The perplexing success of Tired.com.

Opinion, gossip, and more from around the Web.
July 13 2004 5:58 PM

So Tired

Where Web surfers go when they haven't slept a wink.

When Mike Kuniavsky bought the Internet domain tired.com from a friend in November 1997, he wasn't planning to set up an anonymous confessional. He wasn't planning anything at all. At the time, Mike and I were both Web workers developing sites for the company that owned Wired magazine. "Tired" puns about Wired were de rigueur, so Mike grabbed tired.com for laughs.

While deciding what to do with his new domain, Mike typed a few lines of HTML as its home page. The site welcomed visitors with six words in a bland typewriter font: "Are you tired? Tell us why."

Advertisement

"It was a joke," Mike says. "I put it there on a lark as a placeholder." But he linked the word "us" to a nondescript e-mail address, tired@tired.com, that forwarded to his personal inbox.

The first e-mail arrived almost instantly, from an East Coast university where the time showed as 2:28 a.m.:

let me get this straight. you have a website about people being tired? hmmm...sounds sketchy. either you guys got too much time on your hands, or..something else. Anyhow, I got work to do.

Kuniavsky, who now makes a living as a user-experience consultant for the designers of Web sites and gadgets, hadn't realized that on some browsers, idly typing "tired" into the URL field and pressing return would automatically open www.tired.com. The minimalist page loads so quickly it catches surfers off-guard with its short, unexplained request. "Are you tired? Tell us why." Amazingly, people do.

The first message was followed by another 20 in the next 24 hours, and nearly 100 in the first week, a rate that's continued steadily for almost seven years, neither rising nor falling with the growth of the Net. To date, he's received more than 32,000 messages. Each one is personal, but most of the people who write in—like the underslept student who started it all—fall into one of a few familiar categories.

There's the overworked parent:

Because I work two jobs and have two kids. My husband is a 13 year old trapped in a thirty year old body. My sister lives with us and doesn't work or take care of herself. My kids are great, but between my other two jobs and this house I'm exhausted. I went to school as a single mom, finished high school with my son, finished college with him. I didn't get married until I graduated college, and I can't find a good paying job without relocating. You can't relocate without a good paying job. It's a vicious circle and it's eating me alive!

The world-weary teen, the site's fastest-growing demographic:

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

Uh-Oh. The World’s Oceans Have Broken Their All-Time Heat Record.

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

Future Tense

How to Keep Apple From Sharing Your iPhone Data With the Police

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

A Simple Way to Keep Apple From Sharing Your iPhone Data With the Police

The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant

The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.