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Dot-com Boom's Biggest Duds, From Flooz to iSmell

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the what-is-a-flooz dept.

258

Carl Bialik from WSJ writes "WSJ.com looks back on some of the boom's biggest busts, and catches up with once-optimistic inventors. A creator of the unfortunately named iSmell, a USB device meant to 'print' smells transmitted by websites or videogames, says, 'It was a heartbreaking experience, because we had put so much into it.' The digital currency known as Flooz crashed and burned when a ring of thieves defrauded the company out of $300,000 using stolen credit cards. Microsoft flushed iLoo down the crapper. CueCat, meanwhile, got a second life as a bar-code reader that doesn't pick up personal information. 'The cat got butchered, but it has spawned a cottage industry,' says the device's inventor."

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holy fuck turds! (0, Offtopic)

Asshat_Nazi (946431) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251557)

first post fishtits!

CueCat (2, Insightful)

jeeperscats (882744) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251558)

so how many people had like 45 of those things?

Re:CueCat (0, Offtopic)

evanism (600676) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251574)

like, you know, like is not like puncuation, you know.

Oh my god. Duh.

Re:CueCat (5, Interesting)

isd_glory (787646) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251767)

I originally had maybe half a dozen cuecats which were daisy-chained together and used to illuminate my desk at night. I never really went out of my way to get them, and I accumulated those few from magazines or friends who didn't know what to do with them. Several months after Digital:Convergance went out of business and stores stopped pushing the cuecats on consumers, I decided on a whim to ask a radio shack manger if he still had one or two. It turns out that there was an entire box of them in the back he was just itching to get rid of.

So, the obvious result of this was that I had a small christmas tree that year decorated with cuecats (it needed quite a bit of external power, and all the cords seemed to hide a lot of the tree anyway).
Oh, the college days...

annoying link (4, Informative)

Bairdsy (788587) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251565)

Is there a way to get to the actual article without the extremely annoying shenanigans they insist on putting me through?

Re:annoying link (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15251909)

Of course there is http://tinyurl.com/mb6jg [tinyurl.com]

iSmell? (4, Funny)

X1088LoD (918610) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251566)

iSmell? I thought that was the smelloscope, able to smell anything from far away in the galaxy....come to think of it, i dont think it will be invented for another 1000 years, give or take a few (thanks professor farnsworth!)

That might have worked, properly marketed (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251607)

Can you think of a profitable online multimedia industry that could enhance its products by synchronizing a smell track? They should have set up a comarketing deal.

Re:That might have worked, properly marketed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15251770)

(sarcasm alert)

RE your sig: http://jack-dalton.blogspot.com/2005/08/its-about- time-we-got-you-guys-off.html [blogspot.com]

-- don't you know, the brain and nervous system aren't part of the body? they are just made up! if the functionality of your nervous system is impaired, you don't deserve any disability, because they're not part of your body!! ;)

Re:That might have worked, properly marketed (2, Funny)

moro_666 (414422) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251799)

if someone calls a product "iSmell" then I Smell a Really Bad Sense for Business.

When the business went bad (3, Funny)

Markos (71140) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251609)

A foul up at the iSmell datacenter led every customers device to smell like Uranus.

Re:When the business went bad (3, Funny)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251852)

Yes ..... you know, the phone company O2 was originally going to be called CH4 but there was a bit of a stink about it .....

Re:When the business went bad (0)

fatphil (181876) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251966)

methane's odourless.

MOD EDUCATION UP (1)

Alan Partridge (516639) | more than 8 years ago | (#15252031)

and ignorance down

Re:iSmell? (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251886)

iSmell? I thought that was the smelloscope, able to smell anything from far away in the galaxy....come to think of it, i dont think it will be invented for another 1000 years, give or take a few (thanks professor farnsworth!)

The smelloscope Prof Farnsworth displayed in Futurama [amazon.com] presumably was receiving those smells millions of years after their creation. After all, scopes have that light speed limit (although the rest of the show doesn't). I don't know, smelling things long dead just seems creepy.

Boo.com (5, Interesting)

Snap E Tom (128447) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251568)

How can they forget Boo.com? The way that management team burned money epitomized the dotcom era. It wasn't surprising at all that their site was an obnoxious, pretentious, bloated piece of junk. The good thing about the bust was that it shook out and humbled all these artsy "we know what's best for the user" types that ran Boo.com.

Re:Boo.com (1)

matthew.thompson (44814) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251619)

I remember boo.com - I knew one of it's technical guys. I thought it was a dumb idea then and I still do.

However if you visit http://www.boo.com/ [boo.com] you'll see that the boo is apparently back. But not, as it's just a placeholder for a new service which seems to be extremely slow in arriving.

What was it? (1)

Mancat (831487) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251738)

At least provide some idea of what it was for those of us who weren't in the loop at the time.

Re:What was it? (2, Interesting)

beoswulf (940729) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251797)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boo.com [wikipedia.org]

"1990s. Boo.com's intention was to sell branded fashion wear over the Internet; however, after spending vast sums of its venture capital, it eventually had to liquidate and was placed into receivership on May 18, 2000. Fashionmall.com now owns boo.com."

Enough said?

Nostalgia, Anyone? (5, Funny)

Shubalubdub (930266) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251570)

I miss the days when new product announcements read like jokes and saying "the Internet will make bricks and mortar obsolete" wasn't a joke. Now the best we've got is "Oh look, Google made a calendar that works with your email."

Re:Nostalgia, Anyone? (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251592)

Well I still laugh at Google 'product' announcements. Announce something everyones been doing for years but because Google did it, lets pretend that its brand new and made of gold.

Re:Nostalgia, Anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15251696)

i believe you're talking about Apple

Re:Nostalgia, Anyone? (1)

Alan Partridge (516639) | more than 8 years ago | (#15252069)

No, he definitely wrote Google.

Re:Nostalgia, Anyone? (5, Interesting)

foreverdisillusioned (763799) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251722)

I don't know. I find that the only thing I actually buy from B&M stores nowadays are perishables, things I must have immediately and things that really need to be examined (or tried on) in person. Amazon.com has cheaper prices on just about everything else. If it's not something I need *that day*, why would I want to haul my ass down to Best Buy or Walmart or Costco just for the privilege waiting in line and then paying MORE?

And hell, if you're too cheap for Amazon (and are willing to take a small risk), there's always eBay.

Letstalk.com makes B&M cell phone retailers a fucking JOKE--they literally offer dozens upon dozens of phones for hundreds less than the B&M stores--and that's before rebate. After rebate, you can get nearly anything free--RAZR, PEBL, Samsung SGH-t809, at least one of their Blackberry models... you can even get up to 5 of them free, if you're starting a family line (we recently did this and it kicks ass. Saved many hundreds of dollars, and for myself I picked up an N-Gage QD for -$50 after rebate. Don't insult it until you try it; Nokia fixed most of the design flaws with the QD revision. Basically, I'm being PAID $50 to use a very powerful, very underrated Symbian S60 smartphone. Kickass.) Just for grins we walked into a B&M retail store and asked the reps if they could give us a similar deal. They simply laughed in our faces and shook their heads.

My girlfriend and I (cue the 'liar' jokes) would've been fucking broke a long time ago if we couldn't buy our porn and sex toys online. The markup at B&M sex shops is nothing short of heart-stopping.

I'm not even going to get into fatwallet.com... let's just say that I wind up getting at least 2 or 3 INCREDIBLE deals per month. (Think over 50% off on stuff that is NEVER heavily discounted at B&M stores. Over 75% off is not uncommon. Over 90% off the typical B&M price isn't out of the question.)

The simple fact of the matter is shipping costs are nothing compared to the overhead of rent (or construction + property tax), utilities, cashiers and sales reps and customer service reps (who can't be outsourced, unlike online stores' reps), uniforms for the reps, general upkeep and maintenance, etc. We're beyond having to prove this--just walk into *any* B&M store and see how long it takes you to find something that you can't get cheaper off of Amazon or Buy.com or Outpost.com or eBay. With gas prices the way they are, I do indeed think that the internet will eventually spell the doom of the vast majority of B&M businesses. B&M currently has a lot of momentum, though, and I think it will be at least another decade or two before we see any real decline.

Making B&M obsolete isn't a joke; it's just not going to happen that quickly. Google's calendar has nothing to do with the internet retail scene. eBay is thriving, Amazon is well in the black, Buy.com is running commercials now, fatwallet.com's forums are overflowing with deal-hunters, and I seriously can't remember the last time I bought something at a B&M store that cost more than $20.

Re:Nostalgia, Anyone? (3, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251921)

The simple fact of the matter is shipping costs are nothing compared to the overhead of rent (or construction + property tax), utilities, cashiers and sales reps and customer service reps (who can't be outsourced, unlike online stores' reps), uniforms for the reps, general upkeep and maintenance, etc.
Here in the real world, online companies have to pay rent (or construction + property tax) and utilities - they don't operate out of the back of a pickup truck. (And those premises require upkeep and maintenance too.)

They don't have to pay cashiers - but they do have to pay pickers and packers. (In fact their costs are *higher*, because they have to pay for support as well as pickers and packers - where a B&M store can (and does) pay use it's cashier for all three.) Their costs for packing materials are higher too - but they pass that right on to you.

One of the great myths that emerged out of the dot bomb era is that somehow online stores have 'no overhead' as compared to B&M store.

How Amazon et al win out over the B&M stores is volume from a single facility and from placing that facility where they can pay the least taxes and wages. (The last being a luxury that B&M stores don't have.) They can also automate and thus reduce labor costs. Generally, they handle the product less than a B&M store which also reduces labor costs even sans automation.

Re:Nostalgia, Anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15251972)

I'm not even going to get into fatwallet.com...

It's too bad fatwallet is full of bastards who would sell their mother out for a quarter.

Use some other, less-evil sites instead:

http://www.dealmein.net/ [dealmein.net]
http://www.slickdeals.net/ [slickdeals.net]
http://www.techbargains.com/ [techbargains.com]
http://www.bensbargains.net/ [bensbargains.net]

Also (2, Interesting)

Flame0001 (818040) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251573)

There was also a company started during the dotcom boom which delivered candy right to your front door (The name eludes me). Only problem was that consumers were using it to buy single bars of candy, and the shipping costed to much for the company to stay alive. A good idea though. Reminds me of when I could order groceries online, but that was cancelled due to the lack of popularity. I suppose America isn't ready to take the final step to pure laziness.

Re:Also (1)

Silicon Jedi (878120) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251578)

Actually, Peapod [peapod.com] still sells groceries online, and for the convenience it's not bad...

Kozmo.com (1)

Artifice_Eternity (306661) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251625)

I was one of their last customers -- I never got the order I placed the day they went under [slashdot.org] .

Oh well. It was nice having VCs subsidize our candy bars for a while there.

Re:Kozmo.com (2, Insightful)

iocat (572367) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251641)

Kozmo was profitable exactly where you think it would be (dense cities like NYC, Boston and SF). They tried to expand, too fast, to places that were too spread out (LA, Houston, etc). It was a rad service while it lasted, though.

Re:Kozmo.com (4, Funny)

macdaddy357 (582412) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251676)

Kozmo com was too limited. You need a site where anything is possible! You need Zombo com. [zombo.com]

Re:Also (4, Insightful)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251642)

"Reminds me of when I could order groceries online, but that was cancelled due to the lack of popularity."

At least here in Southern California, you still can. Albertson's still will deliver groceries. But the "Amazons of the Grocery Business" (like WebVan) are long gone.

Re:Also (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15251703)

Gone? Here in the UK, we have a few apparently thriving services. Tesco, ocado (waitrose) and at least one more.

Of course, we only have one timezone and it's hard to find somewhere where you can shout without someone hearing you, so I suppose it's easier.

Re:Also (1)

Sexy Bern (596779) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251918)

Sainsbury's do it. Here (in Coventry), if you order £70+ of stuff the delivery is only 99p. They rarely substitute with an inappropriate product and their fresh stuff really is fresh.

Re:Also (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15251969)

Tescos are raking in cash hand over fist via. Tesco.com My wife and I have used them since we married, over four years ago now. The service has always been good and the produce is fine. Early on they had a nasty habit of providing silly substitutions or nearly-out-of-date produce (Bread especially) but they've grown out of that mostly, now. I can't imagine doing our weekly shop any other way.

Re:Also (1)

forgotten_my_nick (802929) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251743)

Not sure if it was WebVan, but there was a great one in Boston when I lived there.

As I was working silly hours back in those days by the time I got home there was really no time to shop. The internet shop was a boon. I was even surprised when the delivery guys refused a tip.

From what I Gather they were in business for years before the dot.com and had moved from phone service to internet service. They then expanded out to other states. That and the insane price of maintaining the website is what killed them though.

Shame really.

You can still get delivery in Boston (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 8 years ago | (#15252035)

Peapod [peapod.com] still delivers in Boston, and they're tied to one of the major grocery store chains here.

Thriving in the UK (5, Informative)

ndg123 (801212) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251726)

Online grocery ordering and delivery is doing quite well in the UK still. Though its generally provided by the existing companies off the back of their own stores, rather than new enterprises (maybe except for Waitrose, who are closely linked with a separate delivery company).

Re:Thriving in the UK (1)

HaydnH (877214) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251943)

I along with most of the people I know use online delivery from supermarkets in the UK. They usualy give you a two hour window for delivery but are usualy sitting outside your door for about 15 minutes before that so there's no hanging around for you. The delivery only costs about £3-£5 depending on the time of day/week and they will put all the bags in your kitchen, although they won't put it away for you. Personally for £3-£5 I have better things to do than go to the actual shop.

The only down side to it is that occasionaly you will get a complete muppet who's in charge of finding alternatives for your products if they're not in stock. For example this week my other half requested a pack of 2 steaks, they were out of stock so they replaced them with 1 organic steak of the same size and about the same price! A friend also requested a large bag of pasta and received a cucumber!!! However you can tunr down any alterations they've made when they deliver - they notify you of them at that time.

Re:Thriving in the UK (1)

rsturbonutter (518391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251986)

Yeah - I used to work as a delivery driver for just the company you're talking about - the way they treated us was excellent ... never had a complaint about how we were treated, plus the "staff shop" was a god-send - Waitrose brand products for 75% off retail price at least!

Re:Also (1)

SecureTheNet (915798) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251734)

Here in Minneapolis we have Simon Delivers. http://www.simondelivers.com/ [simondelivers.com]

I see their trucks quite often, so no, home delivery of groceries isn't dead.

Still kicking in Australia (3, Informative)

Joel from Sydney (828208) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251838)

Both of Australia's major [colesonline.com.au] supermarket [woolworths.com.au] chains offer online shopping and home delivery. I've been doing this for the past year or so, and it's pretty impressive. I've got a standard cart set up with my usual groceries, so when I need to do a shop I just make any necessary modifications to the standard order, and specify a delivery time. Easy as pie!

It's not that I'm lazy, I just find going to the supermarket a frustrating, inefficient and depressing experience. Perhaps the original idea was just ahead of it's time?

I'm sorry, but... (4, Informative)

VValdo (10446) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251582)

any list of tech duds that doesn't include the venerable iOpener [linux-hacker.net] is.. well, incomplete.

W

Re:I'm sorry, but... (1)

grimJester (890090) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251820)

Come to think of it, every dot-com era disaster was named like an Apple product. Well, it does make sense; marketing and product naming worked fine. Too well, in fact.

Re:I'm sorry, but... (1)

HaydnH (877214) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251957)

Come to think of it, the best way to make money from the .com era would've been to patent the i(Name) and e(Name) terms! =P

Kozmo.com (1)

superdude72 (322167) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251587)

I think about Kozmo.com, and how I used to have a sandwich, Razor scooter, and porn video delivered to my door in under 30 minutes, and a single tear rolls down my cheek.

Just kidding about the porn and the scooter. If a lot of people had actually done that, they might have stayed in business. I did order a lot of $5 sandwiches though. They lost money on every delivery, trying to build "mindshare" or some silly thing. I knew it couldn't last. Alas, I do miss them though.

Re:Kozmo.com (2, Funny)

Aeonite (263338) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251695)

You can still get $5 sandwiches delivered in 30 minutes or less from Ninja Burger [ninjaburger.com] .

PointCast (3, Insightful)

LoadStar (532607) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251595)

I actually miss PointCast, particularly the screensaver featuring live data that was pushed to it. Most of the other features of PointCast are easily found in any number of RSS readers these days... but I have yet to find an RSS screensaver as functional as the PointCast screensaver.

PointCast was just ahead of it's time... it really needed the always-on high speed home connections that only really became widespread years after it went under.

Re:PointCast (2, Interesting)

maggard (5579) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251622)

ARGH!

I remember when PointCast hit our network - every dingdong was running it to look 'kewl', instead it just sat there sucking up our (then) expensive bandwidth day & night.

Later on we became a "PointCast Partner" which never seemed to amount ot much.

What I want is a combination of news.google.com headlines & After Dark [wikipedia.org] 's Headlines [umich.edu] module, just to keep me on my toes of real-news vs. fake-news (aside from Fox News [foxnews.com] )

Wacky names... (1)

Null Nihils (965047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251597)

Heh, I half expected "Wii" to be on the list, alongside all the other unmarketable names like iSmell and Flooz. Of course, lets hope that these ventures failed not because of their silly names, but because they didn't offer a suitable product to the market.

Once upon a time, "marketing" just meant letting people know your product existed, while telling them why they might want to buy it. Nowadays (and also during the dot-com "boom") a lot of the marketing just seems to be more and more distracting and counterproductive... a very, very lost art.

Re:Wacky names... (2, Informative)

legallyillegal (889865) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251713)

Heh, I half expected "Wii" to be on the list, alongside all the other unmarketable names like iSmell and Flooz.

what the fuck is an 'ipod' what a silly name it'll never sell

Re:Wacky names... (1)

Null Nihils (965047) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251761)

IMO iPod isn't a very bad name at all. But at any rate, the product obviously has some very marketable merits. So what's in a name?

The real point of my post isn't about names specifically, but about being overwhelmed by overzealous marketing. From my point of view, far-out wacky names or "impressive" acronyms or whatever just distract people - and spawn pointless Internet flamewars ;) - so just why not just present the customer with a product in an interesting way and call it done?

In other words, I'm saying that the fanfare for a product eventually becomes a whole three-ring circus of its own... are you really succeeding when people are thinking about the name instead of thinking about the product itself? It's an interesting question.

Re:Wacky names... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15251912)

Wii, Wee, whatever... who wants a product named after piss!

Don't forget ... (4, Informative)

MrNougat (927651) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251600)

Pets.com [wikipedia.org] , and Webvan [wikipedia.org] .

Priceline [priceline.com] almost went bust - remember how they used to sell all sorts of stuff, including groceries at Jewel [jewelosco.com] grocery stores.

(Side note: I wonder what the going rate for jewel.com [samspade.org] is. But I digress.)

And frankly, I can't believe Peapod [peapod.com] is still running.

What about Kozmo.com? (1)

Artifice_Eternity (306661) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251614)

During the last year of the dot-com boom I worked in midtown Manhattan (in the Empire State Building, actually). My co-workers loved to order junk from Kozmo.com; I indulged occasionally myself. Even if you ordered a candy bar and a Coke, they'd send a guy on a bike across town with it!

Ridiculous business model. But as I liked to say, "If venture capitalists want to subsidize this, that's fine with me!"

One morning I ordered a disposable Polaroid camera from Kozmo. A couple hours later, I noticed that the website was no longer accessible. In fact, the company had shut down minutes after I placed my order! I never got my camera. Kozmo still owes me $10!

Re:What about Kozmo.com? (-1, Troll)

mshurpik (198339) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251894)

Kozmo was full of niggers on scooters. I interviewed there once, the latino sysadmin told me that "certifications are very important."

As a comp sci major, suffice to say I should have been looking elsewhere. But I commend Kozmo for joining IT infrastructure with MTV and couches. It could have worked, maybe without the orange jackets.

Ha. Kozmo gave me shit.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15251719)

Because when they shut down I still had several movies of theirs!!! haha!

Re:Don't forget ... (2, Interesting)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251746)

I really liked Webvan. But I suspect it was doomed - even without the complexities of building your own logistics infrastructure.

I probably was a prime candidate for Webvan. But I really didn't like the idea of letting someone else pick out my perishables (meat, produce, etc.). So I never even thought of hitting their site. Then, in a particularly busy month, the family car broke down. We were out a car while it was in repair and by the time I got home from work - it was very late. So my wife made a quick grocery order via Webvan. Nothing big. Just enough to pad out the groceries until we could make a real run. And the service was great. The produce was top-notch. And soon the majority of our groceries came via Webvan.

But despite this - I just don't see that many other people giving them the chance. And without that, you're certainly not going to pay off that expensive logistics infrastructure.

Re:Don't forget ... (1)

mshurpik (198339) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251880)

I was using a web grocery service as early as 1996 and my only complaint was that their milk was warm.

This was for 50+ people. For my own use I go to the store every other day. Hell, I can walk. Interesting name "sprocket," see my other post in this thread.

WebVan is actually the winner. (1)

Doktor Memory (237313) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251960)

Other dot-bombs may have been flashier, but WebVan was the undisputed heavyweight king: they ran through over one billion-with-a-b dollars in venture funding before going under.

Anyone can lose a few million dollars in VC money. Losing a billion take serious style.

Goddamn flash intro ads... (0, Redundant)

Penguin Programmer (241752) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251601)

Re:Goddamn flash intro ads... (0, Troll)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251739)

just reload the page you nutsack!

iSmell (2, Funny)

paisleyboxers (540253) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251604)

I still have that very issue of Wired Magazine that the iSmell was publisized in from like 6 years ago.. I remember being so fond of it because (if i remember porperly) it was a Spumco project. And I wanted so badly for that to become a reality. Viva la Spumco!!!! (and Ren and Stimpy too)

Re:iSmell (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15251621)

Listen Valley Girl, pleast stop, like, using "like" like all the time. Like geeze man.

This stuff is small change. (4, Interesting)

sakusha (441986) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251615)

These guys are penny ante losers. I want to know the REALLY BIG losers.

I remember seeing some TV show back around 1992, some analysts from Bolt Beranek & Newman said they had a bet in their office about what company would be the first to lose $1 Billion in cash by investing it in the Internet. He called it by some stupid name like "a Gigalapse."

I've remembered that bet for quite a few years, and whenever I hear a big loss, I always see if it comes up to a billion. I've seen a few companies lose hundreds of millions, but nobody's come close to a billion that I know of. But surely it will happen someday, sooner than we think. For all we know, Microsoft or Google might have lost a billion in some bad internet investment and buried it somewhere in their P&L where nobody is looking.

Biggest Internet loser ever? Easy. (4, Insightful)

mbkennel (97636) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251624)


Time Warner. They bought AOL and never looked forward since.

Re:Biggest Internet loser ever? Easy. (1)

sakusha (441986) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251666)

I considered Time Warner as a candidate for the "Gigalapse" but I could not identify $1billion in real cash money that evaporated. It was all stock swaps, just paper money that evaporated.

Re:Biggest Internet loser ever? Easy. (1)

LadyLucky (546115) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251742)

I think those that owned stock in Time Warner may disagree.

Re:Biggest Internet loser ever? Easy. (1)

sakusha (441986) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251785)

Show me a single TW stockholder who lost 1Billion in cash on the AOL acquisition and I'll grant them the Gigalapse. I couldn't find any.

Re:Biggest Internet loser ever? Easy. (2, Informative)

David Jao (2759) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251812)

AOL Time Warner lost 54 billion dollars [thestreet.com] as a direct result of the merger. Call it non-cash if you want, but the shareholders (especially big institutional investors, such as Janus fund) lost real money.

Also, the grandparent post is technically inaccurate -- AOL bought Time Warner, not the other way around.

Re:Biggest Internet loser ever? Easy. (1)

sakusha (441986) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251844)

Also, the grandparent post is technically inaccurate -- AOL bought Time Warner, not the other way around.

This would mean AOL/TW is ineligible for the Gigalapse award. AOL lost money acquiring old tech (TV, publishing), where I'm looking for a money lost on an internet investment.

You see, it isn't easy getting a clear winner on this bet.

Re:Biggest Internet loser ever? Easy. (1)

zoeblade (600058) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251973)

Time Warner. They bought AOL and never looked forward since.

Yep. This is the same Time Warner that bought Atari, then got upset when the people working there claimed the 2600 wouldn't last forever and that they were already working on it successor. Time Warner is a rich company with no knowledge of how technology works. They just buy out other companies that seem like fashionable cash cows at the time.

Re:This stuff is small change. (2, Informative)

5pp000 (873881) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251716)

Anyone remember Metricom? Paul Allen reportedly lost some $600M on that. That's more than halfway to your $1B target.

For those who never heard of it or don't recall, Metricom was blanketing entire cities with their "Ricochet" wireless Internet access coverage. Yes! In 1999 and 2000! I was a subscriber, and got some real use out of the thing, though the service was expensive ($70/month) and slow (the claimed 128kbps rarely materialized). (But then, back then, most people were using dialup anyway.)

If they had moved more carefully, instead of madly rolling out a service for which demand had not yet developed, they might be sitting very pretty indeed by this point. Oh well, hindsight...

Re:This stuff is small change. (2, Interesting)

MDMurphy (208495) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251845)

Metricom was a real shame. I actually think the flood of money from Paul Allen is what killed them. Rather than struggle a while and go slow they went into an orgy of spending and growth and burned out quick.

I had Metricom from 1996-1999. It was only 28.8 at first, but in 1996 dialup was 28.8. At $40 a month it was less than the cost of dialup plus a 2nd phone line, so the mobile part was a bonus. It was unmetered and always on. In 1997 I could sit outside Starbucks and get work done, send/receive email, surf the web. The modem was a little bulky, but the battery lasted longer than my laptop's battery so it was usable.

This was before WiFi, before GPRS. And it worked. I beta tested the 128k stuff. It was faster than dialup when most people still didn't have cable or DSL. It was mobile and unmetered.

They blew the money, made bad business decisions. But the product I got from them worked as advertised. That's more than most of the dot-flops can say.

And now, MetroFi is putting wireless internet on light poles, just like Metricom

Telco's (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 8 years ago | (#15252054)

When the bubble burst, telco stocks were also thrown out the window and in many cases still haven't made up the lost ground. Capital losses on those stocks would have easily topped the $1B mark.

BTW: I know stocks prices are not the same as cash but accountants and bankers think a bit differently.

They forgot Value America (3, Informative)

LoadStar (532607) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251618)

They also forgot Value America. Similar to the CyberRebate.com which was mentioned in the article, except even less thought through than that... they pretty much gave stuff away for practically nothing. I can't even describe how much cheap stuff I got from them at half price or less.

Value America was a textbook case of the dot bomb. Literally... the book "dot.bomb: My Days and Nights at an Internet Goliath" describes the rise and fall of Value America.

Re:They forgot Value America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15251807)

Value America! I bought a hard drive from them when they had an online coupon code for $100 off back in Oct. '99. You sure don't find that often anymore.

iloomy butt! (2, Informative)

macdaddy357 (582412) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251664)

The iloo was a joke that became an urban legend. There was never actually a plan to make such a thing.

Re:iloomy butt! (1)

novus ordo (843883) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251745)

If they ever made such a thing I would take residence in it [toiletmuseum.com]

Re:iloomy butt! (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 8 years ago | (#15252084)

"The iloo was a joke..."

And yet somehow the internet fridge [google.com] survived. "Evolving markets", go figure!

Online Malls (1)

theurge14 (820596) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251689)

Remember around 1997 or 1998 when every other yahoo in your area with a dialup modem and too much free time was collecting links to stores around your area and making those glorified bookmark collections and calling them an "Online Mall"?

Ok, maybe I'm the only one.

Re:Online Malls (3, Funny)

Cold-NiTe (968026) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251711)

I... I still do that...

Waste of time posting JavaScript only links !!##@@ (1, Flamebait)

Acc7 (970875) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251697)

Zonk, Why would you post a link that requires javascript to get anything other than a blank page??? It just wastes our time !!! ##@@!!!##@@

Story sounds interesting but are you going to vouch for the link and come over to fix a hacked system?? If not, then either mention the link is script only or don't bother to post it.

disappointed

Re:Waste of time posting JavaScript only links !!# (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15251876)

Ah. That's why I just got a blank page. I had a feeling it might be, but couldn't be arsed to turn on javascript just to find out. Don't they know that even MS recommend browsing with javascript disabled?

ZOMG! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15251988)

Teh site uses teh Javascripts, it must be full of teh spyware!!!!!111111oneoneoneeleven

FuckedCompany? (4, Interesting)

catch23 (97972) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251700)

Why bother with a tiny little article from WSJ when you have an entire website dedicated to dot-bomb companies? FuckedCompany.com was a big hit during the dot-bomb era, everyone I knew used the site to make bets on which company would get screwed next. They should be the ones authoring the story. They probably have all the great insider information on all the dot-bombs. If it weren't for NDAs, they could probably publish a top selling book with all that rumor-mill information they've got stored away.

Re:FuckedCompany? (1)

robogun (466062) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251733)

Have you been to the site in the last year or so. FC discussion is very very dead, the only posts seem to tell Pud to take the site down, and some Joe Wang posts

Re:FuckedCompany? (1)

Adam9 (93947) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251798)

Done. [amazon.com]

conspicuously absent (0, Offtopic)

jihadi_lame (925725) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251748)

slashdot!

the only site that makes money by allowing subscribers to view stories before ddosing them!

slashdot's editors must be stopped. consider the jihad [anti-slash.org]

Agillion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15251766)

One of the biggest, most stunning crash & burns ever. They ended up going out of business something like $60 million in debt. Amazing.

http://www.disobey.com/ghostsites/show_exhibit.sht ml/agillion [disobey.com]

Sprockets.com (5, Interesting)

mshurpik (198339) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251776)

I worked for Sprockets.com for a couple months as technical support while I learned web development elsewhere.

As best I could tell, Sprockets was completely fake. The goal was to build a new-media friendly collaboration tool. Emphasis was on appearance and real development work was outsourced to Israeli programmers who could barely keep up with...well they just sucked. I never saw a deliverable and never had any responsibilities.

We had four in-house developers, fresh college kids who mostly goofed around and laughed at their non-responsibilities. When I showed up to work at 11am, the infrastructure team bluntly offered me a free cellphone. They also threw stock at me like toilet paper.

I bailed on Sprockets to take a real development job at double salary, but about a year later I got a letter in the mail saying Sprockets was defunct and I could come to the office to take whatever I wanted. Fait accompli...venture capital=profit. I can't believe they got away with it, but my feeling is this was pre-planned from the start and they broke no actual laws. They knew what they were doing.

Call it VC raiding. Anybody who wasted venture capital should probably be jealous (and my future employer did exactly that.)

Re:Sprockets.com (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15251981)

i Worked for one of these in 2000 too, there were 3 of us in a unit on an industrial estate, got a bunch of servers and computers thrown at us and paid to develop "internet filtering software for schools". after a few months of nothing happening but tech demos to investors i realised what the game was and jumped ship, as far as i'm aware it's actually still going, and still getting cash out of investors. The secret of their profitability is to only have enough kit to look like they're actually doing something and to only hire a couple of college kids as developers for minimum wage.

Cuecat success despite best attempts (4, Interesting)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251784)

"The cat got butchered, but it has spawned a cottage industry," said the device's inventor, J. Hutton Pulitzer, who now operates a patent holding company in Dallas. Mr. Pulitzer (who changed his name in recent years from J. Jovan Philyaw) laments that he let himself get swept up in the Wall Street frenzy of the late 1990s. "Hindsight is just that," he said. "You can't do anything about it."


It should be noted that this minor "cottage industry" success appeared despite efforts to the contrary [slashdot.org] by Mr. Philyaw (or whatever name he calls himself now or the future). Referring to the device as "butchered" is telling.

As an aside, it's interesting that he now operates a "patent holding company" and changed his name. Even more so is his choice of name. The guy's a class act all the way.

match made in . . . (2, Funny)

glas_gow (961896) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251919)

If the iLoo and the iSmell people had got together they would have created a right old stink. This has to be a joke, right? It reminds me of the time I first marvelled at the ability to take my mobile phone into the crapper, then thought better of it.

Lest we forget (1)

CaptainZapp (182233) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251947)

The most expensive art performance [wired.com] of all times:

etoys.com

Disclaimer: I am the logistics - and database agent of etoy.

i have a pets.com sock puppet (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 8 years ago | (#15251958)

sitting in my desk drawer at work

i have a business plan to make money off of it

1. sit on pets.com sock puppet
2. ?????
3. profit

where ?????=wait for the years to build, the nostalgia to set in, and its value to climb, ready for sale on ebay

it's a sure thing, no way my plan can lose money

Where are they now? (5, Informative)

SuperGus (678577) | more than 8 years ago | (#15252005)

Let's cast a nostalgic browser into the ether and see what some once-fabled URLs return. I've also included results for some of the lesser-known companies mentioned in other slashdotters' postings and, of course, companies from TFA.

cyberrebate.com - "Distributions to creditors (including rebate claimants) are being mailed beginning April 22, 2005. Creditors will receive $.08802 per dollar of allowed claims" The check is in the mail!!

pets.com - Bounces you to petsmart.com. Wonder how much PetsMart had to pay for the DNS rights? I'm guessing 2 barks and a milkbone.

webvan.com - DNS error. Legend has it this company actually burned through $1 billion.

peapod.com - Still alive in ChiTown, Milwaukee, and SE Wisco. Go peapod!!

carsdirect.com - Still alive but appears to be simply a car dealer referral service, not the once vaunted "direct seller". Never hit that sweet IPO - it was withdrawn as the bubble burst.

imotors.com - They built small factories to refurbish and re-warranty used cars which were delivered to customers. The factories are gone - now they're just an information broker apparently.

flooz.com - WTF? Random placeholder page?

boo.com - A splash page lives on and claims a new site is launching in 2006. Register your email address to receive updates. "The boo is back! Shh..." Oh joy!

kozmo.com - DNS error.

priceline.com - Still around of course.

agillion.com - Essentially blank page save the link to blogger.com

sprockets.com - Now a musical composing, scoring, and production service.

cuecat.com - An online obituary. Are they hoping this gets search-engine-indexed into posterity?

i2 - Supply chain software. Still here, but stock price is at $17, down from the 5-year high of $643. Look out below!

eToys - Still around.

idealab - Famous incubator - carsdirect, petsmart.com, etoys, etc - still around.

eCompanies - Famous incubator - still around.

Re:Where are they now? (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 8 years ago | (#15252075)

According to the peapod wiki [wikipedia.org] , peapod is now entirely owned by Royal Ahold [wikipedia.org] , which is a pretty big grocer, big enough to survive a major top-management accounting scandal several years ago. Apart from that troubles, it's a very old and stable company, they propably won't run things that are not economically rewarding, so I guess peapod could survive a long long time this way.

BBO - Broadband office. (1)

Presence2 (240785) | more than 8 years ago | (#15252097)

Kliener Perkin's little darling - Buy fiber and lets give T1's and T3's to every floor in every office building in every city and run it all from the same hub. Wait.. they have to sell it to actual customers? And you have to go through other providers? RUN!
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