November 6, 2013
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Ionicons: Hacker News Front Page Recap

Max Lynch


Last week we officially launched Ionicons, our open source Icon font, and were on the front page of Hacker News for two days (link).

Over the next few days, we had an outpouring of support as people all over the world tried out the icon font and put it to good use. Now that things are slowing down, we wanted to share some of the numbers and show what being on the front page of Hacker News can do for a project.

The Submission

I submitted Ionicons to Hacker News at around 3 PM central time on a Tuesday afternoon. I’m not sure that is generally considered a good time to post, but it felt right and I wasn’t expecting much, so I submitted it.

The post got a few upvotes pretty quickly, probably because the headline suggested free icons and HN users love free design assets. It wasn’t long before it was on the front page.

But we immediately noticed a HUGE issue: the font didn’t work in any browser except for Chrome, and the font files were actually corrupted! We were using Icomoon to generate the fonts, and one of our glyphs had a bad path that messed up the entire font. We were able to fix the issue after 20 minutes or so, but that mishap cost us some early momentum and left us laughing at the epic shitty timing of it all.

Over the next few days, the post received over 375 points, drawing lots of comments and a lot of love on Twitter and beyond.

The Traffic

Over the next two days, Ionicons saw a lot of traffic. About 23,000 visits each day:


The nice thing is the baseline traffic has gone from almost nothing to several thousand visits per day. The initial blast has created some stickiness!

It’s interesting how both days saw essentially equal visits, and dramatically decreased in traffic once they left the front page.

The Stars

Since last Tuesday, the Ionicons GitHub repo grew from 60 stars to over 2400 stars! It was the trending repo on GitHub for almost a week, and is the #1 weekly trending repo right now. It also grew to be the 11th most popular repo for the entire month. The GitHub love is almost my favorite part of the whole experience.

It did help that we had @mdo’s great GitHub Buttons on the front page of Ionicons to easily star the repo.

The Follows

The IonicFramework twitter account grew from about 600 follows to 1400 which was really nice, and spawned a lot of discussion on Twitter.

Having follow and tweet buttons right front and center really helped leverage the network effect of people loving the icons.

The Community

Over the last week hackers in the community built an iOS plugin for using Ionicons right in your iOS apps, and a great search tool for searching FontAwesome, Glyphicons, and Ionicons easily, using a variety of search terms to normalize all the strange names we all give icons.

Also, right when the post hit the front page, we had many issues filed and pull requests opened on the project, which was awesome and helped us fix a lot of random issues. One big improvement is we’ve since moved to our own build system and made it easier for people to customize the build pack and use it as they wish.

Open Source Fucking Rocks

Ionicons is probably the most successful open source project any of us has ever had. We hope it’s the second most successful one after we launch our Ionic Framework in a few weeks, which will make it easy for more developers to build amazing native-feeling mobile apps with web technologies.

For a company that has traditionally not done much open source (we make Codiqa and Jetstrap as well, both closed source), moving to open source has made us realize that we enjoy it a hell of a lot more than building closed source software.

There is something incredibly powerful about quality open source software. It’s as if everyone in the world who could conceivably benefit from your work, can. And by going open source, great products have the increased potential to compete against closed source alternatives.

Since we are a small team bootstrapping a software startup, we’ve decided that open source is a competitive advantage, and will help us compete against the big VC-backed companies in our space. Closed source just isn’t that cool in comparison.

So if you were one of the people who shared Ionicons or upvoted us, we owe you a ton of thanks for making the project successful. Stay tuned and we promise lots more stuff to help you be more awesome, and we hope to see a pull request from you in the future!

The Ionic Crew
Max, Ben, Adam, Brody, Tim, Peter.

Max Lynch