Way back in August of 2007 I built a simple PHP tool that generates place-holder images at different size by simply changing the URL. The idea came to me when I was working on a redesign for USNews.com. I hated opening up Photoshop, creating a new document, filling the background layer, and exporting for web just to make a simple placeholder image. That is why I made dummyimage.com.
I figured it would be useful to other people which is why I also released the complete source code, documented and including instructions for setting it up on your own server. But like most new things, few gave it any notice.
The other day my friend Charlie Park (founder of Pear Budget) found it when doing some in-browser wire-framing and sent out a tweet to all of his followers. But he didn’t stop there. Charlie also posted it to Hacker News, a simple news aggregator aimed at geeks. It was obvious that my little tool was resonating with other developers with the tagline “Lorem ipsom for images.” In 24 hours, the Hacker News story got 161 votes with 77 comments, 513 people bookmarked it on del.icio.us, and 337 tweets.
What really struck me was how dummyimage.com was crossing the language barrier. I saw tweets mentioning in Spanish, Japanese, Russian, German, Dutch, even Latvian. I’m glad my idea was simple enough that foreign speakers could easily pick it up without any translation help.
All of this sudden attention also produced helpful feedback and new feature ideas. I started working on an update this past December for a few additions I wanted to see but this recent surge of interest has lit a fire under my butt to continue developing. As is the nature of opensource software, people don’t have to wait for me; they can adapt the code to their own needs. Here are some iterations that have already been made:
And somewhere down the line I would like to give it an attractive homepage. Hooray for side projects!