What matters most about #TheDress isn’t the color scheme. It’s the popularity of the story. BuzzFeed’s now-famous Thursday story – simply titled “What Colors Are The Dress?” – now looks like it’ll become the web site’s most-viewed post ever. In an interview with CNN Money, BuzzFeed editor in chief Ben Smith said, “We’ve has other huge hits. But this one went bigger faster.”
Maybe that’s the lesson for BuzzFeed and its many rivals: The speed with which #TheDress happened. Stories that previously would have “gone viral” over a period of days can now achieve the same success in hours. Smith credits the proliferation of mobile devices and the ever-increasing “universality” of the Internet. “The network is so much more fully built out than it was even a year or two ago,” he said.
To his point, 79% of Thursday’s views of “What Colors Are The Dress?” came from mobile devices like iPhones. The huge proportion of mobile viewership underscores why technology companies – and, more recently, media companies – have been talking about being “mobile-first.”
According to BuzzFeed, 94% of the story’s views came from social media sites like Twitter and “dark social” sources like links swapped via text-message. Smith said he appreciated how people also shared the photo of the dress physically, by passing their phones and tablets to friends and family.
The story shaped conversations at dinner, in bars, on couches, over text, all driven by mobile and the ability to show your phone to your friend. Same picture, same device, but different colors! In less than 24 hours, people from every corner of the world were looking at each other’s phones at a post, on a site, run by a company totally optimized for social and mobile.
BuzzFeed’s most-viewed story ever is a quiz called “What State Do You Actually Live In?” It was posted in February 2014, and it has racked up 41.6 million views. #TheDress is already in striking distance with 37.6 million views in less than one week.