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What is Stack Overflow’s business model?

There is no doubt that the Stack Exchange network is vastly recognized through many various communities as the leading source of Q&A information.

Newbies and Oldies alike come to one or more of the Stack Exchange sites to any amount of reasons.

Without sounding like I want a VIP service, why is the Stack Exchange service free? The site obviously needs to support hosting and its services, so why would they go through the trouble of making such a vast and potentially high profit service free?

  • 9
    To your comment regarding "The site obviously needs to support hosting and its services", see What is Stack Overflow's business model? Nov 23, 2012 at 12:11
  • 8
    Well, I wouldn't be around if it wasn't free. I'm sure that's true for most regulars.
    – yannis
    Nov 23, 2012 at 12:16
  • how many users would there be if it weren't free? Nov 23, 2012 at 12:23
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    Because someone had the vision of a free question and answer site!?
    – juergen d
    Nov 23, 2012 at 12:28
  • 1
    @juergend - Yahoo! Answers is free. Just saying.
    – tombull89
    Nov 23, 2012 at 15:37
  • @tombull89 But one could doubt its "question and answer" nature. Nov 23, 2012 at 15:45

2 Answers 2


If we weren't free, we'd become http://www.experts-exchange.com/. That site has a much smaller community, and you need to pay to get answers. Not too fun.

Having an open community encourages participation, and it's more fun!

SE gets their revenue mainly from SO Careers and advertising (as well as VC funding). Careers is built upon SO -- users deemed to be "good programmers" (by invite, reputation, or Github/etc activity) can post their CV there. Due to this, maintaining SO as a source of "good programmers" is essential to the working of Careers. The exclusive nature of the site makes it attractive to employers, who pay to use it for hiring new employees.

Ads on SO/SU/SF also give a bit of revenue.

The rest of the sites are supported "to make the Internet better", though they probably shall monetize them if they get big enough.


Mainly to differentiate itself from other established sites. I think sites like EE is better in terms of selectiveness and free is overrated, while SE is betting that the input from free users is enough to offset the time wasted on extra moderation and other issues that generate lots of discussion on meta.

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