A brief chat with Mr. 10 Minute Mail

What made the debut of 10 Minute Mail interesting in November 2006 -- besides its utility -- was Devon Hillard's motivation for developing the service: He wanted to hone his coding chops on what was for him a new language, Seam.

Although not an original concept, 10 Minute Mail was an instant hit, helped along by the fact that the initial Buzzblog post about it wound up on Slashdot. Fifteen months later, Hillard, a 28-year-old application architect living in Seattle, tells me his Web freebie has far exceeded any standard 15 minutes of fame. Here's an edited version of our e-mail exchange:

What kind of traffic are you getting?

"Currently I'm getting about 65,000-70,000 hits per day. It's been increasing steadily and gradually."

How's the feedback been?

"10MinuteMail has gone through a redesign, and had a few new small features added at the request of users who have e-mailed me. Coming up within the next few weeks, I will be upgrading it to use AJAX refreshes to make the interface cleaner and reduce server load."

You've written on your blog about 10 Minute Mail drawing complaints from net admins concerned about spam. Still?

"I get an occasional e-mail from a forum admin who had someone spam on their forum, having used a 10 Minute Mail address to register, but once they understand that the e-mail address (usually on some random domain like vansoftcorp.com) came from 10 Minute Mail, and that it's no different than free Gmail or Hotmail accounts, they understand. Some block registrations from the current e-mail domain, some don't. Overall I haven't had any serious complaints lately."

Are you able to make any money off of this?

"The Google Ads I'm running are paying for the server and bandwidth bills, plus a little extra, but nothing that's going to make me rich. I like having a simple service that people like. It's encouraging with regards to other ideas I have."

You did this as part of your effort to learn Seam. How'd that go?

"It was a great first project. I have worked on several more complex projects using Seam since then, including one coming out in a couple of months. I am still a strong believer in Seam being the next best open source Java Web framework."

How are people discovering the site?

"Right now about 87% of my traffic comes in directly, presumably from people who have bookmarked the site. Another 12% comes in from referrals (stumbleupon, various forums and portals), and the remaining percent or so is mostly Google searches. The referral traffic varies, depending on if the site is mentioned on the front page of a large portal one day and not the next."

By the way, how long did it take to write 10 Minute Mail?

"It took about a month in my spare time probably, but it's hard to be too sure at this point. If I had to do it again, knowing what I know now, it would probably take a couple of days. ... I spend about 30 minutes a month on it when I change out the e-mail domain to something new. Other than that it just runs along."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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