Club Penguin is a gaming and social networking site for pre-teens. I believe they were so desirable not only for the stickiness of their site with a very desirable demographic, but also because they had a viable, profitable revenue model already in place that didn’t rely on advertising.
To back up the claim that Club Penguin is Canada's biggest Internet success story ever, below are the other contenders, in order based on my unscientific opinion of their monetary worth and their influence.
Note: I’m not listing companies that supply behind-the-scenes technology or ISPs (thus ruling out Nortel). Companies needed to have started in Canada, and not as a child of an American corporate parent. Also they need to have a presence outside of Canada (thus ruling out ChaptersIndigo, CanWest, Rogers, and Corus - who while they have popular web properties in Canada, they have no, to little, influence outside of Canada).
Top Canadian Web Successes
1) Club Penguin
2) Flickr (originally Vancouver, British Columbia)
While Flickr sold out to Yahoo for a paltry, rumoured, 20-30 million, this photo-sharing website is one of the most popular and most used websites in the world. (Yahoo is making Flickr their only photo site and will soon shut down Yahoo Photos. I had to transfer all my photos today to Flickr, which I ashamedly admit, I'd never used before).
3) Kevin Ham (Vancouver, B.C.)
One of the first and best domainers, making and owning a portfolio of websites worth at least $300 million and with revenues of $70M a year. (Read Business 2.0 profile)
4) Open Text (Waterloo, Ontario)
One of the first search engines and an early leader in web-based content management.
5) CryptoLogic (Toronto, Ontario)
One of the top four online gambling software companies. While tighter online gambling regulations in the States have hurt, they are still doing well and have recently done such high-profile partnerships as a gambling site with Playboy.
6) Lavalife.com (formerly Toronto, Ontario)
While they didn't invent online dating, they revolutionized it by making it much more fun and thus became North America's most popular dating site. They sold out to an American company for $152.5 million CDN.
7) NowPublic (Vancouver, British Columbia)
Billed as the world's largest citizen journalism network with thousands of citizen reporters in 140 countries. The company recently received (see CBC article) one of the largest investments ($10.6M) in citizen journalism.
8) Abebooks.com (Victoria, British Columbia)
The world’s largest used book online marketplace still continues to grow. They have recently bought other book websites and remain a favourite with bibliophiles.
9) Justwhiteshirts.com (Toronto, Ontario)
This company, selling men’s clothing (not just white shirts despite their name), was an early e-commerce success story. Somehow they managed to lose their head start and went out of business last year.
10) Cambrian House (Calgary, Alberta)
A leader in crowdsourcing via its online community peer producing software.
11) Ice.com (Montreal, Quebec)
One of the largest jewelery e-tailers and certainly one of the nicest looking.
12) Weblo (Montreal, Quebec)
I’m reluctant to put this virtual reality site on here as it seems to be much ado about nothing. Lots of money being spent with the hope that audiences will come but there’s not much there to draw them in.
I was going to put SitePoint, publishers of web development books, videos and websites and forums, but although co-founded by a Canadian and with roots here, they are based out of Australia.
- Iceberg Radio - one of the largest and first Internet radio portals
- b5media - blog syndicate
- Chilly Beach - web-based Flash cartoons that transitioned to a TV series
- MegaDox - legal documents
- Simply Audio Books
Please feel free to disagree with my completely unscientific ranking. Add a company or suggest a re-order.
In preparing this blog posting, I realized that there really is pretty much no coverage on the history of Canada's role in the Internet. So if you know of some additions, please let me know!