The 25 Worst Web Sites

Worst Sites #5-#2

5. AllAdvantage

AllAdvantage: Such a deal!
AllAdvantage: Such a deal!
This site had the brilliant idea of paying people 50 cents an hour to surf and watch banner ads all day, plus another 10 cents per hour for every friend they convinced to sign up. All users had to do was install a "Viewbar" that displayed ads and clocked how much time they spent online. Stunningly, the company managed to raise $135 million in venture capital and convince 2 million users to sign up before it folded in February 2001. For some reason, advertisers failed to see any advantage in trying to reach the $4-a-day demographic. Go figure.

4. CD Universe

In December 1999 a Russian hacker named Maxim broke into the music retailer's site, stole 350,000 credit card numbers, and then demanded $100,000 ransom. When CD Universe refused to pay, Maxim posted 25,000 of the numbers to a Web site. At the time CD Universe was owned by eUniverse, which combined its site and its customer database on an unprotected server. "Basically, they put the candy jar in plain sight and left the cover off," says current CD Universe owner Chuck Beilman. "It was only a matter of time until someone stole the candy." CD Universe's customer database is now separate from the Web site, encrypted, and protected by a firewall.

3. Cartoonnetwok.com

No that's not a typo; it's "typosquatting," where a site owner deliberately registers a misspelling of a popular domain in the hopes of attracting the actual site's traffic. Cartoonnetwok was one of some 5500 deceptive domains owned by John Zuccarini, d/b/a/ "Cupcake Confidential." But that wasn't Zuccarini's only nasty bit of business. FTC investigators visiting one of his sites found their screens filled with 29 new browser windows for instant credit, online psychics, gambling, and porn sites. When they hit the Back button, another 7 windows opened--a technique known as "mousetrapping." Worse, many of Zuccarani's typosquatting sites were aimed at children. In 2003 Zuccarini pleaded guilty to violating the Truth in Domain Names Act and was sentenced to 2.5 years in the federal pen.

2. CyberRebate

The phrase "the check's in the mail" took on new meaning with this dot com. CyberRebate offered to refund 100 percent of what you paid for electronic goods, provided you a) paid up to 10 times their normal retail value, and b) let CyberRebate hold onto your money for at least 10 weeks. The site banked on people simply forgetting to apply for the refund. Unfortunately for CyberRebate, not enough of them did. The company filed for bankruptcy in May 2001 owing $60 million in refunds. Aggrieved customers had to settle for roughly 9 cents on the dollar.

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