WAYN has spread rapidly thanks to an innovative idea which consists of enabling users to find old friends and make new friends based on their whereabouts. This has now been widely adopted across other services, notably the extremely popular 'Where I've Been' application available on Facebook.
A user can locate visually where each of their contacts is situated around the world. The service is thus intended to be used for its members to keep friends informed of where they are whilst travelling but also for people to find out who is coming to visit their location from elsewhere. Members can find out more about a destination they wish to visit, finding another member online from that destination and getting a first hand summary of what to do, what to see and what to consider when visiting, and they can also find out which friends have already visited a certain destination so they can get quick tips when planning a new trip
Members donate points and receive points for adding well rated content to the site. Points equal a ranking on the site for members in a WAYN league.
WAYN initially grew through word-of-mouth and reached almost 50,000 members by the end of 2004. Following its relaunch in May 2005 it grew exponentially, reaching over 2.5M members by the end of 2005. On 21 June 2007 the site claimed "over 8m members"
WAYN is also one of the very few sites which didn't lose the impact of new subscriptions after introducing fees for taking advantage of the full membership service September 2004, making it one of the few premium social networking communities that managed to become profitable.
WAYN secured $11m Series A funding from ECP (Esprit Capital Partners) last November (2006) and secured Brent Hoberman, ex CEO and Founder of Lastminute.com - Esprit Capital Partners, a firm formed from the recent merger of Cazenove Private Equity and Prelude Ventures, has put up most of the investment funding for WAYN. Others investing with Hoberman include the founders of some of Britain’s most successful online businesses: David Soskin and Hugo Burge of Cheapflights and HOWZAT media LLP; Adrian Critchlow and Andy Phillips of Active Hotels (which was sold in 2004), and Constant Tedder of Jagex, an online games company. Unusually for a venture-capital investment, Esprit has allowed Ward and his co-founders, Jerome Touze and Mike Lines, to cash in some of their shares.
In January 2008 the gossip appeared that WAYN might be bought by AOL for $200m, however this had been demented very quickly.
WAYN is very popular in the UK where it has over 2 million members . It is also strong in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other countries in Western Europe, including the Netherlands. In all, WAYN has members from 220 different countries creating a strong global network and has been featured across the national press in Great Britain as one of the Internet Phenomenons of the year.
WAYN now has over 12 million members and is growing by up to 20,000 members daily. It was voted most popular community in the 2007 Website of the Year awards.
In addition, when registering to WAYN the option to "Skip this step" for importing friends can be easily overlooked, making some users believe that importing addresses is a requirement rather than an option. A new layout of the WAYN site in April 2007 with enhanced privacy functionalities attempts to combat criticism of this common problem also providing users with a more intuitive navigation throughout the registration process.
WAYN additionally censors messages sent between users to encourage communication through the site. This is allegedly to ensure that users are protected by the WAYN site policies whilst interacting with other members. However, it also makes it difficult for users to communicate other than through the WAYN message system thereby keeping traffic on site. Any reference to an e-mail address, or popular networking website will be filtered, although users have found ways to get around this eg. deliberate incorrect spelling of mail addresses. Opening up of interaction on the site in June 2007 now allows members unlimited messaging thereby reducing need to evade the WAYN filtering.