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These are Philly’s 25 best-read stories of all time

In honor of the close of this news site's first decade, we simply must say: So, so many maps. Plus, what happened to the subjects of a few top stories since we wrote them.

Lauren Ancona's residential permit parking map, updated in 2015. (Screenshot)
Dear reader, this Sunday is’s 11th anniversary of publishing tech and entrepreneurship news in Philadelphia.

Throughout 2019, we celebrated double digits with nostalgia, parties and a series called This Month in History that reflected on funny or noteworthy moments in our archives — plus, a lookback at the 10 biggest moments that shaped Philly tech as we know it today.

Separately, each December, we publish a list of the year’s best-read stories. We knew that for a decade, though, we needed to go bigger and look back at what Philly tech found most interesting from our roughly 10,000 articles.

Below, find the 25 best-read stories of all time.

Why 25? To be quite honest, because it’s a nice, big number, and because we liked the mix of stories we got when we expanded the range from 10 or 20.

Caveat: Our RealLIST Startups from the past four years kept popping up, so we removed those to save from repetition. Check out the 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 lists on your own.

Also, it should be stated quite plainly that we don’t judge a story’s value on how many clicks it gets — for many reasons, not the least of which is that clicks don’t matter. We still chase the deep dives and feature stories that explain where local careers and industries are headed. Still, it’s a fun experiment to look at what did pique readers’ attention, if only for the sentimentality of it all.

And now, enjoy reading these gems — perhaps, for a second or third time:


25. Why this woman dropped out of Temple’s computer science program [2015]

Becca Refford decided to leave the local university’s computer science program after realizing it was too heavy on theory and not strong enough on practice. The story became one of our most-trafficked in 2015.

Two years later, we ran into Refford at NET/WORK and talked to her about what she’s up to. She found a love for design work after leaving Chariot Solutions and thanked her mentors along the way.

“Mentors are there for guidance but they shouldn’t make your decisions for you,” Refford wrote in an email. “Obviously they have a certain amount of stock in the path that you choose but at the end of the day, you have to make the decisions that feel right in your gut.”

24. Just look at this 360° aerial shot of the Eagles parade [2018]

Really, go ahead and marvel over this bird’s-eye view of the post-Super Bowl LII parade captured by Philly By Drone.

An aerial shot of Philadelphia, with the Schuylkill River and high-rise buildings as backdrop.

An aerial shot of Philadelphia, with the Schuylkill River and high-rise buildings as backdrop. (Photo courtesy of Philly By Drone)

23. These two guys prove that you are doing Tinder all wrong [2015]

“Why Tinder alone when you can Tinder with friends?”

A couple of Swarthmore College grads put a double dating twist on the typical Tinder routine by creating a double profile to encourage their matches to go out with them on a double date. Former reporter Juliana Reyes investigated whether that method was successful.

22. Google’s Philadelphia office hideout [2011]

Following the 2010 acquisition of ad company Invite Media, a bunch of Google engineers were secretly working at a 1500 Market St. high-rise — so of course we had to talk about it. Too bad the internet giant didn’t want to.

Alas, Google still lists no Philadelphia offices on its list of current locations.

21. 10 coolest (mostly interactive) online maps of Philadelphia [2010]

We might have a slight map obsession, but it seems you all do, too. Check out some the interactive maps of Philly fueling it.

From interactive oral history platform (Screenshot)

20. 10 highest paid City of Philadelphia employees in 2012, including overtime pay [2013]

Yep, it’s a list of how much Philly’s top civic earners made in 2012. Former mayor Michael Nutter made nearly $210,000 that year.

In case you’re curious: Mayor Jim Kenney makes around $218,000 a year, based on 2018 data.

19. How to open a business in the City of Philadelphia, or 15 reasons people move to the suburbs [2009]

One of our readers took us through her two-month process of trying to launch a business in the city: She started the process by applying for an Employee Identification Number (EIN). The next week was spent tracking down the business privilege tax form. Exactly two months later, the Business Privilege Tax License was in her mailbox.

In conclusion, starting a business in Philly is not as easy as you think.

We also broke down the process of opening a business in Philly into as few steps as possible.

18. DuckDuckGo’s best week ever: 2.54M direct searches Friday after PRISM news breaks [2013]

This is the first time this DuckDuckGo is appearing on this list but, spoiler, won’t be the last. The article is itty-bitty, so here it is in full (minus a video that has gone missing):

DuckDuckGo finished its best week of traffic ever with 2.54 million direct searches on Friday. That’s a 37 percent increase over the number of direct searches made the previous Friday on the Paoli-based search engine that promises not to track you.

DuckDuckGo’s best trafficked week follows news of PRISM, or the federal program that has been collecting information from the servers of tech companies like Google and Yahoo. It also couldn’t have hurt that DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg was featured on Bloomberg last week, explaining at least one advantage of using the search engine.

“If the FBI or NSA comes to us, we have nothing to tie back to you,” he said.

Psst, the site’s self-reported daily search traffic average for February 2020 is a cool 53,510,171.

17. This graph shows how Netflix speeds changed after Comcast deal [Comcast Roundup] (2014)

We used to publish these Comcast Roundup columns often. We’d guess that this one probably did well because of its national focus on two things most everyone cared about in 2014: Netflix, and net neutrality.

The scary sentence we highlighted from The Washington Post’s report: “Since Netflix gave into Comcast’s demands for payment in exchange for a promise to deliver movies smoothly over the Internet to Netflix’s customers, speeds on Comcast for Netflix users have rocketed upward.”

16. The farm of the future is right here in Philadelphia [2016]

Metropolis Farms started in a South Philly warehouse and reported to use 98% less water than traditional farms, growing food sustainably with recycled water, special lights and coconut board.

Then, the “farm of the future”quickly became the farm of the past when cofounder Jack Griffin was accused of defrauding investors of $1 million in 2018.

15. TransitView: SEPTA unveils real-time bus and trolley app, also SMS and smartphone schedules [2011]

If you live or work in Philly, there’s a chance you have waited at the bus trop or train station wondering why the bus or trolley is running late again. SEPTA released its TransitView app in 2011 to make the Philly commute a little bit easier. The app relies on GPS-enabled busses and trolleys to track precise locations on Google Maps.

TransitView is still going strong. Here’s what the 34 trolley was doing on Friday afternoon, for instance:

(Screenshot via TransitView)

14. South Philly’s Stoya: adult film star on DOS and leaving Philadelphia [2009]

Here’s one we didn’t even know was in the archives: It’s the story of a Delaware-bred adult film star and tech head that made the move to L.A. more than 10 years ago. She told she isn’t a nerd — she was just raised one.

Stoya is still acting and won Best Actress at FEST Belgrade International Film Festival last year for her role in the sci-fi movie “A.I. Rising.”

13. ENIAC: 10 things you should know about the original super computer 65 years later  [2011]

Weighing in at 30 tons and covering 1,800 square feet of floor space, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer was the first computer built to “think” for itself.

12. Philly’s city wage tax just turned 75. Here’s its dubious legacy  [2014]

The city wage tax was introduced in 1939. Here’s some insight on why it’s still around and if it will make it to 100.

This is one of Technically Media CEO Chris Wink’s iconic longreads attempting to make a dry topic more digestible. It seems like he did, given how much people read it.

11. How Scholly sparked a big fight on ‘Shark Tank’ (and landed $40K) [2015]

When a Drexel University undergrad landed a deal with Lori Greiner and Daymond John for his scholarship app, Scholly, and simultaneously started one of the biggest fights the Tank has ever had.

Scholly is now headquartered in Los Angeles and has reportedly found more than $70 million in scholarship money to make college more affordable for students.

10. Küdzoo: mobile app turns good grades into real-life perks [2014]

“Good Grades = Great Rewards” with Küdzoo. The free mobile app allows students to take photos of their report cards and receive concert tickets, scholarship opportunities and other prizes for their good grades.

Logan Cohen, a cofounder and now co-CEO of Küdzoo, talked to us in 2014 about new ways to reward students for academic achievements. Since then, the education startup advanced to the finals of the Rybakov Prize that rewards a $1 million prize fund to entrepreneurs creating education initiatives; Cohen is heading to Moscow this month for the final round. Crunchbase puts the company’s HQ in New York.

9. These 36 Philly tech firms are hiring right now [NET/WORK] [2014]

In 2014, 36 tech companies set up at Union Transfer for NET/WORK Philly.

Not super interesting content-wise, perhaps, but kinda cool to look at how our annual tech hiring fair has grown: We’re expecting more than 60 local tech companies to be present at NET/WORK Philly 2020 on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at The Fillmore in Fishtown.

It’s also neat to consider which companies have stuck around from then to now, or not. URBN and O3 World pop up on both lists, for instance, and Bob Moore’s Crossbeam is tabling where his last startup, RJ Metrics, did before. Meanwhile, 2014 “Coworking Cafe” sponsor 50onRed is now known as Red Spark.

8. This rising Philly-made startup is shutting down. Here’s why, in its founder’s words [2020]

Andrew Hoagland, CEO and cofounder of Vetd, left his job at Sidecar to start the software buying platform in 2017. He and Zach Shapiro hoped to transform the way people would buy and sell enterprise software.

Two years later, the startup shut down. In a guest post, Hoagland wrote about Vetd’s strategy, its mistakes, and the advice he would give to others looking to grow a company.

“Would I advise other want-to-be entrepreneurs to take such a risky plunge?” he said. “Absolutely, and I would tell them to do it in Philly.”

Vetd’s Andrew Hoagland (L), Zach Shapiro (C) and Bill Piel, July 2019. (Courtesy photo)

7. Top 50 biggest employers in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties [2013] and See the 50 biggest employers in the Philadelphia region in 2013 [2014]

It’s true: Philly is still an eds and meds city.

Comcast is now the 12th largest employer in Philly, up five spots from when these stories were published, and the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia, and the federal government now top the list for Philly’s largest employers as of the second quarter of 2019, according to state data.

6. Why is SAP North America headquartered in Newtown Square? [2015]

Why did the third-largest software company in the world place its headquarters in Delaware County? It’s all came down SAP’s suburban staff.

The latest big SAP news of late: Bill McDermott, the CEO of the company for nine years, stepped down from his role in October, and investor Elliott Management disclosed a $1.35 billion stake in SAP last year.

5. These are Philly’s 20 coolest startups: Philadelphia Magazine and ThinkFest [2013]

Before our RealLIST was born, Philly Mag chose 20 of the region’s coolest startups to profile the local tech scene. So where are some of these startups now? Just a taste:

Curalate had quite the 2018, when it found a new home at 8 Penn Center t0 accommodate future growth, and was added to Twitter’s official partner program. Couponing app SnipSnap was acquired by Slyce, Inc. in 2015 after hitting 4 million users on iOS and Android. And Artisan Mobile was acquired by Seattle’s Tune in 2015 for an undisclosed sum.

4. Old Images of Philadelphia: Our 10 favorite photos from the Facebook group with 48k+ fans [2013]

A history buff’s infatuation with Philly throwbacks grew into a Facebook page that now has nearly 240,000 likes.

Here’s one of our favorite photos from the page:

(Photo via

3. Here’s what we know (and don’t) about that disturbing steel furnace letter on Philly Reddit [2019]

What else is there to say about last year’s best-read story? Well, here’s what we did say about it in December:

Oh, Reddit. We can always count on you for bringing us the oddest stories that somehow manage to bring the entire city together. This spring, residents of Brewerytown and Fairmount received a very confusing letter explaining that all food we’ve consumed from first grade on up is still alive inside our bodies. According to the note, the only way to save yourself from this harrowing reality is to become a solid steel statue (?) by mixing your body with melted metal (??) then re-solidifying the metal (???). A FurnaceParty Reddit was started and a daylong party ensued. Do Attend.

2. DuckDuckGo on CNBC: We’ve grown 600% since NSA surveillance news broke  [2015]

Phew, that’s a lot of growth. Thanks, federal government surveillance program!

Sadly, the CNBC clip featuring CEO Gabe Weinberg is missing from the story. Thanks, federal government surveillance program!

1. Here’s a map of Philly’s residential permit parking zones  [2014]

There’s something quintessentially Philadelphian about this being our top-read story of all time: Readers most loved this simple-enough map showing where they can put their dang cars.

“Drivers and data-heads alike, rejoice: One designer has created a helpful map for Philadelphia motorists, making it easier to see the borders of the Parking Authority’s residential permit parking districts,” we wrote six years ago about the work of data scientist Lauren Ancona, who designed it using cloud-based mapping platform Mapbox.

See the more-recently-updated version below:

Lauren Ancona’s updated residential permit parking map.


It’s been a wild decade, folks. Thanks for following along.


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