A little over two years ago, in August 2020, Flightsim.to was founded to provide Microsoft Flight Simulator and its community with a place to easily share created mods with the world. Before Flightsim.to was launched, mods were shared on a wide variety of platforms, through a wide variety of ways and download options that hardly anyone could keep track of. We are proud to have launched Flightsim.to two years ago and to have grown together with creators as well as pilots from all over the world. The trust that creators have put in our platform from the beginning means a lot to us and is still the main reason why Flightsim.to exists today and could grow to such an extent that was unimaginable for us at that time.
What started back then as a small website for sharing a few hundred files is now a universe used by hundreds of thousands of hobby pilots around the world. Never would we have expected that our website would take on such a scale. Whereas in the very first weeks of our journey we were running on the simplest of servers that anyone could afford for just a few euros out of their own pocket, today we have built up a dedicated network whose costs have now quickly swallowed up ten or even more times the start-up capital we had at the time. Proportionally to this, the number of visitors and users of Flightsim.to has grown steadily. Today, we are almost counting half a million users - wow! - and close to forty thousand uploads and forty million downloads in total. This is absolutely unimaginable, not to mention the millions of page views and thousands of terrabytes which our servers handle every month. This growth is largely due to creators who continuously deliver new content for our passion, but also to the team at Asobo and Microsoft who continue to add new content to Microsoft Flight Simulator even years after its release. Thank you all for that.
The growth is challenging us
However, with increased growth comes many challenges. Unfortunately, many will have noticed that our website has been more or less sluggish, lagging and slow lately, and sometimes even crashes altogether. At this point, our responsibility as a leading platform requires us to be honest: The user experience is of utmost importance to us, and downtimes that interfere with the normal use of the site are a thorn in our side as well. To get straight to the point, the problem is that when Flightsim.to was created two years ago, it was never designed to tame these horrendous masses of views, uploads, downloads and visitors. Launched as a small hobby project, there wasn't much emphasis on programming a fail-safe, efficient system that could be easily scaled when developing the core, the root of the platform.
While this growth we have seen over the years is a fantastic development, it also comes with challenges on the technical side. The way the site was originally developed, it is simply not designed to scale with this mass of popularity that we have experienced within a short period of time. Basically, the one or two decisions we made two years ago are now massively limiting our further development and growth. While we always had the best intentions, we did not think outside the box, and even if we had, this success would have been unimaginable to us.
The following symbolic example from real life could be used to illustrate this a little bit: Imagine you are ordering from a fast food restaurant. It was opened two years ago, and has two counters for ordering. A year later, a stadium and shopping mall was built next to this fast food restaurant, so now it is much busier than it was when it opened. It used to be speedy and quick, you could order quickly and get your ordered food immediately. But now it's Saturday afternoon, people are milling around in the mall, and a derby is just finishing in the stadium next door. Hungry people rush into the fast food restaurant. With only two counters open, where you have to wait in line for your turn, you can guess how long it takes until it's your turn. Now, you could argue that the restaurant could hire more staff to remedy the situation. But that's not where the problem lies: it wouldn't do any good to hire more cashiers if there are only two cash registers. The problem has already been built along with the foundation: Namely, only two counters were installed. To install more, extensive construction work is required. This scenario can be applied to Flightsim.to symbolically.
The result of this shortage is, on the one hand, that our platform is busy and at capacity at peak times. This is shown, for example, by long loading times and slow downloads. We are fully aware that this incredibly disturbs the user experience, and we hate it too. On the other hand, this inevitably slows down new features and functionalities that we want to push to production. There is no point in building new features on top of an outdated system that will sooner or later have to be rebuilt or repaired anyway. First of all, the foundation has to be straightened before you can build on it. We are currently in the process of moving this foundation properly.
Improvements take time
To date, we have made a number of improvements to our backend. However, part of those improvements was that we had to take out some features that were just terribly implemented: For example, the old file forums. The large-scale changes we made "behind the scenes" are unfortunately not visible to the non-tech-savvy user, because they just affect what the site users don't see. However, they are the foundation for what will be built on top of it, and what users will see. Our goal is to build a solid foundation for future development, and we hope that you will be able to forgive minor outtages and weak performance while we are working on these improvements to make Flightsim.to future-ready.
While we listen to user feedback closely, we will put new feature requests on hold. Our main focus is now on server-side performance and stability improvements, i.e. improving the backend to process and scale inputs faster. Our second focus is on client-side performance and stability improvements, i.e. removing unneeded resources that are still deprecated libraries, and removing leftover code that is no longer needed but is still executed on every page load, to make the whole user experience smoother and more fluid. You've already seen some design changes in terms of simplicity, and we're in the process of unifying them across the site.
As the stability and performance of our platform will be given preference, new features will have to wait. Namely, we promised you an API that allows third party developers to connect with the Flightsim.to services. We were also working on our own Mod Manager that would automatically install and keep your mods up to date. Although developments were in full swing, we don't want to rush something into production that still needs time to be properly usable. The same applies to the optional premium membership that we wanted to offer, so you can browse and download completely free of advertising and without waiting for downloads. But what's the point of having an ad-free website if there is no website that runs reliably? You see the problem. And those three things were just a small sample of what's on our still-growing to-do list.
We understand that this is not a pleasant situation, but we hope that you now understand the background of the recent performance issues a little better, and we are convinced that Flightsim.to is going to improve from day to day, in order to offer the flight simulation community even better and more innovative features in the future. For us, it is still absolutely mindblowing what keeps this community together, and our mission remains unchanged to make modding as simple, plain and easy as possible. We have so many plans for the future, and we can't wait to share them with you if you follow us until then. Thank you for your continued support until now, and thank you for the support for hopefully many more years to come.