small list of things I should do if there’s time.For news, NextDraft is the only thing I consistently get through.What list solution is going to manage my time? I’m terrible at it.

  67. someone

    Brainforest for Palm Pilot was nearly perfect at this (for to-do lists).

  68. ShanaC

    Maybe it has to do with the reason why people make lists (and keep them) – its a fluid object, for remember, oganizing, marking, grouping. maybe the list shouldn’t even be a list, but that is how we default to put stuff together.And therein may be the problem with anything involving lists.

  69. koblas

    Wondering why you didn’t think about Pinterest for these cases? For the non-task management side of list making I think it has a good dynamics around publishing a list “Gallery walking tour of NYC” and then having people interact with it (e.g. repin).

  70. Neeraj Shukla

    Pinterest – tool to make visually simulating lists.

  71. Channing

    Every “List” app I have tried is actually a “To-Do” app, very different things. List are free form, they can be whatever you want – things to remember, ideas or a “to-do at some point in the future” thing. None of these require a reminder or due date. Most apps turn your list items into task rather than just a way to remember something. I have yet to find a list app (ideally with indents) and simple categorization. Which is why I stick or pen and paper or notepad on IOS.

  72. Zack Zatkin-Gold

    Wonderful read. I’m wondering if you have any more lists related to NYC art galleries. I’m visiting there in late Dec/early Jan with a friend and am wondering where the best places are to visit for art/architecture.

  73. johngf


  74. Chimpwithcans

    My biggest list maker is MS outlook – and i hate it – emails pour in and you have to turn them into some sort of coherent to do list. What if every email we sent referred to a specific item on a shared to-do list. ‘Shared’ being the operative word. Make the task on the list the focus, and the supporting email a secondary item linked to the relevant task. Has that been done before?

    1. Channing

      You should check out Handle it turns your inbox into a to-do list

  75. Ben Lang

    Buzzfeed, Playbuzz, isn’t that their business?

  76. Douglas Crets

    Would you consider Evernote to exist in this category? They kind of made it.

  77. Douglas Crets

    Not trolling, but what if you abstracted a little bit and said “a platform for lists?” Which is what Microsoft Excel would be, in a way.

  78. thinkdisruptive

    This may seem like a dumb question, but what problem are you trying to solve? While virtually everything we do has lists as a feature, it’s hard to imagine what added value a general list-making or sharing tool has that is so compelling I’d be willing to pay for it or make it a general use tool. Sometimes technology just gets in the way.Pen and paper is still the number one way that people make lists, and I think that’s because it is easy to do (certainly easier than typing), supports free-form thinking, is easily adapted to context, and because lists are mostly transient — I use it, then throw it away. Things that are shared tend to get special-purpose structure added: e.g. list of restaurants in an area, travel guide, blog posts, project plan, photos, … such that we don’t even think of them as lists. Is Facebook anything more than a (disguised) list? It’s pretty successful.So, for things that persist and/or are intended to be shared, there are already lots of really good solutions. For things that I don’t need or care to save, pen and paper is a hard solution to beat.

  79. Hans Gerwitz

    +1 for pointing out that Foursquare has been sitting on a gem and seems not to notice how much potential it has. I think the Swarm breakout would have been a lot more legible if the new checkin app had been more list-oriented. (They need look no further than Gowalla, a successful early competitor they defeated only because Facebook acquihired them, for inspiration.)Twitter lists are also overlooked. I know several power users that even use multiple Twitter clients so they can keep each “focused” on a specific list. This offers the segregation benefits of multiple accounts without requiring a fragmented identity.

  80. herval

    How about ProductHunt? It’s basically a list of products (and sublists of books, apps, etc)On the private list space, I know at least a couple of Wunderlist competitors that are doing really well – so well the owners don’t have a reason to sell. Perhaps won’t grow to the billion dollar size, but perhaps they don’t need to?

  81. Felix Petersen

    If you remember, this is what Florian, Caitlin and I tried to do with Amen. (Here’s a bit of a postmortem of that story:… When we built our first prototype we realised that the motivation to start a list was always a superlative thought (“This is the best Sushi I’ve had in London”) but apart from a journalist or an editor or otherwise professionally driven individuals, beyond the first 2-3 entries it becomes work. (Who can actually remember more than three of “the worst Reggae tracks of all times”). So people started a lot of lists, they don’t finish. So the mechanism we created for people disputing and voting over “the best title for a porn movie” actually yielded fast and high quality results. Today I am convinced it was a distribution problem. Amen would have lent itself a lot better to desktop web based user acquisition, for example offering a plugin for putting it on news outlets, blogs, discussion threads.

  82. riemannzeta

    “t would seem that by focusing on the single user case (making lists for yourself) a startup could bootstrap itself into a network (making lists for others). But to my knowledge, no startup has successfully done that.”Jerry and Dave’s Guide to the Web?

  83. riemannzeta

    Isn’t a search index the ultimate list of lists?

  84. Kamil Janiszewski

    There is a list in distant land that makes business around CPGs. It’s a grocery list that started before ZipList: mobile, sells premium ads. We have small reach (as for CPGs) but , based on our expertise we managed to build marketing tools that reach 10 Mln people. We work with most of CPG brands in Poland/Europe:

    1. Kamil Janiszewski

      Having spent 7 years in lists, my opinion is: Lists are definitely vertical.

  85. gingerbeardman

    I use for all my list needs. I’m currently at 149 lists and counting.

  86. Derick Rhodes

    I think Listgeeks ( does a nice job of allowing people to quickly create/share/compare lists, but we weren’t able to raise any cash to make it something even more awesome.

  87. taylorhou

    pinterest is a great example of a breakout success in vertical/horizontal or private/public lists. it is used as a personal tool as well as a publishing tool for content creators/businesses.shameless plug but the company I’m working for is bringing list making to real estate search. private property wishlists amongst clients and their agent, public lists that agents curate for mass appeal/consumption. – HomeAhead Wishlist – homeahead.comI agree though, lists are what this generation and future generations want. good lists are curated and give the consumer what they want in a simple and easy to digest fashion.

  88. Randolph Brown

    Didn’t Yahoo! start as basically a list of sites on the internet? Original project title was “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web”. And when you look at old screenshots it looks like little more than a list of websites by category.

  89. Eric Tjossem

    Inspired to build a new startup in this space yet? — an open-source list-making app in every major Javascript framework.

    1. marcoliver

      Hi Eric, I saw your post on – fany working on a little app (this is an early concept – I am not affiliated with Fred):

  90. yummyyummyfly

    I think the problem is scalability.A lot of things work well when they’re high-quality (or curated).But when the masses get into it, it becomes a mess.E.g., let’s say there was a google maps kind of thing with those art galleries you added into a list. So I find myself on this street and see this list and think: wow, this smart guy made this nice list, must be worth doing.So far so good.Now, what if there were 1000 lists (different ones) by different people giving recommendations on the list of things to do on that street (and the order in which to do them), and 99% of them are really not very good… now we have a problem. And I lose interest in these lists very quickly.

  91. Matt Mireles

    Fred, isn’t Pinterest a list app? Pictures, not words. But still. Breakout hit. Horizontal appeal. Tool and network. Etc.

  92. udi

    I’d say that Delicious did this quite well. It started as personal lists of urls that then turned into a network of connected lists with greater social value.Reminds me of this classic:

  93. Adam Fallon

    Probably a reason that it’s 20 years on and still no huge market around this; What’s the incentive to make lists? Is it too weak to build a business around? I think it is.

  94. willlma

    I would argue that Pocket’s new recommendations feature is exactly what you’re describing. I create a list of articles I want to read (task management), Pocket uses my list to generate another list for me (called recommendations), I can share items from my list to the public (publishing), which will land in the recommendations tab of anyone who follows me. Also, Pinterest.

  95. Jacob

    Ten million people think Trello nailed it.

    1. Drew Meyers

      Yes.. trello is an excellent example

  96. jackman78

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Mashfeed yet (…. I’ve been using it for about a year now on a daily basis, and it’s easily my favorite way to consume social media content based on the way they let you make lists of feeds from Instagram, Twitter, YouTube etc. The way the big networks present one long unfiltered feed has become pretty tedious, making something like Mashfeed a huge time-saver. It’s also a great community of “list publishers” since you can make your lists public for others to follow. Can’t tell you how many great lists I follow on Mashfeed that I wouldn’t otherwise follow on Instagram or Twitter.

    1. Adam Mashaal

      Thanks for giving Mashfeed a shoutout! This is exactly why we built it in the first place. With Mashfeed, a lot of what we focus on is exactly what Fred suggests – inviting powerhouse list-makers to share lists of their favorite feeds with those who love to consume them. While we hand-curate a bunch of the lists/collections in-house, the magic of the app come from user-generated lists. Jackman – Shoot me a tweet if you’d like to be a featured curator!

    2. Adam Mashaal

      I think the URL in your comment is improperly including the parentheses. Proper link to download Mashfeed is http://get.mashfeed.comThanks for sharing!

  97. lukash MAYYN

    Bit different, but I’d consider Pinterest a platform for visual lists.

  98. TomerG

    And no word about Google’s new Inbox? If they will add an option to add tasks and assign, it would be a powerful product.IMHO, the hard part of making lists is ADDING the item to the list, and not managing it throughout list lifecycle. Most of the tasks just pop up in your head while working out at the gym or even worse, while driving. To overcome this issue we should use a different technology that will enable transfer brain thoughts into bits.WDYT?

  99. aggieben

    I find it hard to believe there’s no mention of Trello in the article or in any of the comments. Thoughts on that? Think it’s successful, not successful?

  100. Austen Allred

    It really depends on your definition of “list.” I would actually argue that the entire Internet is made up of lists, but there are a few things that change the way we see them:* Cadence (how often the lists changes)* Content type (what got on the list and how did it get there)* Sort (how the content is sorted)If we wander back into the earlier Internet, Yahoo was arguably the dominant player. And what was Yahoo? A list of links divided up by category.Google came along and won the game because it’s better in the world than anyone else at sorting lists of webpages. It’s so good that it can actually sort them without having anyone ever see them or read them, and that allows them to scale to a level Yahoo couldn’t even dream of, with better results all the while. Google is the best, technology-enabled list-making service in the world.Now the way most people use Facebook is to see a list of all the stuff their friends have posted about. Originally it was ordered solely by time, but now they have a little more data about what you like to click on and what/who you’re interested in, and help you out a bit.Twitter is a list of what certain people and organizations you follow are publishing right now.HackerNews and Reddit and ProductHunt are lists of the best X as decided by the community, with a gravity (or 24-hour session) added so the older stuff falls down over time, keeping them fresh.Pinterest, although not a list in the sense that it’s a vertical ascending/descending list (unless you’re on a mobile device), is in actuality a list of all the products and photos your friends are gathering into their various collections.The purpose of Yelp and Foursquare is largely to give me a list of places I should go to based on the information provided by my friends or the crowd.In other words, the reason you’re not seeing lists is because you’re thinking of “lists” as a two-dimensional object; something in which someone comes in and compiles a list of X and others consume it. In reality this is happening in several ways, there’s just often a lot more nuance and color than someone coming through to create their own collection.At the end of the day, a list is just a data sort. The Internet is *made* of lists. The interesting thing, at least in my opinion, is how you accumulate that data and how you sort it. If you define “list-making” as the accumulation and sorting of data, almost every big tech company I can think of is in the list-making business.

  101. jzawodn

    Simple. Lists are a feature, not a product.

  102. Eu Gene Lim

    B.J. Novak’s new app TheListApp has been getting a lot of coverage in the news recently, a social take on lists with a lot of celebrity participants. Lists for entertainment is a big part of that but not the only driver behind people using lists on the platform.

  103. Eoin McMillan

    We encountered this “orthagonality” in the early days of SFDevLabs while trying to build a list-based site for navigating the Internet. Our approach to list creation was bookmarking, yet the more we build for the individual, the more we built a siloed product and strayed away from the potential of network effects, which was objective in the first place! (whoops)I’m still fairly-well convinced that list-based sites are superior to google for discovery, and a combined list-site/discovery-engine could be a huge boon for finding new and relevant content on the internet. (Google might be fast, but it is far from pleasant and isn’t great for a “wandering” mindset).Pinterest is the obvious standout here IMO. They nailed the individual use case (I speak to designers and females all the time who use it for vision/inspiration boards), and they leveraged their connected content into what I believe is the best discovery engine for visual-based content online – to put it in a “Facebooky” way, they have structured data, which is immensely valuable. Suffice to say, humans can process and navigate bulk-imagery better than a page full of text, so Pinterest was well-poised to have this effect on the previously non-visual search landscape at the time.Some points I think about:* BIG PICTURE: We’re missing a “site map” of the internet, and a horizontal list site has the potential to provide the navigation experience that we need.* As an experience, the “related” search on google is pitiful; the internet deserves better. (e.g.…. I think the search experience on a list-based tool will mimic this action pretty closely, but will give a way better result.* Form factor is an issue for content creation. Generating lists from URLs isn’t pleasant on mobile (I haven’t found a satisfying way around this yet), so I suspect the power-users will come from a web-first generation – unless a novel approach to the mobile piece is created and adopted.* Horizontal list sites require a bootstrapping mindset. They’re inherently unprofitable in the early days unless you’re going after product-focused lists, in which case it’s difficult to break out from being nichy/materialist. My prediction is that we’ll keep seeing product-focused lists while in a boom-cycle (Wanelo,, kit, etc.), however they will have a hard time breaking out of the consumerist space if those are the origins.* The process of list-building is extremely similar from one vertical to another (bookmarks, music and fashion, for example), so despite the lack of a horizontal product that is a clear winner, I still expect one site will dominate in the long run due to network effects, similar to how Reddit effectively dominated the forum space.* We’re in the midst of a boom-cycle, so the ideas I’m seeing around me all seem to be very money-focused (nothing wrong with that, there’s just a different focus), however I expect a true horizontal list-building site will take a patient long-term approach that will emerge in thriftier times when rent and talent is cheaper and entrepreneurs are freer to try wild ideas.* The technology behind creating and leveraging connected graphs is more approachable than ever (Neo4j and GraphQL come to mind). Powerful “woven” experiences with overlapping content are possible with a fraction of the engineering talent of, say, 5 years ago. I personally think this is an interesting variable to watch, as it could be the bridge between the individual and social use-case that you mention. (Put mildly, we can extract more utility from less content creation).* Community is the key. Slightly contrarian but I see the injection of too much capital as a potential killer of list-based ideas. “Easy money” (if there is such a thing) and not-enough focus on fanaticizing an early user base will be the death knell of all who enter this space. (tangential question: Can you create a community of introverts?)* What is the correct balance between altruism (wikipedia) and narcissism (social products)?- What are the lessons from Delicious? By all accounts, it should have “won” but lost its way somewhere (the acquisition?). Social bookmarking still deserves a better solution.- I think the original list spaces of a horizontal winner will come from an area that is extremely nichy, extremely nerdy, text-heavy and unprofitable (or not obviously profitable). Maybe it’ll start out with poets and researchers and spread from there? The smaller the community, the better, because there’s greater recognition for contribution when everyone knows each other.[Well, this comment turned out a little longer than I thought it would!]

    1. klaas

      Dear Eoin, I have been looking at this problem for more than 14 years and in the Netherlands their was a company who was very close in solving the issue ( Like who was also creating an curated directory platform at the same time. Problem with was that they never took the product international and could not get a competition model to improve the performance and quality of the network. DMOZ had a added different problem, the lists where very good only you could not see who the editor was of the lists. This gives the problem that you don’t know why and how the editor comes to accept your suggested links. It was a black box. The positive part of was they had a working revenue model. If you like we could talk about why I think we solve all the problems of list making with Bud like you said we need to focus on one nich (Technology).

  104. Martin H. Normark

    Wouldn’t you regard Trello as a success in creating lists for others to consume?

  105. sharpshoot

    See which encourages list making and sharing, all under local discovery

  106. F. K.

    Interesting — I always lamented the lack of lists to help me with restaurant discovery. Lists like Michelin starred, Zagat rated, TimeOut Top100 rated. Of course, these lists exist independently, but nowhere in aggregate and nowhere in a restaurant discovery app. Its a problem I faced myself, living in London, so I built this: Best viewed on mobile, for now.

  107. Chris Z.

    Might Pinterest be considered a breakout success for listmaking?

  108. Douglas Crets

    Probably one could regard all the moments in AVC’s comments as a list. Pretty successful one, too.

  109. Brad Flora

    Pinterest is the ultimate list-making app and has been very successful.

  110. Gillian Morris

    There’s often a disjoint between list-making and action – people will add things to their list and then never do them, which turns the list into a source of pain rather than a productivity tool. I make Hitlist (, an app that encourages users to list trips they’d like to take, then alerts them when there are cheap flights to get there. We’ve noticed that what people put on their lists has very little correlation with what people end up buying. As such, we’ve de-emphasized the list making process, focusing instead on communicating good deals to act on in real time rather than list for later.

  111. ktzhu

    people love lists. i love lists. and agree the space of listmaking isn’t booming right now, but most every big social product has some list-like feature — you pointed out foursquare, there’s twitter lists (though they keep burying them deeper and deeper), pinterest, amazon wishlists, goodreads…have been playing with the list app recently [] — an entire product built around our compulsion with lists.

  112. Pranav Pandya

    How about Asana? To me it essentially a Task Management tool aka Lists. And they have built quite a good business around it.

  113. Chris

    Do you consider Pinterest to be a list company?

  114. Alex Griffin

    Fred, I’m the GM at and wanted to reach out and say thanks for the mention.At Kit, we were inspired by many of the ideas mentioned in this thread, right back to the Whole Earth Catalogue, a book of curated lists that originated in 1968. We are building a community where you can discover, discuss and get interesting products – grouped into kits – across many verticals, from traveling, DJing, cooking and fitness.With that in mind, we’d love to see what’s in a VC’s kit!

  115. christianbusch

    Was this a piece of native advertising for Foursquare 🙂 ?

  116. cyanbane

    Did a Ctrl-F and surprised no one has mentioned Github. Great place for lists. They even have lists of lists:

  117. Aaron Franklin

    It’s funny reading this because when I was building a to-do list app with really strong traction, nobody would fund “another” to-do list or productivity app. That said, I completely agree that this is a massive market – especially the network piece.

  118. SoDamnTrue

    pinterest pretty much

  119. Ben Werdmuller

    I’ve really been enjoying The List App. It’s interesting, precisely because it doesn’t dictate which kind of list you should enter. The NYT is using it for news; other people are using it for McSweeneys style lists; other people are using it for recommendations. I think there’s real potential there – and a real community.

  120. Gregory Magarshak

    I think listmaking, like many other tasks, can be more fun if done collectively. Isn’t Pinterest a breakaway listmaking hit?

  121. Tony Wright

    Trello is an interesting one to think about. Last I heard they were growing like a weed. I started using it solo. Now I use it with my wife (shopping and house todo lists). We also use it at Glowforge to track tasks. Unsure if they’ve done much with public lists.

  122. Steffon Davis

    Curation analytics is a technology that creates network effects out of list/curation data: . In much the way that Google leverages the subjectivity in links to “humanize” search, Curalytics leverages the subjectivity in lists to build “taste groups” among list creators and consumers. Any platform with curation data, even if it’s just for the “personal” use case, can leverage Curalytics to create a network effects among list-makers and their consumers. If Curalytics sounds interesting to any of the list/curation entrepreneurs on this post, we should connect.

  123. Erik Unger

    For anything public search has won, lists have lost. Remember bookmark lists, Yahoo directory etc.? Even for modern offerings like Youtube playlists are more of a niche feature. The masses only use it if they click on a playlist URL by accident and are surprised or annoyed when another video starts automatically not realizing that they are using a list. Youtube’s success is base on video search, not on lists. I think the pattern is that a good search algorithm is always more valuable than human generated lists because A. it scales, B. it can be improved over time with instant quality improvement for all results. Private lists are a completely different beast. But maybe search will win there too if enough meta information is available.

    1. Erik Unger

      Are public lists just meta data for search? If you look at it from that angle, then search is still the winner, not the provider of the meta information.

  124. R. Brad Kirn

    I’m rather partial to …1. because it’s simple, clean and sharable and 2. because my friend made it 🙂

  125. civilframe

    I created a little tool that helps you made lists of things with defined properties. For example, I can use it to make a list of houses I am thinking to buy, and also a list of my favorite movies. By being able to define the *properties* of the list item, you can make any kind of list. Check it out:

  126. Jose Paul Martin

    Fred, Workflowy has been recent favourite – the simplicity, the speed, with tags keeps things organized for me. Granted they can’t do images – but hey, worth trying. I used to use Wunderlist, tried Todoist, RTM, and others – but this one blows everything else out of the water… especially when it comes to sharing lists. Here’s an invite for 2x space:

  127. Esteban Contreras


  128. klaas

    I think we from are building just that Curated Public (list) Directory: “It would seem that by focusing on the single user case (making lists for yourself) a startup could bootstrap itself into a network (making lists for others). But to my knowledge, no startup has successfully done that.”Within ZEEF People (curators) make list on one topic: https://game-development.ze… for other people (publisher model)And there are multiple people on the same topic to get competition to make the best page: https://game-development.ze…I personally have a list of companies how make list:… ( and wunderlist are in the list)Hope this helps.p.s. I’m founder of ZEEF

  129. Peter Fox

    Geolocated and Geosorted lists- a great way to find art but how granular? is building something magical.

  130. marcoliver

    Dear Fred, I tinkered a bit around. Please enjoy an early prototype of your very own Listr App.

  131. Bob Matsuoka

    Hi Fred — we call them “maps”, and that’s what we’re all about. :-)…

  132. wiscoDude

    Three of my friends sent me this article – since they think I’m into lists. ( kicked around a generic list app back in 2002 and again in 2013, before deciding on the B2B play due to the difficulty of overcoming the network effect of the consumer swing described here.I think there are 2 important aspects of this idea. 1.) A solid recommendation/filtering engine and 2.) Mirco-payments (a marketplace)1. As many here have noted, _who_ created the list is quite important. All those “Best Of” lists in cities are often not useful, not only b/c of how they are created, but also b/c I don’t share the tastes of the crowd. Similar to Yelp. However, I’d love to know what certain people think about certain subjects. So the system would need to have an upvote/recommendation feature and I’d want to be able to browse the recommended lists of those people who have opinions I respect. I’d also need to be able to easily filter based on subject/geo tagging. Seems the system should use Facebook for the social graph.2. Payments. This somewhat flies in the face of what I wrote above in that those people who have opinions I respect likely won’t value the money they would make from people renting a view/use of their list. However, there are many people who _would_ both be great at making a list and also value the potential earnings. For example, a travel writer or outdoors person might make extra income from a “hiking Glacier Park” list or “visiting Vieques” list. Is Bitcoin ever going to be there for this?Lastly, when I want to _use_ a list, I should be able to create my own instance of that list, so I can check off what I’ve done, possibly add to it, annotate it, etc. That’s where a list might transition into a todo/checklist – and I think why my friends sent me this article. :)Seems like Facebook or Google would be purchasers of anyone who figures out this market.

  133. Tommy

    Isn’t Pinterest a list company? It clearly is to me but maybe I’m using it wrong.

  134. willmnathan

    Great article! I think ‘list’ startups, for the most part, are like entrepreneur chickenpox. You get them young, they’re fun to scratch, then they go away and hopefully don’t infect anyone else or scar. In my case, it was called, where I found out that list tools don’t make great businesses (although they do set the foundation for learning about business, and in my case lead to a job at BuzzFeed – which certainly qualifies as a successful vertical list startup). Cost of aquisiton: infinite, LTV: $0. Hundreds of competitors, and a thousand year old incumbant (pen + paper). Virality: negative (you keep your lists for yourself in almost all cases until you forget about them). Yet with all that said, do I want a great list making/sharing app? Absolutely.

  135. Risu Adun

    It’s still in its alpha version but you guys should DEFINITELY check out favslist.comThey will release a mobile that will come out early next year.

  136. Clayton

    This may be too niche, but pcpartpicker comes to mind as a well executed vertical list builder. I asked some of my IT friends with helps specing out a new desktop, and they all sent me lists they built in pcpartpicker. I also found the most popular lists on the “build guides” page to be helpful when looking for “optimal” builds in my price range.

  137. LE

    I had tried Trello and this was the issue that I found:needs to be compliantWith trello, I couldn’t even get myself to be compliant, the issue to me iirc was that it is browser based. The browser just doesn’t work for me for things like this. I like command line tools so that I can easily position and move windows all over the place command and control center wise. Even a dedicated app would need to be able to have multiple windows easily movable, sizable and positionable. I actually tried to mock this up with Apple Stickies and had it working for a short time before becoming non-compliant (was to much effort for what I got out of it)To that point, and with respect to “mind meld” one of the things that is on my list is to create a mysql command line tool that I can use to keep track of all sorts of things and display them in various windows accessible from anywhere. In all honesty creating that has been on my list for months now and I can’t find the time to do it. What’s interesting is that back in the 80’s I had this nailed using awk/sed and plain text files on a unix system. Was one of the first things I did and it was super helpful.

  138. pointsnfigures

    try; I have been messing around with that one.

  139. joantune

    Why MySql? how would that work? From the picture you painted, do note that I do not know “mind meld”, I have no idea of what you are describing.. is mind meld this: ??

  140. LE

    Thanks I will take a look.

  141. LE

    I saw the bread at the local whole foods btw. Didn’t need bread so I didn’t buy that day but it is there on the shelf.One thing I will mention is that in my opinion your logo should be at the top instead of the bread type. My eyes had a hard time refinding it as opposed to Vermont Bread which is easy to find because the logo is top and kind of large. (I don’t like their logo but that’s another story as to why..) Ok why? Because it looks like Anheuseur Busch trying to hide the fact that it’s their craft beer instead of a true craft beer. Or Sam Adams (to clip art in other words).Your brand is not “WHOLE WHEAT”. Your brand is “Lancaster Foods”.Example: My wife sent me to the store the other day to get ice cream and didn’t specify a brand she told me a type. I don’t even remember the type but if the brand was “Lancaster Foods” that I would have remembered. So my point is the brand needs (imho) to be pushed a bit stronger.You are the bread guy and are in this business (I am not) however I do have a nack for labeling and packaging and this kind of jumped out at me. FWIW.I guess there is no easy way to A/B test packaging. If I am wrong and you’ve got this figured out let me know this type of thing I give thought to.