When Bay Gross created a quick program to help his friend check her Facebook page at her summer job without her boss noticing, he had no idea it would become an instant online hit. Forty-eight hours later, the wittily-named Hardlywork.in was featured in The Atlantic. Within a week it was splashed across the web pages of the Life Hacker, Mashable, Life Inc, and the Huffington Post. After two and a half weeks, it hit 1.5 million page viewers and 600,000 unique users. Now, the service is being used 160 countries and has become particularly popular with cubicle jockeys in Indonesia and Romania.
Hardlywork.in gets past your manager’s watchful eye by reformatting a Facebook news feed into what looks like an Excel spreadsheet. Users can click on friends’ names to view their profiles within the spreadsheet. They even can hide the trick from their bosses by pressing the spacebar, which fills the spreadsheet with random numbers and professional-looking column headers like “Earnings” and “Case index.”
The button to activate the site’s function is labeled, “Gimme dem spreadsheets!”, and while the spreadsheet is loading, the page reads, “Hang on you little corporate warrior you.”
Hardlywork.in was never a serious project for Gross, a rising junior and computer science major at Yale. He has designed over ten other sites, most of them tailored for Yale students. Now he’s the youngest founder at upcoming start-up, BlueFusion, which aims to harness the Internet for political campaigns. Howard Dean and several national Democratic politicians have already expressed interest in using it.
Gross had been toying with the Hardlywork.in idea for a while. “I wanted to render Facebook in some weird format, maybe Microsoft Word or The New York Times website,” he told Betabeat over the phone.
Most users, Gross said, look at the site once rather than returning constantly. “It’s more of a gimmick at this point,” he said. But he’s not disappointed. “I didn’t set out to destroy American productivity.”