3. Cartoonnetwok.com No, that’s not a typo; it’s “typosquatting”, where a site owner deliberately registers a misspelling of a popular domain in the hopes of attracting the actual site’s traffic. Cartoonnetwok was one of some 5500 deceptive domains owned by John Zuccarini. But, that wasn’t Zuccarini’s only nasty bit of business. FTC investigators visiting one of his sites found their screens filled with 29 new browser windows for instant credit, online psychics, gambling and porn sites. When they hit the Back button, another 7 windows opened–a technique known as “mousetrapping”. Worse, many of Zuccarani’s typosquatting sites were aimed at children. In 2003, Zuccarini pleaded guilty to violating the Truth in Domain Names Act and was sentenced to 2.5 years in an American federal penitentiary.
2. CyberRebate The phrase “the check’s in the mail” took on new meaning with this dot com. CyberRebate offered to refund 100 percent of what you paid for electronic goods, provided you a) paid up to 10 times their normal retail value and b) let CyberRebate hold onto your money for at least 10 weeks. The site banked on people simply forgetting to apply for the refund. Unfortunately for CyberRebate, not enough of them did. The company filed for bankruptcy in May 2001 owing $60 million in refunds. Aggrieved customers had to settle for roughly 9 cents on the dollar.
1. MySpace Although it is one of the most popular sites on the web, MySpace.com is also an eclectic web designer’s nightmare.
Yes, we know. With more than 90 million users, MySpace is now more popular than Elvis, “American Idol” and ice cream. But, the web’s most visited destination is also its most poorly designed and counterproductive.
The ease with which anyone of any age can create a page, upload photos, share deeply personal details of their lives and make new “friends” quickly turned MySpace into a one-stop shopping mall for online predators. That in turn has made the site an easy target for politicians who pander for votes by playing on parental fears. In an era when the basic tenets of the net are under attack by both Ma Bell and Uncle Sam, MySpace is a headache we don’t need.
But, let’s put all that aside for a moment. Graphically, many MySpace pages look like a teenager’s bedroom after a tornado — a swirl of clashing backgrounds, boxes stacked inside other boxes, massive photos and sonic disturbance. Try loading a few of those pages at once and watch what happens to your CPU. Watch out for spyware too, since it turns out that MySpace has become a popular distribution vector for drive-by downloads and other exploits. And, in a place where “U are soooooooo hot!!!” passes for wit, MySpace isn’t doing much to elevate the level of social discourse.
In response to a public backlash and some well-publicized lawsuits, MySpace has begun modifying its policies — for example, limiting adults’ ability to contact minors. That’s hardly enough. Requiring some kind of authentication from MySpacers — or their parents — to validate their ages and identities would go a long way toward scaring off the creeps and making the site a kinder, gentler social network.
Is MySpace totally bad? Not at all. Are we old farts? Yeah, probably. But, the Web’s most popular site needs a serious security reboot. And probably a makeover. Until then, MySpace won’t ever be OurSpace.