In the beginning, the internet was fun. You could talk to new people on a listserv, you could actually hack without going to jail, and you could hang out in a chatroom and actually be anonymous. You could be anyone that you wanted to be. The internet wasn’t commercial – until it was. And then it wasn’t so fun anymore.
That’s about to change. In a response to the last five years of hyper consumerism on the web, a new crop of merry pranksters is using the internet to create art projects and social experiments that are holding a mirror up to our wired culture.
Okfocus is a Brooklyn-based digital agency that punked the internet by brilliantly posing as Donda Media, the mysterious non-company that was announced by Kanye West on his Twitter account last year. Led by Jonathan Vingiano and Ryder Ripps, the team launched Whodat.biz, a website claiming to be the first product from the Donda Media team. Whodat claims to be “the Facebook of websites.” Scrolling down on its website, Whodat reads:
Ever wonder what it would be like to find out who’s behind your favorite websites? Whodat does just that. Simply enter the address of a website in the big bar below and discover the crew behind any website on earth.
When users entered the website and clicked the Whodat? button, they discovered that the tool was simply a thinly veiled Whois domain lookup. The internet believed it was real for a few hours, until the folks at Okfocus were identified as the creators of the site. Okfocus wasn’t so much ripping on Kanye’s internet ambition, but rather the wannabe entrepreneurs who expect fame and fortune upon releasing an app that is more a feature than a fully realized product.
While Okfocus is busy making fun of easy internet superstardom, Fame is trying to create it. To play Fame, users must connect their Twitter accounts. Each day a winner is randomly selected. If you win, you’ll amass thousands of followers automatically from the Fame app for just 24 hours. Use your 24 hours of internet fame wisely; when Fame picks a new winner, you lose your followers.
Fame is the brainchild of Adam Ludwin, principal at RRE Ventures. According to Ludwin, the idea behind Fame was to have fun with the Twitter API:
The idea came to me when I was learning about the Twitter API and what sorts of things are possible to build on top of it. I pitched the idea to my friends at bighuman.com, they were into it, and the three of us (me + the 2 co-founders of bighuman) spent the last month building it.
So far, Fame has over 7,400 followers. Its ultimate goal is to get one lucky winner more Twitter followers than Lady Gaga. The more people play, the closer one person comes to being the most followed person on Twitter.
As more of us use the internet as a tool to make a living, the focus has shifted toward big data, analytics, and hitting key metrics. But all work an no play makes the internet a very dull place. Sometimes it takes a few merry pranksters to remind us what is possible with a domain, a laptop, and a killer API.
Featured image: Paul Lowry