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Dot-com Boom's Biggest Duds, From Flooz to iSmell 258

Carl Bialik from WSJ writes " 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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Dot-com Boom's Biggest Duds, From Flooz to iSmell

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  • CueCat (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jeeperscats ( 882744 )
    so how many people had like 45 of those things?
    • Re:CueCat (Score:5, Interesting)

      by isd_glory ( 787646 ) * on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @03:27AM (#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...
    • I must have missed something. What's a cuecat? Link?
      • Damn, if only someone, say some sort of online newspaper, could write an article about what the cuecat was, and the rise and fall of the company behind it. That would be really useful. It would be great if the poster would have taken the time and linked to the article, but heh, that is slashdot for ya. Bastards!
  • annoying link (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bairdsy ( 788587 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @01:50AM (#15251565)
    Is there a way to get to the actual article without the extremely annoying shenanigans they insist on putting me through?
    • Article Text (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @10:02AM (#15253534)
      The Best of the Worst
      May 3, 2006

      What were they thinking?

      The Internet spawned so many weird gizmos and bad business ideas that mocking dot-com duds became something of a sport in the post-bubble era. But some ideas still stand out for pure silliness. These are products and services that attracted lots of publicity -- and, in some cases, millions of dollars in funding -- before folding.

      In the earlier days of the Web, "nobody seemed to care if there was a real business there," said Alan Meckler, chief executive of Jupitermedia Corp. and Internet industry pundit.

      If It Seems Too Good to Be True

      Take, which thought it could make money by giving stuff away for free. The online retailer, founded in 1998, sold an assortment of goods at heavily marked up prices (some items going for up to 10 times their retail values), but promised customers a hefty rebate that often amounted to 100% of the purchase price.

      For example, CyberRebate charged about $1,100 for a 13-inch RCA television that normally retailed for a few hundred dollars. Buyers could get a full refund of the purchase price as long as they jumped through some hoops -- rebate forms had to be submitted by a deadline, and checks came 10 to 14 weeks later. CyberRebate banked on the idea that some percentage of buyers would forget to fill out the rebate form, or fail to do so in time, leaving the company to pocket the money.

      But selling items at such wildly inflated prices just about guaranteed customers would go out of their way to get their rebates, quickly sinking CyberRebate into heavy debt. The company, founded by law school student Joel Granik, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 2001, listing liabilities of $83.4 million. Much of that debt was owed to consumers who were promised rebates but hadn't received them.

      Both Mr. Granik and his business partner, Joseph Lichter, settled with the Federal Trade Commission for $40,000 in August 2004 and were barred from running a rebate-based business. Some rebate claimants eventually received partial reimbursement of about nine cents for every dollar, according to a statement on CyberRebate's Web site.

      Money Matters

      Then there was, which tried to create a form of digital currency. Similar to the also-ill-fated, users could purchase "flooz" and give it to others as a sort of virtual gift certificate. Flooz could only be spent at participating online retailers, which included and J. Crew.

      The company managed to raise over $50 million in funding from 1999-2001 and even signed on comedian Whoopi Goldberg as a celebrity spokeswoman before bad times hit.

      According to Flooz founder and Chief Executive Robert Levitan, who previously co-founded women's Web site iVillage, the beginning of the end came in spring 2001. That's when Flooz's corporate clients began to cut back on orders for gift certificates to be used in promotional giveaways -- a revenue stream Flooz was counting on -- amid the softening economy. Then a ring of thieves in Russia and the Philippines charged about $300,000 in Flooz to stolen credit cards. The online piggy bank officially declared itself broke in August 2001.

      Several other online-payment companies also failed, though PayPal survived, largely because it positioned itself as a money-transfer service. PayPal's offerings became particularly popular with online auction users, and that company was acquired by eBay Inc. in 2002.

      "I would have wanted a different outcome," said Mr. Levitan, who has since moved on to start-up Pando Networks Inc., which aims to simplify the sending of email attachments. "But I am proud of what we accomplished."

      The Sweet Smell of iSmell

      The "iSmell," a product created by the now-defunct Digiscents Inc. in 1999, promised to enhance the Web surfing experience by engaging users' senses of smell.

      By plugging iSmell into the computer through a USB port, the device would generate diffe
  • iSmell? (Score:4, Funny)

    by X1088LoD ( 918610 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @01:50AM (#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!)
    • A foul up at the iSmell datacenter led every customers device to smell like Uranus.
      • Yes ..... you know, the phone company O2 was originally going to be called CH4 but there was a bit of a stink about it .....
        • darn you (Score:3, Informative)

          by tacokill ( 531275 )
          Man, I was gonna laugh at this but my pedantic side got the best of me and I just can't do it.

          CH4, or methane, is odorless []. If you are "smelling" methane, then what you are really smelling is one of two things: H2S (rotton eggs) or Mercaptins.

          They add mercaptins to CH4 (or natural gas) so you can smell it. Easy leak detection and all...
    • 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 [] 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.

      • I don't know, smelling things long dead just seems creepy.

        Creepier than observing them with your eyes, which you can do by looking up on a dark starry night?


    • I remember it from before the net when it was supposed to attach to your tv. No doubt in the days of radio they had similar ideas and I am pretty sure I remember it being discussed as an option for film theathers.

      Basically the ideas of adding smells to other media is eternal. I even had some scratch and sniff books at a time.

      The logic is simple. Smells are important, the smell of fresh coffee or baking bread really wakes me up and tells me it is morning. The smell of wet grass after a thunderstorm would r

    • Re:iSmell? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      I saw the device at GDC (guess they missed that appearance, but then, I've never been to CES so I guess it's all a wash) but didn't attend the demo. It was pretty spiffy looking though. It had a palette of about fifteen chemicals (IIRC) and some kind of odor neutralizer it would blow between smells to clear them out.

      I told 'em that my favorite smell of all was the rain on hot asphalt and it ended up on their webpage under their "Favorite Smell" poll. My fifteen seconds :P

  • (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Snap E Tom ( 128447 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @01:51AM (#15251568)
    How can they forget 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
  • by Shubalubdub ( 930266 ) <> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @01:52AM (#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."
    • 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.
    • by foreverdisillusioned ( 763799 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @03:04AM (#15251722) Journal
      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. 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. 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 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 or 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, is running commercials now,'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.
      • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @04:35AM (#15251921) Homepage
        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.

        • by foreverdisillusioned ( 763799 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:46AM (#15252132) Journal
          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 might pay 1/10 the rent of a B&M business, because they don't care if they're in the crappy part of town.

          more expensive once you invite in the general public. Customers are spoiled. They must be *impressed* or at the very least satiated. On the 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.)

          Doubtful. A cashier must have a decent appearance, be able to interact with customers in a halfway friendly manner, be trusted enough around lots of cash (or at least closely monitored around lots of cash), be trained to operate the register, etc.

          On the other hand, the picker/packer must be able to 1. Read the screen and 2. Pack the items and slap a shipping label on the box. Any socially-inept slob with 5 minutes of training can be a packer. Cashiers have stricter requirements, require more training, and require more micromanagement and supervision (e.g. stealing.) Support is largely automated, and the non-automated portions can be outsourced (or at the very least provided by telecommuting employees from across the country.) Support people don't even need good people skills--they just read from a script or punch out the pregenerated reply emails.

          The fact that online businesses employ more people to do the job of one B&M person doesn't change the fact that those people are probably 10x more efficient and since they don't have direct contact with cash OR the public, they're a hell of a lot easier to hire and cheaper to manage. You also neglect to take into account the types of employees that .com stores usually lack--e.g. sales or security (yes, there will be *some* security at the .com warehouse, but the lack of public access and lack of employees' direct access to cash makes this much easier--and therefore cheaper.)

          Nothing has *no* overhead, but you're fooling yourself if you think that a lack of a commercial-district building open to the public isn't saving the .coms a TON of money. Commericially-zoned property is much more expensive. This means magnified rents or magnified purchase costs and property taxes. Much more money will have to be spend on interior design. The utilities bill will generally be much higher. Insurance will be MUCH higher. You must have cashiers and customer service and security around *at all times*, even when there aren't any customers. Sales people, if you have any, will steal your profit in the form of a commission (or if they're commission-less, they're either have a rather high hourly wage or they'll be very apathetic and ineffective about doing their job.) You have to pay for shopping carts and the land for the parking lot and cameras to watch over the parking lot (at least if you're a major chain) and people to WATCH the cameras that look over the parking lot. You have to hire guys to paint your building nice and pretty (.com warehouse has no problem looking rusted and shitty.) You hire guys to come in and replace your lights when they blow, service your cash registers when they go on the fritz, mop the floors when they get dirty. Yes, to an extent this is all done at the warehouse as well, but they expend maybe 1/100 of the effort as the retail store. They don't care if the floor is dirty as hell, so long as they aren't violating any OSHA regs. They don't care if they have bare incandescent bulbs hanging 5' above everyone's heads (vs. those huge flourescent bulbs hanging 20' or 30' above your head at Wal-Mart. I bet they're just *slightly* more expensive to change.) If the air conditioner in the warehouse breaks down,
      • While it is true that there are much cheaper prices online, I have been finding recently that high street shops (UK) are catching up. I have bought several things recently for the same price or cheaper as online in a local department store, with a two year guarantee.
      • Amazon sorta makes sense. Normal book stores are limited. They are either in a good location OR they got space for lots and lots of books. Rarely both.

        Amazon has a lousy location (try stopping by to just have a browse and see the book and scim through it) BUT has infinite space. Well almost.

        If you got even a small chain of stores you need to stock a copy of a book in everyone of them if you want to sell it.

        Amazon can stock 1 copy and sell it across a continent.

        Internet stores make sense for goods where

  • Also (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Flame0001 ( 818040 )
    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.
    • I was one of their last customers -- I never got the order I placed the day they went under [].

      Oh well. It was nice having VCs subsidize our candy bars for a while there.
    • Re:Also (Score:5, Insightful)

      by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @02:29AM (#15251642) Journal
      "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.
      • 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 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
    • Thriving in the UK (Score:5, Informative)

      by ndg123 ( 801212 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @03:05AM (#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).
      • 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.
        • Personally I'd sooner spend a whole 30 mins (gasp) in a shop and
          get stuff that I think looks ok , than rely on some 18 year old
          packer to pick veg etc out of the almost-out-of-sell-by-date basket
          that the shop wants to clear out.
    • Here in Minneapolis we have Simon Delivers. []

      I see their trucks quite often, so no, home delivery of groceries isn't dead.
    • by Joel from Sydney ( 828208 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @03:58AM (#15251838)
      Both of Australia's major [] supermarket [] 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?

    • Works a treat - for $NZ10 - $15 (depending on order size) delivered. The guy even brings it into the house and drops the bags in the kitchen.

      The website [] is very well thought out too. It saves frequently purchased items so after a couple of shops, you can do a shop by zipping through your list rather than scanning the whole inventory.

      One happy, and very lazy, customer.
  • I'm sorry, but... (Score:5, Informative)

    by VValdo ( 10446 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @02:03AM (#15251582)
    any list of tech duds that doesn't include the venerable iOpener [] is.. well, incomplete.

  • I think about, 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.
  • PointCast (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LoadStar ( 532607 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @02:08AM (#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 (Score:3, Interesting)

      by maggard ( 5579 )

      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 headlines & After Dark []'s Headlines [] module, just to keep me on my toes of real-news vs. fake-news (aside from Fox News [])

  • Don't forget ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrNougat ( 927651 ) <> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @02:10AM (#15251600) [], and Webvan [].

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

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

    And frankly, I can't believe Peapod [] is still running.
    • 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; 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 th
    • Re:Don't forget ... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 )
      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 q
    • 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.
  • iSmell (Score:2, Funny)

    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)
  • by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @02:17AM (#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.
  • by LoadStar ( 532607 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @02:20AM (#15251618)
    They also forgot Value America. Similar to the 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.
  • iloomy butt! (Score:3, Informative)

    by macdaddy357 ( 582412 ) <> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @02:39AM (#15251664)
    The iloo was a joke that became an urban legend. There was never actually a plan to make such a thing.
  • 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.
  • FuckedCompany? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by catch23 ( 97972 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @02:53AM (#15251700)
    Why bother with a tiny little article from WSJ when you have an entire website dedicated to dot-bomb companies? 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.
  • (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mshurpik ( 198339 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @03:29AM (#15251776)
    I worked for 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.)
    • "I worked for for a couple months as technical support..."

      How is Mr Spacely and what's George up to these days...
    • my feeling is this was pre-planned from the start and they broke no actual laws. They knew what they were doing.

      If they knew from the start what they were doing (taking investors' money and pissing it away), then the law they broke is that against fraud - "A deception deliberately practiced in order to secure unfair or unlawful gain". Even if their goal was not to embezzle millions but only to enjoy the easy life for a while and put "Internet start up" on their CV's, it was still fraud if they did it inten
  • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @03:32AM (#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 [] 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.
  • 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.
  • The most expensive art performance [] of all times:

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

  • sitting in my desk drawer at work

    i have a business plan to make money off of it

    1. sit on 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? (Score:5, Informative)

    by SuperGus ( 678577 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @05:09AM (#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. - "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!! - Bounces you to Wonder how much PetsMart had to pay for the DNS rights? I'm guessing 2 barks and a milkbone. - DNS error. Legend has it this company actually burned through $1 billion. - Still alive in ChiTown, Milwaukee, and SE Wisco. Go peapod!! - 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. - 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. - WTF? Random placeholder page? - 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! - DNS error. - Still around of course. - Essentially blank page save the link to - Now a musical composing, scoring, and production service. - 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,, etoys, etc - still around.

    eCompanies - Famous incubator - still around.

    • According to the peapod wiki [], peapod is now entirely owned by Royal Ahold [], 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.
    • Ah, The attention to detail at that place was non-existent. An appalling flash interface that ran like treacle on most modern machines of the time. Free P&P that used couriers in London for delivery and return (and a lot of things were returned). Three, count them, three Sun E10000s at at least a quarter of a million quid a go. I was working at PSINet when the machines were being taken out. Perhaps by US standards it wasn't a massive disaster but it certainly pulled down the British dotcom in
  • CNET's list (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @08:01AM (#15252712) Journal
    I think I personally like CNET's list [] more:

    1. Webvan
  • by NYTrojan ( 682560 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @08:23AM (#15252834)
    Now that was one of my favorites. You had this little advertizement bar that appeared on the bottom of your screen, and got paid for however many hours it was up. Nevermind that you could run it at night while you slept. You also got additional cash for getting others to sign up under you. My roomate and I put together a little program we called 'TakeAdvantage' that was basically a small gui for breaking what pathetic blocks they put in place to prevent one person from signing themselves up 20 times. hundred dollar checks every month for nothing? Sweet. Whatshotnow was another great one. You got points for filling out surveys, and you could use those points on free junk at their website. Ghostmouse let you fill out surveys (everything is awesome!) for hours at a time while you slept or were at class. I'll never understand how they thought these business models could work. Ditto that with the 'new' Napster.
  • by starX ( 306011 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @11:26AM (#15254176) Homepage
    Lists of dotcom era flops. How many times will this issue come up in every major publication? It's kind of like "I love the (variable decade)" on VH1; the occaisional trip down memory lane is enjoyable, but it seems like we have another one of these every few months. Is there some sort of underlying psychological problem whereby we have to convince ourselves that these ideas were bad? It's kind of like we're all trying to convince ourselves that we're better off, despite the economic down turn, because we don't have as many silly ideas kicking around.
  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @01:31PM (#15255313) Journal
    It wasn't only an American phenomenon. I worked in a Dotcom in Germany back then where our biggest customer was a German company My Media. Innovative, eh? They burned through 200 million in two years (We built a health and lifestyle portal for them) by holding business meetings on chartered yachts in the Seychelles. When they went down, so did we.

    They final month before the office was vacated saw the guys smoking weed in front of the webcam, my boss doing coke in the toilets and our isp bill at enormous rates as the guys spent the whole day downloading stuff from Napster and fighting with the sysadmin who was trying to save a bankrupt company from losing even more money.

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!