Like the Academy Awards for movies, awards are given out each year for excellence on the Internet. At the annual Webby Awards Ceremony held earlier this year in New York City, the website "How Stuff Works-dot-com" took top honors in two categories, education and writing. And, we're giving it another nod as our choice for Website of the Week.
Marshall Brain started the website as a hobby in 1998. "It was basically whatever I was curious about. I would do the research, investigate it and write about it."
Brain wrote short articles explaining the workings of everything from car engines to water towers and pendulum clocks. Web visitors loved them.
As traffic on the site began to grow, Brain hired more writers and opened an office outside his home. Today 'How Stuff Works' gets between eight and nine million visitors a month.
Brain believes the site is so popular because it gets to the essence of the world around us. "There are so many different things you can read about and a lot of people just come in and get lost in it and really enjoy learning and satisfying that basic curiosity they have."
'How Stuff Works' is much more than the simple 'fill-in-the-blank' search engine. The site also has videos and text articles on topics in the news and on dozens of clickable categories, from autos, computers and science to food and money. All link to the site's impressive list of multi-media features. Brain says you can find anything, "How Big Foot works, how lava lamps work or how the air conditioner in your car works. You can go anywhere you want."
… And that, Marshall Brain says, is probably why 'How Stuff Works-dot-com' is one of the top thousand most visited websites on the Internet.
Brain says that popularity has also helped turn 'How Stuff Works' from a hobby into a business. He says while advertising supports it, all on-site information is free. "The average visitor reads about ten pages. So we are pushing upwards to 100 million-page views a month."
Brain lectures at schools and is a popular guest on network radio and TV talk shows. He says working on How Stuff Works has changed the way he sees the world. "Suddenly you look at your refrigerator, your microwave oven, your toaster, your cell phone and your car differently." He adds, "It's almost like you are holding these little pieces of art, because now you understand them."
And, yes, in case you were wondering, Marshall Brain is his real name. You can catch his daily Podcast and Brainblog on www.howstuffworks.com