11. Rabies for Kids Here’s what happens when good intentions meet really bad design. Published by the Viral and Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch of the Centers for Disease Control, the Rabies for Kids site is an orgy of graphical offal. You’ll be foaming at the mouth long before you reach the “Activities” section, which features a photo of a dog’s brain being sliced with a scalpel.
10. MyLackey.com This Seattle-based site offered to walk your dog, pick up your dry cleaning and do all other manner of scut jobs for a fee. (Isn’t that what kids and younger siblings are there for?). The dot com contracted with local service providers for the dirty work, but apparently applied the “lackey” notion to its own employees as well. An infamous memo from co-founder Brendon Barnicle berated the company’s 65 employees for not putting in 11-hour days, making MyLackey a symbol of the dot-com work ethic. Sixteen months after it began, the last lackey still standing closed the doors and shut off the lights.
9. Hamsterdance.com Quite possibly the most irritating site on earth. Earplugs recommended.
8. BonziBuddy This animated purple gibbon called itself “your best friend on the internet”, but many who downloaded this free program weren’t feeling too friendly afterward. Buddy could tell jokes, recite your email, manage your schedule, and download files and more. But, the grape ape also tracked users’ surfing habits, hijacked homepages and installed several of his adware buddies. Depending on your browser settings, merely visiting Bonzi’s website or clicking a banner ad could install Buddy on your machine. In 2002, annoyed Netizens had enough of this monkey business and sued Bonzi for deceptive advertising. By 2005, Buddy was history.
7. Pets.com Who let this dog out? Back in the heady days of 1999 it must have seemed perfectly normal to spend $175 million making a sock puppet famous. But, the notion of saving some coin on kibbles and kitty litter never caught on with consumers, and by November 2000 Pets.com had been euthanized — going from IPO to liquidation in just nine months. However, before it got sent to the pound, the dot com filed suit against Triumph the Comic Insult Dog.
Apparently, even sock puppets have feelings.
6. Pixelon.com More dot con than dot com, this streaming media company boasted of a revolutionary new technology that would deliver high-quality audio and video over the net. But, Pixelon CEO and founder “Michael Fenne” was in reality a grifter named David Kim Stanley, who spent the majority of investors’ money — some $16 million — on a launch party in Las Vegas featuring Tony Bennett, KISS and The Who. Prior to starting Pixelon, Stanley had pleaded guilty to swindling friends and neighbours out of $1.5 million. He was on the lam and living out of the back of his car when he founded the company. Pixelon’s revolutionary new streaming technology was equally spurious.
5. AllAdvantage This site had the brilliant idea of paying people 50 cents an hour to surf and watch banner ads all day, plus another 10 cents per hour for every friend they convinced to sign up. All users had to do was install a “Viewbar” that displayed ads and clocked how much time they spent online. Stunningly, the company managed to raise $135 million in venture capital and convince 2 million users to sign up before it folded in February 2001. For some reason, advertisers failed to see any advantage in trying to reach the $4-a-day demographic. Go figure.