Is it possible today for a single engineer to scale an app to 1 million users?

Is it possible today for a single engineer to scale an app to 1 million users? by @ossia

Answer by Quincy Larson:

Meet Thibault Duplessis, the founder of lichess.org – the second most popular chess website on the planet – and its sole engineer.

Here are some stats Thibault recently published:

As of 4 months ago, he had 78,000 unique visitors per day, who play a total of 260,000 games per day.

Here's his steady growth rate in daily active users (and it's safe to say he has well over one million total users at this point):

So here's the crazy part: Thibault has no employees. He doesn't even work on lichess.org full-time. He still has a job at a development consultancy.

lichess's main competitor, Chess.com, is a privately-held behemoth that makes millions of dollars each year off ugly banner ads and premium membership up-sells, then spends that money acquiring their competition.

Contrast this with Thibault, who has open-sourced lichess's server code. He has even promised that lichess will be free forever, and will never have advertisements.

But wait – how can a responsible engineer promise this?

Because of the nature of modern web applications, and the economics of their near-zero marginal costs.

Despite lichess's complexity, and the scale at which it operates, Thibault's server costs are a measly $416 a month.

This cost is easily covered by donations from his grateful users – who increasingly include some of the best chess players in the world.


More and more engineers like Thibault Duplessis are building free, open source products that are vastly superior to their paid competition.

If you're interested in learning how to build products like this, here's another free, open source product that will help you do that.

I only write about programming and technology. If you follow me I won’t waste your time.

Is it possible today for a single engineer to scale an app to 1 million users?

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