5. Fortune.ru

I have never been really interested in jewelry. Neither my wife nor I have ever worn any rings, necklaces, armlets, earrings or any stuff like this. Surely, it is nice to look at a beautiful woman with some beautiful things on. But nothing more.

Since I was a child, I have always been fond of math. Or I’d rather say I’ve had a passion for it. I’ve been good at all kind of mathematical disciplines. They have always come to me as easily as breathing fresh air. I have worshiped all kind of calculating machines. At first these were mechanical calculators, after a while they turned into programmable ones, and finally... In 1988 I was supposed to enter a postgraduate program at the Computing Center of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (40, Vavilova Str., Moscow). However, cooperative businesses distracted me from this way (for more detail see Prolog / Protek / Metatek section).

To cut it short, I was bored to deal with jewelry. The second half of the 1990s came along together with the World Wide Web and it was fascinating.

Once my friend Marc Krähenbühl told me about the newspaper popular in Italy – "Cerca & Trova" ("From Hand to Hand"). It inspired me with a idea to create an open database with a web-based user interface where one could place an ad, and I started looking for programmers. I used to meet and talk to different people. Finally we decided to start with something simple like a single section of "Cerca & Trova". Among all the sections we picked the “looking for friends” service. It seemed more interesting than "looking for things".

So, in 1996 I decided to create an online dating service.

I found and employed a clever guy from St. Petersburg (as far as I remember, his name was Volodya), and hired an information technology consultant for him (his name was Aleksey, he also lived in St. Petersburg). We bought a server powerful enough for the time being, placed the whole thing on one of the first Internet platforms in Russia (it was in Moscow... we found nothing of the kind in St. Petersburg for that moment), and started the development. As soon as the software was ready, we registered the domain name (fortune.ru) and created our own website.

To begin with, we placed profiles of our friends and family members and... started the project.

The activity was fruitful from the very first day. And from the very beginning we faced the challenge of exponentially growing loads. It was just natural that our resource attracted mass media’s attention. In 1997 it was one of the most popular services in RuNet.

Quite spontaneously, lots of Fortune.ru fan clubs were created in different cities of Russia. They used to spend weekends together, go on picnics. Many have started families with those they met on Fortune.ru. Our heyday was 2000 when the popular TV program "Vremechko" devoted one of the episodes to the Fortune.ru service.

All of this was quite favoring but... on the other hand, the service required considerable financial investments needed for both development and support. We had no idea how to monetize the service in post-crisis Russia.

Suddenly in 2003 the project was gone. Let me tell you what happened.

For that moment, all our resources were placed on about a dozen of our own servers. All of them were physically located in the United States. The ISP who provided us with Internet service went bankrupt. It was a result of the court action taken by Microsoft against that Internet provider. All their property was arrested. The IPS’s crisis managers were dragging their feet to give the servers back to their owners. We were requested to provide the documented evidence of our ownership of the servers. In the long run, they returned our servers to our agent. He forwarded them to a new Internet service provider in California where we rented a server rack (a specialized cabinet for servers plugged into broadband). However, one of the servers (the one with Fortune.ru on it) got lost on the way. Another one had a damaged hard drive (we believed that was the one with the Fortune.ru backup). To cut it short, shame on us, but we haven’t found the Fortune.ru. Well, actually we were not searching thoroughly enough as it was a low priority task for that moment. Almost a month passed since then, the Fortune.ru was unprofitable, and we were busy with lots of other tasks. As a result, we canceled the project.

The Fortune.ru domain name is now for sale.

It means that we kind of went back on Microsoft. The latter took fierce revenge on us for it. And we had to give way to Facebook, Odnoklassniki, and VKontakte...

P.S. A bit of conspiracy. The first Fortune.ru version was placed on Windows Server, and was using Access DB and IIS environment. That kind of a structure was too weak for constantly growing traffic. The server and services often went down, and we had to reboot them. When we crossed over to FreeBSD, MySQL, and Perl, it increased the Fortune.ru service uptime by 99.9% and made the system work dozens of times faster.