A new service called Makerbase wants to make it easier for anyone to discover who built some of the most popular websites and apps people use every day. The idea, which is described as an “IMDb” for people who make software, is the latest project from ThinkUp’s founders – Lifehacker founding editor Gina Trapani and early blogger and entrepreneur Anil Dash.
Essentially, Makerbase is an editable directory, not entirely dissimilar from the startup directory CrunchBase, but one that’s focused not necessarily on who founded a company, invested in it, or who held executive roles there, but who are the people that are actually building the technology behind some of our favorite online and mobile tools.
“At a surface level, it’s fun to see who makes the apps and sites we use every day, and fun for hackers and creators to be able to list all their work,” explains Dash. “But at a bigger level, this is a powerful tool for opening up opportunity in the industry, because it shows the network and connections between people, and maybe even offers those who aren’t in the industry a glimpse into who’s making things and a chance to gain access,” he says.
To use the service, visitors to the site can sign in with Twitter to set up an account, and can then keep tabs on when pages change by optionally adding an email.
On the Makerbase homepage, there’s a search box that lets you search across the database by either maker or the project, as well as a list of featured makers such as Tracy Chou of Pinterest, Buster Benson of Locavore, Marques Brownlee of MKBHD, and Ayah Bdeir of littleBits, for example, as well as a list of featured projects.
The site also shows the top contributors for the day and displays a feed of recent activity, including new entries and changes. Each project entry also includes its own activity feed, so you can see who’s been added over time along with other updates.
To create an entry, you first enter it in the search box. If it doesn’t already come up, you can click “Create this Maker” or “Create this Project” to add it. Makerbase then automatically pulls in information from Twitter or the App Store to fill out the details. Afterward, you can continue to flesh out the entry by adding the names of makers who worked on it along with description of what they did, if you choose. The service also suggests those a maker tends to collaborate with, which is helpful.
Dash says the site had been in testing with a few hundred users before today’s launch, where it’s debuting to the public at the first-ever White House Demo Day event. This event allows entrepreneurs from around the country to showcase their projects, as opposed to pitching investors as with typical demo days. In Makerbase’s case, it’s hoping to serve as a resource for those looking to break into the tech industry, and want to find out who it is they should know.
“We launched Makerbase as part of the event because we think that making the networks of creators visible really helps up-and-coming entrepreneurs – especially those from underrepresented communities- get access to opportunity,” explains Trapani. “We often talk to younger people entering tech, and even more common than questions about learning to code is that they simply don’t know who to have a cup of coffee with, or how to learn who made an app that they would love to help build.”
Though meant more as a side project, Makerbase does have a sponsorship model built in to help it monetize – the service lets you identify “tools” that you use to make a project. At launch, you can pick from Slack, MailChimp and Hover, but the company plans to add more sponsors starting next year. In the long run, this could become just as valuable a resource, if this feature was built out further as it would let you see not only who made something, but what they used to do so.
While there is some overlap with services like CrunchBase, LinkedIn, or even Github, Makerbase is a much simpler type of directory, at least for the time being. Users’ profile pages are fairly basic – they don’t always include dates worked at a company or job titles, though it’s possible to add a date range as well as a description of the project which could include a title, perhaps. In other words, it won’t necessarily be a resource for anything much more than who build what and who they like to work with.
But that alone has value, as it allows project contributors to highlight their roles in some of the best developments in websites, apps and services. It’s also useful for helping you discover who worked on software at major tech companies where the names of the engineers, leads and designers are often overshadowed by the name of the company itself.
For example, a page for Google Reader, the now retired (but still beloved) RSS reader from Google, includes a long list of names of those who were tasked with the project in some form or another.