Despite its name, the site contains more than just birthdays—it’s more like a constantly updated, highly detailed map of who matters to the teen internet, featuring a mix of biographical information, photos, videos, rankings, and detailed statistics on every social-media star you could think of. And to teenagers, it’s a bible. “They have everything you want to know about everyone who is important,” says Grace, a 14-year-old in St. Louis.
Charles Porch, the head of global creative partnerships at Instagram, says that Famous Birthdays is like the younger generation’s Tiger Beat. “You might know about Famous Birthdays if you’re a parent,” Porch says. “But you definitely know about it if you’re a kid, and you definitely know about it if you’re a creator. Is it adult mainstream yet? No, but that doesn’t matter.” The site has 20 million unique visitors a month—more than a million more than Entertainment Weekly, and four times as many as Teen Vogue.
The site’s founder, Evan Britton, never set out to build such a site. Back in 2012, he saw the shift to digital beginning and recognized an opportunity to build a mobile-first celebrity encyclopedia that could be easily read on a phone. At the time, Wikipedia pages were clunky and poorly formatted, packed with low-quality photos and too much information. So Britton built a simple site and populated it with easy-to-skim stats on stars such as Rihanna, Tom Hanks, and Jennifer Lawrence, hoping the site would become a respectable home for information on A-listers. After about a year, Britton told me, Famous Birthdays reached “1 or 2 million users.” He thought it had peaked.