I bought Ottawa over the Internet

At Weblo.com you could own the Donald Trump empire for less then what you’d pay for dinner and a movie.

I now own the city of Ottawa. Yep, you heard me. It’s all mine. I bought it for all of US$55 today. I plan to install a water slide at the Peace Tower with the money I save by nixing MP’s golden parachutes (they can use the slide exit). As well, I’m now managing the career of Vegas comedian Carrot Top, and I also plan to install him as my Deputy Mayor. I figure politics and prop comedy just go hand in hand.

No, I haven’t pulled off the greatest land swindle since the Dutch bought Manhattan. I’m talking about my experience at Weblo.com, the ultimate Monopoly-like game where virtual copies of celebrities, properties and Web domains are yours for the taking, if you have real cash to spend.

The brainchild of Montreal’s Rocky Mirza, Weblo.com is best described as a parallel universe where players can buy assets with real money and reap real returns for everything from advertising to celebrity management to property taxes. For example, you can buy a domain such as computers.com and share in ad revenues from the site (Weblo is wooing real advertisers for this). You can even link this “in-game” site to your actual real world Web site and use it as a promotion tool. Any non-brand-specific domain which exists in the real world is available to buy in the Weblo world. The same goes for provinces and cities — you can buy Ontario for a mere US$16,000.

This is no short-term investment, though.

According to Mirza, it could take the owner of Ontario as long as three years to make his or her investment back, unless they manage to flip it faster. Of course, there are risks, not the least of which is whether Weblo will actually be around in three years.

In Weblo, a “city” is nothing more than a Web site. The designers have purposely avoided any kind of 3-D game element in order to make it as user-friendly as possible to the widest possible audience.

Mirza points out that Weblo will market advertising for your city site and share the revenue from those ads. You also don’t need to know anything about Web design because Weblo provides browser-based wizards to design the sites. However, the quality of the content on your city site will dictate your traffic and potential profits, meaning that this could be more time-intensive than owning a three-legged puppy.

But, how can you be sure you’ll actually see any money from someone who might buy a domain or other asset from you? No one can buy anything in Weblo unless they have real money in their account prior to purchase. Once a purchase is made the money is transferred to your account. User account money for buying assets will not be used by Weblo for anything outside of the game economy.

Frankly, Weblo is less of a game than it is a marketing opportunity. And, while the novel approach might remind some people of a pyramid scheme, that would be unfair, since players do not recruit other players, who would then be obligated to pay them a percentage.

Only time will tell if any of the participants in this project will actually profit from the experience. Now, if you will excuse me, my deputy mayor must have an issue because he’s waving a rubber chicken at me.

QuickLink: 063260

–Ducharme is editor of PCWorld.ca. Reach him at editor@pcworld.ca.

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