Chris Castiglione Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.

Famous First Landing Pages | Google, Facebook, Amazon…

1 min read

“If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” — Reid Hoffman

If your startup is successful, no one will remember how ugly your product looked the day you launched. (And if it’s not successful, no one will care.)

When we think about successful companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, we tend to forget the modest beginnings from which they came. As Paul Graham recently wrote, “Think of some successful startups. How many of their launches do you remember?”

In celebration of modest beginnings, here’s a dose of reality: I recently came across the landing pages of some of the most successful companies we know. This is something everyone should see.

The moral of the story: don’t name your company BackRub. Also, don’t worry about making something pretty, worry about making something people love. As Reid Hoffman (the founder of LinkedIn) once said, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

It’s easy to say “have a growth mindset,” and “follow lean startup principles.” It’s a lot harder in reality, when you have to launch quickly, and put out versions of your product that feel unfinished, raw, or even ugly. Take a look at the startups below, and how they launched their first product — and maybe you can launch a little earlier. Or a lot earlier.

Twitter’s first landing page:

First Version of Twitter Website

Early Facebook homepage:

First Version of Facebook Website

Early Google homepage (from 1997):

First Version of Google Website

The precursor to Google, BackRub:

First Version of BackRub Website

An even earlier Google homepage:

First Version of Google Website

Yahoo!’s homepage in 1994:

First Version of Yahoo Website

Early tumblr dashboard screenshot:

First Version of tumblr. Website

Early Amazon homepage screenshot:

First Version of Amazon Website

Apple circa 1997:

First Version of Apple Website

AuctionWeb before it became eBay:

First Version of eBay Website

Burbn (a Foursquare clone) before it pivoted to… Instagram:

First Version of burbn Website

The first ever prototype of Foursquare (shown at SXSW in 2009):

First Version of FourSquare Website

Reid Hoffman’s original LinkedIn:

First Version of Linkedin Website

A very sterile version of Netflix (before you could stream):

First Version of Netflix Website

Nike (circa 1998):

First Version of Nike Website

Ashley Madison (long before they were hacked):

First Version of Ashley Madison Website

Pizza Hut (circa 1997):

First Version of Pizza Hut Website

Barnes & Noble (circa 1999):

First Version of Barnes & Noble Website

Best Buy (circa 1997):

First Version of Best Buy Website

Target (keeping things incredibly simple):

First Version of Target Website

American Eagle (if the Dawson’s Creek reference doesn’t age it…):

First Version of American Eagle Website

Shopify (the early years of e-commerce):

First Version of Shopify Website

And finally… Reddit (some things never change):

What stands out to you? How would you have designed things differently?

It’s easy to think that you need to have a great design and get everything polished before you release it to the world. In reality, you should launch things as soon as you can, as quickly as you can, to get validated learning. The Lean Startup talks about this as validated learning — getting immediate feedback from users as to what they actually want, not assuming you know all the answers.

Learn to Code Comment Avatar
Chris Castiglione Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.