Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
The Internet Businesses The Almighty Buck

The Greatest Defunct Websites and Dotcom Disasters 192

NotableCathy writes "CNet has an interesting retrospective write-up documenting the most notable dotcom disasters and now-defunct Websites that were massive in their day, detailing what happened to them and what they led to. Nupedia didn't escape a slating (remember Larry Sanger's memoir?), or indeed Beenz, whose founder and CEO once said 'would become the universal currency, supplanting all others,' according to The Register seven years ago."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Greatest Defunct Websites and Dotcom Disasters

Comments Filter:
  • Thank God (Score:5, Funny)

    by name*censored* ( 884880 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:38AM (#23668903)
    Thank God we live in the enlightened days of Web 2.0, in a bubble that will never burst!
    • by Tetsujin ( 103070 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:50AM (#23669083) Homepage Journal
      Yes, there will be no more dot-com distasters for us!
      • Re:Thank God (Score:4, Interesting)

        by E IS mC(Square) ( 721736 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @12:02PM (#23669265) Journal
        Well, one of the guys who made millions in the dot com boom is now making sure there are no more 9/11 disasters by writing books on terrorism: Craig Winn [] of ValueAmerica [].

        Read dot.bomb by David Kuo - a very interesting insider look into what all went wrong in a typical company.
    • by thatskinnyguy ( 1129515 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @12:11PM (#23669391)
      Yes. But the only thing that really changed is that the web is now funded with venture capital AND ads.
    • Re:Thank God (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Thursday June 05, 2008 @12:26PM (#23669609) Homepage Journal
      There will still be booms and busts, of course, but I do think people are a little wiser these days about how to make money on the web. (And no, I'm not talking about porn; anyone who, um, pokes around a little can find enough free porn to satisfy any appetite.) No amount of collective knowledge can save the truly stupid from themselves, but most folks do seem to realize that "... on the INTERNET!" is not in and of itself a recipe for making tons of cash. The truly successful dot-coms such as Google and Amazon and Ebay provide an example for internet business models that actually do make money, and smart would-be web entrepeneurs will study these few successes and (as well as the many, many failures) carefully.
      • Re:Thank God (Score:5, Insightful)

        by R2.0 ( 532027 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @01:38PM (#23670849)
        "but most folks do seem to realize that "... on the INTERNET!" is not in and of itself a recipe for making tons of cash. "

        But it IS the recipe for getting a bogus patent, which in turn leads to tons of cash - for lawyers, anyway.
        • True. Patent trolling is perhaps the last replica of the dot-com boom idea that anything with the word "internet" in it is automatically worth a bunch of money. Hopefully it will soon go the way of the sock puppet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 )
      Well there is a difference between "Web 1.0" and "Web 2.0" Web 2.0 wasn't ment to be the ultimate answer, just a tool to make it better. Back durint the .COM there was this strive to break all boundries change the world be the next multi-billionare. Now it is toned down. Making a web-site even a good one wont make you a billionare, you chances are just the same as any other company. (most companies are small under 100 employees) in which 90% of them fail in the first year. Yes we got some Web 2.0 big wi
  • Please .... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Won't someone post a link that doesn't have 11 pages?
  • beopen (Score:5, Funny)

    by gmack ( 197796 ) <.ten.erifrenni. .ta. .kcamg.> on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:40AM (#23668923) Homepage Journal .. Hired a full staff of reporters with the dream of competing with slashdot.

    When it ran out of money a guy I know came back with T-Shirts. Not the cheap ones you get at trade shows but solid fruit of the loom stuff that lasted me 7 years of constant use (I throw shirts out when they get their first hole) as it turns out that was longer than the company lasted in the first place.
    • so the company went belly up, but no one lost the shirts off their backs

      somewhere, a cliche has just died...
  • by FurtiveGlancer ( 1274746 ) <AdHocTechGuy&aol,com> on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:40AM (#23668935) Journal
    The chairs were sweet!
  • Ok, it was slightly different, this is the biggest websites, they where the worst IPOs?

    Is it the end of the year already?
  • (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oahazmatt ( 868057 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:44AM (#23669009) Journal
    I remember the sock-puppet.

    Then I remember a commercial for "Bar None" credit, where an astoundingly similar sock-puppet declares "because everyone deserves a second chance".

    I have no idea if that was intentional or not, but it still makes me laugh to this day.
    • (Score:5, Informative)

      by Daver297 ( 1208086 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:47AM (#23669035) Homepage
      that is the same sock puppet
    • (Score:5, Interesting)

      by IorDMUX ( 870522 ) <> on Thursday June 05, 2008 @01:09PM (#23670339) Homepage
      There was a similar (Amazon?) super-bowl commercial that showed the company's mascot riding on a donkey through a silicon-valley-esque ghost town of boarded up offices, broken glass, and whitewashed signs where only the ".com" was visible. On his way out of town, the mascot came across the limp sock puppet (with X's for eyes) blowing in the wind. The commercial ended with a suggestion to trust the stable, surviving business [or something along those lines]. yeah. Obviously my memory is a bit faulty; this is one of my all-time favorite commercials, even if I can't remember the sponsoring company. Does anyone remember this commercial? Can someone fill in the blanks, here?
    • (Score:4, Interesting)

      by myth_of_sisyphus ( 818378 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @07:42PM (#23676289)
      I worked at

      We had a huge number of orders from Alaska. I wondered why this was and checked out the orders. They were all mostly for 50 lb bags of dog food. And we offered free shipping. To Alaska. For 50 lb bags. I mentioned to someone that the shipping costs as much as the dog food. They stopped doing that.

      And then I worked in customer support for a few weeks--that was lovely. People called all the time asking us complicated dietary questions. And pet health questions. Ones that would stump a vet. It baffled me every time. Why would you put your beloved pets health into a guy on the phone from a web page selling dog toys?

      And one woman called from New York. She ordered a 50 lb bag of dog food and she said it was sitting outside in the hallway and what were going to do about that? I asked if she could get a neighbor to pick it up and bring it inside. She said "This is New York, nobody knows their neighbors." Then I said "I can get UPS to pick it up and return it to us." And she said "that would be fine. How long would it take?" I said "4 to 6 weeks." And she screamed at me. Prolonged screaming. I gave her to somebody else.

      A kid from an elementary school asked me how to tell if a rabbit was a boy or a girl. I found a good web page on "sexing rabbits." (Which is what the procedure is called.) I sent the link to the kid and I got called into an office and asked "why am I sending 'sex with rabbits' webpages to kids? I just received an angry call from a parent." I showed her the webpage--it was not 'having sex with rabbits' but 'how to sex rabbits' and showed a bunch of rabbit private part's pictures. I was off the hook.

  • I miss Dejanews (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tmark ( 230091 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:46AM (#23669033)
    I know that Google took it over and still makes Usenet content searchable, but a part of me pines for the simple days when it was Usenet that contained the useful technical information we needed, and when Dejanews was the best way to get to it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dwye ( 1127395 )
      > part of me pines for the simple days when it
      > was Usenet that contained the useful technical
      > information we needed, and when Dejanews was
      > the best way to get to it.

      Noob. Getting a feed from someone was the best way, and second best was getting a login on a small machine that had the feed. Dejanews was the Harbinger of Death for Usenet.
      • Usenet died. Netcraft confirmed it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Pfft. Insightful my ass.

        AOL was the both the Harbinger AND Vector of Death for Usenet, long before Dejanews even appeared.

        Wiki "Eternal september"

        (And yes, I know that AOL cut off Usenet access, but google is now filling those shoes, so September drags on...)
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ucblockhead ( 63650 )
      I pine for the days when Usenet contained useful technical information and you needed a Unix shell account and "rn" to get to it.
    • Has anyone noticed how crappy Google Groups is? Lots of missing posts due to technical problems. :( Google still hasn't fixed them since this problem is months old.
  • Coincidentally... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:48AM (#23669051) Journal
    GMail just served me up an ad for the book by a founder of For the youngsters, previous dot-com IPO hysteria had centered on companies like Netscape, which had products, if not necessarily a reasonable business plan. [], a useless website that no one could explain exactly what it did, was worth $600 million at the end of its first day, breaking the first-day runup record previously held by the IPO that left Mark Cuban as a permanent pain in the ass of our society. Henceforth, any idiot with a domain name and a copy of PageMill thought he should be a billionaire.

    Anyway, the founder wrote a book.

  • (Score:5, Informative)

    by mlwmohawk ( 801821 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:49AM (#23669069)
    bit for bit the best and most relevant search of the time. We went head to head with Google and we *HAD* better results with fewer duplicates.

    FAST could have been Google, it was better, but the upper management decided there was no real money to be made in web search.

    Alas, no matter how smart the engineers, or how good the technology, stupid management can screw up a free lunch. Unfortunately, win or lose, they *ALWAYS* get the pay off.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by quarrel ( 194077 )
      alltheweb was good, agreed.

      However, the while google's search results were/are good, the key thing they twigged to earlier than most was how HUGE web advertising was, and how to monetise it. That could have happened in Norway with alltheweb, but it didn't.

      When google filed IPO documents people finally understood how HUGE web advertising was.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hankapobe ( 1290722 )
      FAST could have been Google, it was better, but the upper management decided there was no real money to be made in web search.

      Maybe it was and maybe it wasn't, but tell that to the investors. The free market said that Google's original business model wasn't good enough - the tech wasn't good enough apparently.

      Unless you have the money and you don't care about any sort of return, when you go into business, you must make a return on investment. And when you have investors, if you squander their money, they

    • AllTheWeb in its prime produced the best results, but HotBot had a feature I appreciated: I could set a date range, and as long as a site was honest about the date of its page I could eliminate many inappropriate results.
    • FAST could have been Google, it was better, but the upper management decided there was no real money to be made in web search.

      If you have evidence to the contrary, feel free to enumerate it.
      Google made it's IPO and it's billions on advertising, not on search.
      • If you have evidence to the contrary, feel free to enumerate it.

        Google was making money with ads on their search before their "AdSense" system.
        • Nonetheless - it was AdSense that powered 'em to the top. Without AdSense, you wouldn't ever have been Google.
          • Nonetheless - it was AdSense that powered 'em to the top. Without AdSense, you wouldn't ever have been Google.

            My point was that FAST stopped even before that point. Who can say FAST would not have build on the better functionality of the web search, and built more revenue from ads, which would have necessitated their own add engine, which they would have sold public access.

            FAST failed because it didn't see the future. And that goes back to my original assertion, management screwed up.
            • Who can say FAST would not have build on the better functionality of the web search, and built more revenue from ads, which would have necessitated their own add engine, which they would have sold public access.

              And if pigs had wings, we'd all wear hats to avoid getting pigshit in our eyes. Or, in other words, you not only have no understanding of the situation, you violently avoid enlightenment so that you can blame the management for not doing something that wouldn't have made them the next Google anyhow

  • ClubCastLive (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SIGBUS ( 8236 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:50AM (#23669087) Homepage
    I miss - it had live webcasts of bands at various clubs in Austin, TX. Shortly after they appeared on one of the morning TV news programs, they vanished from the web - and the domain eventually got snagged by a squatter.

    I think bandwidth costs ate them alive - they streamed in 112 kbps MP3. I managed to snag a few shows before they went Tango Uniform.
  • CNet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:52AM (#23669115) Homepage Journal
    I'm surprised CNet't not defunct. So many parts of their sites are very hard to look at, including this one. It's a shame because I always felt they had such potential, but I really can't browse their sites. It's still hard to understand why CBS valued them so high with their purchase.
    • Re:CNet (Score:4, Informative)

      by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @12:28PM (#23669647) Homepage Journal

      It's still hard to understand why CBS valued them so high with their purchase.
      The domain was what CBS spent a metric pantload of money on. If it were attached to a dog groomer rather than an Internet company from the 1990s, CBS would now probably be grooming dogs while their management figures out how to best exploit the coveted domain.
    • one word, userbase.

      CNET has had a large userbase for years, and a lot of those users stick around. Loyalty in users is hard to come by.
      I used CNET sites almost exclusively for several years, only stopping when I started to rely more on open source products. I still go back there for some things, and even use it as a mirror for my own product.
    • Deep in the comments on this article, one poster asks why CNET's own dead subsidiary Snap!com wasn't on the list. At last visit, CNET has not responded.
  • Distasters! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Ai Olor-Wile ( 997427 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:53AM (#23669135) Homepage
    Where does one submit resumes for becoming a Dot-com distaster? I find dot-coms to be extremely distasteful and I would like to share my experiences on the matter.
  • (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alan_dershowitz ( 586542 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:56AM (#23669177)
    Where the heck is, the bright, shining, and defunct future of music distribution? I still have probably a thousand of free MP3s of cool bands I found through that site.
  • Remember... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SGDarkKnight ( 253157 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:57AM (#23669195) it was one of the best internet sites for getting all the lastest (and funniest) commericals from around the world. I remember when they closed down their site, they just got to big too fast and couldn't support themselves anymore... too bad, it was definatly one of the best.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by spuke4000 ( 587845 )
      If you liked adcritic, you should check out []. Every year there is a commerical fesitval France, with ~5000 submissions. A friend of mine watches them all, picks the 100 best, and writes a haiku about them. There's some very funny stuff there.
  • Don't forget Pixelon (Score:4, Interesting)

    by futuresheep ( 531366 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @11:59AM (#23669221) Journal,1902,14183,00.html [] $35 million from investors, and a $10 million launch party featuring acts like The Who, The Dixie Chicks, Kiss, and Brian Setzer. All this for a streaming video service that never worked so at demos they used a custom front end for Windows Media Services.
  • by rezalas ( 1227518 )
    Everyone but these guys! It might seem a little crass, but when you think about it all the businesses that succeeded did so in part from the lessons learned during the "great crash". Which in many ways helped to bring the good idea makers and engineers together through the rubble to form meaningful companies and worthwhile investments from what could have been a severe slowdown for our overall progress in internet spread.
  • Jenni Archives (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bikeidaho ( 951032 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @12:07PM (#23669343)
    So where are the Jenni archive videos, especially bow-chicka-bow-wow? I know someone has them... come on, fess up.
  • Jenni-cam? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ucblockhead ( 63650 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @12:16PM (#23669455) Homepage Journal
    How was that a disaster? The woman made a shit-load of money and got a shit-load of attention for no work.
  • (Score:3, Interesting)

    by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) * on Thursday June 05, 2008 @12:16PM (#23669461)
    A daily fix of news about crime and criminal justice delivered with a sense of humor. You can look through the old ones using the wayback machine []. It's a little like what thesmokinggun would have been with real editors and reporters. They went under around 2002 but it used to be one of my daily browsing spots.

    That and our own nofuncharlie [], which went under not because of lack of funding (there never was any in the first place), but because we let some domain-snatchers grab the domain out from under us....
  • What about Wireplay? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thermian ( 1267986 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @12:18PM (#23669497)
    No-one ever mentions Wireplay.

    When that first started it was, in my opinion, the best online gaming service available. For those who don't know you paid for a connection direct to their servers, not the internet, which made it the fastest gaming experience available in the pre broadband era.
    There were gaming leagues, prizes, admins/judges for all games,and the chatroom system was excellent. I don't think their chatroom system has ever been bettered in fact.

    All my best gaming memories come from my time as a Wireplay member. I even made skins for lots of clans who played in the leagues.

    There was sort of informal feel to the place too, The staff had a webcam in their office that let you watch them work, and they had a log that they wrote whatever came to mind in, who was off sick, what they'd got up to at the weekend, anything.

    I don't recall who bought them out, but sometime during the boom they got taken over, and everything turned to shit, somost of the people I knew quit and moved over to barrysworld leagues. I left shortly after the new owner assraped the chatroom system and wrecked its charm.

    Now I find that it exists as some sort of free affair, but it's not the same.

  • i'm amazed eFront wasn't on the list but i guess that was more felt by internet geeks than anyone.
  • (Score:4, Informative)

    by superdude72 ( 322167 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @12:31PM (#23669697)
    I still miss With a few clicks you could have a sandwich, a pint of Ben & Jerry's, a Razor scooter, and some porn delivered to you in 30 minutes. Everything you need for the perfect evening! And no delivery charge.

    I kind of knew at the time that they'd never turn a profit, but it was nice while it lasted.
  • 19100 was the year the tech bubble burst as the Y2K Bug caused the Internet to overflow and crash, and web browsers stopped working and people had to return to their Etch-a-Sketches. (This is why websites popular after 19100, such as My Space, appear to have been designed on an etch-a sketch.)

    In 19100, the King of the Internet first started to suspect he would never in fact become a millionaire from the Initial Public Offering of a tech company.

  • I recall the early lycos [] search business model -- you'd get 40 or free searches, then a subscription was 'required' (not really, but it was supposed to be required). I can specifically recall goofing off in my IT hardware support role searching and downloading DOOM [] *.wad files for late night fraggage. There was no /. [] then, sadly, there was only DOOM and Efnet [].

    Altavista [] seemed to get replaced by google, in rather short order. I can't recall a specific reason I stopped using it, unless it was related to th
    • Maybe I'll use that webcrawler search thingy to look this stuff up.

      Score one for the good guys. Back when Webcrawler was the bee's knees of search engines, I remember accidentally typing in "webcralwer" once -- we didn't have a bookmark for it on the school computers that I recall -- and accidentally went to a pr0n site instead. I just checked, and it turns out that not only is Webcrawler still around, but they managed to get their hands on "" and redirect it to the right site.

  • All of these were big back in there day, huh? Out of all the sites and tools that were mentioned in that article, the only one I had ever even heard of before was Archie (used for finding files available via anonftp, iirc).
  • The list:
    JenniCam (1996-2004; precursor to (1998-2000; precursor to:, et al) (1997-2000; precursor to Xbox Live, PSN)
    Nupedia (2000-2003; precursor to Wikipedia)
    Webvan (1999-2001, precursor to, et al)
    Beenz (1998-2001) (1998-2000; precursor to: PetPlanet, et al)
    AudioGalaxy (circa 1998-2002; precursor to: BitTorrent and torrent sites)
    Stage6 (2006-2008; precursor to:
    Historical search engines
  • Circadence (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Rowanyote ( 980640 )
    Likely a company name you have never heard of, but another sunken testement to the Dot com bubble burst.

    Circadence started as a small online games developer (VR-1) with well under a hundred employee and in a very short time grew to just under 500 people, millions of dollars of deployed hardware at 20+ network backbone nodes, a 24 hour NOC, 4 full time customer service people (each making 40k+) all without having a single customer. During this growth, the only money making arm of the company (the games deve
  • by putch ( 469506 ) genius.
  • It's sin, but face it. We all know it's going to end one day & we'll be sent to hell for not pumping out our sweep funds for the next greatest corporation in the world.
  • by garyrich ( 30652 ) on Thursday June 05, 2008 @02:25PM (#23671651) Homepage Journal
    Maybe it's that the UK is too far away or that the writer doesn't get it personally. "Web site that sold groceries " was never the business model. They did that, but to paraphrase JFK "not because it's easy, but because it's hard". Once you can perfect getting fresh peaches delivered via an Internet order, everything else is easy.

    They were a tiered distribution company. They would have become a combination of Wal-Mart without the storefronts and UPS. Their two edges were

    1) dis intermediate all the retail outlets that all sell the same things. The profit margin in groceries is razor thin (again, they did the hard thing first). Eliminate the stores and employees, replace them with largely automated warehouses and drivers and you change the entire profit dynamic. and don't get this benefit since they still have to support physical storefronts. Amazon gets this benefit and does pretty well. People have figured out by now that Amazon isn't just an internet bookstore, Webvan died before it could get there.

    2)Use the internet as the front end of the business. That's pretty obvious.

    "Webvan -- none of whose senior executives or investors had any experience in the supermarket trade". Umm... yeah, that experience would have been useless since they didn't run supermarkets. They did have one of the main architects of Walmarts inventory and distribution system. They were damn good at what they did. If they had an unhappy customer I never met him.

    They died from dried up funding more than overspending (though they did that too). They were just about at the point of doing the "since we have a truck coming by your house anyway, why don't we also drop off your Netflix movie, next semester's textbooks and that creepy Rei Ayanami doll you ordered from Japan?". Without that Netflix has had to spend huge effort to get a (kick ass frankly) distribution system done via USPS. Amazon has their affiliate program where you can get all sorts of odd stuff from Amazon, but they don't have that "last mile" solved. If you order stuff in one order from 7 different affiliates you have to pay 7 different shipping fees and deal with 7 different shipments from different shipping companies. At least one of those shipments will get screwed up and one other will come from some shipper that won't leave it without a signature. Webvan was coming by your house anyway to drop off your groceries.

    And, yes, I did indeed ride a small position in WBVN all the way to $0.00. They could have been saved at any point and I still think they would be a huge company today.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bourbonium ( 454366 )
      I was a very happy WebVan customer and really thought the company would succeed. I hate shopping for groceries, but WebVan made it easy and painless. They had a great business model that could have been highly profitable, but I think they tried to expand too fast. They should have stayed localized in the SF Bay Area until they became profitable, and then expanded to Los Angeles, Sacramento, Portland and Seattle. A West Coast base of operations would have permitted a sustainable growth curve.

      But they dec
    • "Webvan -- none of whose senior executives or investors had any experience in the supermarket trade". Umm... yeah, that experience would have been useless since they didn't run supermarkets.

      Um, yeah. They were running a supermarket, or at least the faced many of the same problems a supermarket faces - most importantly in inventory management. If Amazon orders too many copies of a book, they can sell them over time or return them to the publisher. Much the same for Netflix. A truckload of tomatoes or mi

  • Maybe beenz was bigger in the UK, or they had loftier "ambitions".. But I bet more folks know about than beenz, and it's a stupider name.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead