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The story behind 10 famous entertainment websites
Published on 10/5/2006

Fark

Originally, the web server on Drew Curtis' fark.com domain contained no content, except for an image of a squirrel with large testicles. Later, in 1999, the site introduced what would evolve into its current format, as a way for Curtis to share what he considered interesting news postings with his friends rather than sending them numerous emails. Features such as link submission and forums have slowly been added over the years, as popularity and participation grew. The number of registered Farkers surpassed 300,000 on August 19, 2006.

The term "farking" was originally intended as a euphemism for the verb, "fuck". However, it has also come to refer to websites that have stopped responding due to a high load after being linked to from fark.com. Particularly small websites referenced by Fark headlines are often "farked", meaning that their servers have received so much traffic that they have stopped responding completely (see also: Slashdot effect).

Controversy

Fark and Something Awful have been engaged in a friendly rivalry of sorts, culminating in a Photoshop Contest between the two sites, judged by celebrity Wil Wheaton. Contrary to popular belief, there actually is no real rivalry between Fark.com and Something Awful. This rivalry was propagated mostly as an inside joke by Lowtax, the owner of Something Awful. The joke comes from the fact that Drew and Lowtax are close friends, and that Fark.com and Something Awful share some of the same readership.

There are certain sites which Fark.com will not link to, such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, or Ananova.com. The reason for not linking to The New York Times and The Washington Post is that these sites require a user registration. Submitting any link which requires registration is frowned upon by the Fark community. Members can post links to The New York Times or The Washington Post in the forums during a discussion, but may not submit these links directly through the queue.

Fark does not link to Ananova because the website had posted Fark's headlines without giving credit, in addition to posting many inaccurate articles. Ananova was receiving a great deal of traffic due to Fark's links while refusing to acknowledge Fark and reciprocate the gesture. While Ananova denied using Fark's headlines, Drew specifically put a few "fake" links on the main page which Ananova then posted. Drew then decided not to accept links from their website.

Fark has often been criticized for running headlines and articles that are politically biased. However, they are accused of having both a conservative and a liberal bias. Drew has stated that rather than trying to keep it in the middle, admins enjoy running both far-left and far-right articles. The top four hated "groups" on Fark.com are (in no particular order) PETA, Catholic priests, the French, and Duke University, according to founder Drew Curtis.

Fark has been accused of selling preferential placement of story links on the main page. Drew responded to this by saying he had considered selling links he was already going to post to servers that could handle the bandwidth, such as CNN or ABC. He claims the only type of links that are paid are some of the adult content (usually "boobies") links, and are clearly labelled as being sponsored. He also claims that thus far all sponsored links have been clearly labelled adult content links to ensure the links are trojan-free, spam-free, and spyware-free. Adult content links that are not labelled as sponsored links are not paid for and were submitted by individual users. According to Drew, there is currently nothing in the works to sell links to sites such as AP, CNN, or anyone else. During a discussion in a forum on such accusations, the moderators would repeatedly delete comments that questioned whether this was for or against Fark.com philosophy.

Many people also complain that Fark will not publish their link to their main page or "greenlight" their articles. All of the links submitted on Fark.com are submitted by individual users and are approved based on content by administrators. Articles that are posted to the main page are selected based on the content of the article, how funny the headline is, and sometimes how much bandwidth usage the site can handle. The administrators will never greenlight an article because they were emailed and asked to do so.



Something Awful

Something Awful is the brainchild of Richard "Lowtax" Kyanka, who remains in control of the site, despite the proliferation of writers and administrators who have assisted him over the years. The earliest comedic features of the website appeared originally on Kyanka's personal site ARCCentral, but were popularized on Planetquake including Cranky Steve's Haunted Whorehouse, which at that time presented comical negative reviews of user-made Quake II maps, and other reviews, notably of a Doom comic book, and some movies.

After he was forced to resign from Planet Quake for publishing a derogatory Cranky Steve update about a fellow employee, Lowtax moved his personal features to a new site, entitled Something Awful, in late 1999. During this early period, Lowtax created some of SA's most famous and long-lasting characters and catchphrases, such as Jeff K., the Space Robots ICQ prank, and the Awful Link of the Day feature.

Something Awful met with great financial difficulties during the period from 2000-2001 that threatened to take the entire site down. All front page updates prior to the end of August 2000 are missing due to server problems during this time period. Various sponsors, including GameFan and eFront, promised Lowtax payments in exchange for ad space, but none of these companies lived up to their promises. Details of the actual financial structure of SA have always been hard to come by, but some forum members assert that Lowtax has made, and continues to make, an enormous personal investment of time and money into the site to keep it running.

The 2001 decision to charge a one-time fee (currently US$9.95) for forums access seems to be a cornerstone of the site's present financial stability. Continuous income is generated through new member fees and merchandise sales.

Controversy
In 2005, a 19-year old man asked for information on buckshots on the Something Awful Forums. A few days later he shot two persons. Forum members were accused to deny the responsibility of their actions when writing joking replies to the poster.

College Humor

The site was originally created in 1999 by Josh Abramson and Ricky Van Veen, two high school friends from Baltimore, Maryland as a means to stay in touch when they attended college. It has since blossomed considerably and is now operated by Connected Ventures, a New York company that also owns Bustedtees.com, Defunker.com and personal video sharing site Vimeo.com. Site traffic averages eight million monthly unique visitors; most visitors are male and in between the ages of 18 and 24.

CollegeHumor.com has gained exceptional notoriety (and media exposure) by selling a novelty foam hand making a sexually-suggestive hand gesture known as the shocker (parodying the popular "We're # 1" foam hands sold at sporting events). This item has become one of CollegeHumor's best selling products. Some people have incorrectly credited CollegeHumor.com as coming up with the shocker, when in reality it had been an inside joke among college students for some time before collegehumor.com started selling the foam hands.

The site is credited with launching the career of comedian Steve Hofstetter, the site's original columnist. Several other comedians have since written for the site, including Christian Finnegan, Ben Gleib, and Dan Levy.

CollegeHumor has recently signed a deal with Paramount Pictures to develop films dealing with college humor.

eBaum's World

eBaum's World features entertainment media such as videos, Flash cartoons and web games. In 1998, founder Eric Bauman launched a bulletin board service, where people could dial in for free text jokes. That same year, while a senior in high school, he launched his homepage, eBaum's World. He uploaded his audio files of Mrs. Barnes, along with other goofy, bizarre, and just plain dumb media he collected: videos of skateboarders impaling themselves, fat ladies impersonating roosters, a preacher whose pauses had been overdubbed with flatulence. The word spread and eBaum's World is now getting 1.2 million hits a day.

eBaum's World has garnered significant controversy in many Internet communities over the years due to numerous allegations of content being taken from other sites; such as YTMND, Something Awful, Albino Blacksheep, 4chan and Newgrounds; without attribution. Companies such as Viacom, 20th Century Fox, and Sega have all claimed that Eric and Neil Bauman have infringed on their copyrights as well. Eric Bauman denies critics' claims that the site's content is stolen, citing research done by site editors and the consent form that must accompany uploads of material. He claims to honor all requests to remove unauthorized material, but this is contested by some content creators. In particular, web artist and animator Jonti Picking, was only able to have his animations removed at the beginning of 2006. Bauman has claimed that he formerly worked with Picking, though Picking has stated that this is false.

On January 24, 2006, USA Network made a deal with the Fox Television Studios to create a television program based on eBaum's World. Producers intend it to be a late-night companion special to air with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Monday Night RAW featuring clips from the website as well as new and exclusive content including interviews with former and current eBaum's World subjects.

General Mayhem

General [M]ayhem, nicknamed by its users Genmay or the "[M]", is an Internet forum containing general discussion forums; its title aptly describing the character of these discussions. General Mayhem has very few rules. Genmay is currently one of the largest message boards on the Internet, with over 19,000,000 posts (considering the relatively small number of registered users). [1] While a diverse and independent community, Genmay is almost directly derived from a now-defunct hardforums sub-forum of the same name. It bears mentioning that Genmay itself is a for-profit LLC.

The current General [M]ayhem was founded after the original HardOCP sub-forum was spontaneously shut down by its owner, one Kyle Bennett, after a server upgrade. Following the upgrade, users found their favorite forum had evaporated. Any disagreement following the deletion was met by immediate banishment, hand-dealt by the infamous Bennett.

Three forum members jumped on the idea of creating a new forum for the displaced community. FLECOM registered genmay.com, M|22 registered genmay.net, and James Crivellone registered genmay.org. The first controversy happened when the 3 domains were consolidated into one forum run on M|22's computer, a dual Pentium 3 which was frequently unable to handle the load that was required, and a question of ownership and control came up between the 3 leaders of the forum. FLECOM was eventually de-admined "from [his] own ------- forum" and disappeared from the site. Crivellone gave up his control over the domain and left as well (going on to administer the more regulated forums of Rage3d). The control of the forum currently rests in the hands of M|22 and sanjay. Lately Genmay.org no longer works, although the Whois says that it still belongs to James Crivellone. A whois for Genmay.info also reveals it is owned by sanjay, although it features the same error message displayed on Genmay.org.

The site is now owned and operated under the name General Mayhem, LLC, of which Sanjay holds a 51%, interest, and M|22 the remaining minority interest. Genmay is run off of a database server with two Opterons, 8GB of memory, and a dual channel UPS backed RAID array. There are four 1U Dell servers that serve Genmay via Squid proxies and Apache/PHP.

Digg

Digg started out as an experiment in November 2004 by Kevin Rose, Owen Byrne, Ron Gorodetzky, and Jay Adelson (who serves as CEO), all of whom currently play an active role in the management of the site.

"We started working on developing the site back in October 2004," Kevin Rose told Richard MacManus of ZDNet. "We started toying around with the idea a couple of months prior to that, but it was early October when we actually started creating what would become the beta version of digg. The site launched to the world on December 5th 2004."

Although the domain name of Digg is registered under the name Jerimiah Udy, he is not one of the original founders of Digg, but rather a friend of Kevin Rose's. The domain name was registered under Jerimiah's name because Rose did not want others to know that he was associated with Digg. He wanted Digg to stand on its own and not become a message board for all things he personally stood for.

Kevin Rose's friend David Prager (The Screen Savers, This Week in Tech) originally wanted to call the site "Diggnation", but Kevin wanted a simpler name. He chose the name "Digg", because users are able to "dig" stories, out of those submitted, up to the front page. The site was called "Digg" instead of "Dig" because the domain name "dig.com" was previously registered by the Walt Disney Company.

The original design was free of advertisements, and was designed by Dan Ries. But as Digg became more popular, Google AdSense was added to generate revenue. The site was updated in July 2005, to "Version 2.0". The new Digg featured a friends list, the ability to "digg" a story without being redirected to a "success" page, and a new interface designed by Daniel Burka, of the web design company silverorange. After the redesign, some users complained about the lack of the simplistic, minimalist layout used in the original version of Digg. The site developers have stated that in future versions a more minimalist design will likely be employed. On Monday June 26, 2006 V3 of Digg was released with specific categories for Technology, Science, World & Business, Videos, Entertainment and Gaming as well as a View All section where all categories are merged. A Sports category was added about a month later.
Even though Digg is depicted as a user-driven website with non-hierarchical editorial control, there have been recent complaints of intervention by editors to promote certain stories, bypassing the choice of users. The same editors are accused of hiding these facts by censoring stories which mention them and by banning users who have posted them. Founder Kevin Rose responded by blaming the promotion on users rather than staff. An exposé by tech blog Forever Geek uncovered what it felt was obvious intervention by editors to promote or bury certain stories, bypassing the choice of users. It also implicated Kevin Rose himself for digging the same exact stories in the same exact order as the users, and therefore being complicit in the promotion. A statistical analysis of the diggs showed that an average of 7-8 of the users dugg each others stories within the first 24 diggs per story that made the front page, and Kevin Rose dugg 28% of these stories within the first 24 diggs. The accusations were addressed extensively by Rose in an appearance on This Week in Tech. On that podcast, as well as on the official Digg blog, he stated that the charges stemmed from a coincidence (two stories that Rose was found to have been the 17th person to "digg"), and that the whole snafu arose after ForeverGeek users were banned for artificially inflating the digg counts of their stories.

The Best Page in the Universe

The Best Page in the Universe is a personal satirical humor website created by self-proclaimed pirate George Ouzounian, better known as Maddox, from Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. The site originated from a text document he wrote listing 50 things that "pissed him off." He gave the list to several people on EFnet's #coders. The response was positive, so in 1997 he created the web site.

As the title suggests, the website proclaims itself to be "The Best Page In The Universe", a name stemming from an old Yahoo! policy that blocked sites with the word "best" in the title from inclusion in their search engine. In protest, Maddox claimed the site to be the best in the universe and named it accordingly.

Controversy

With regard to his hatemail pages, Maddox has been accused of not actually arguing against the points his detractors make, but simply insulting the detractor and distracting the reader with visual aids. His defenders claim that these straw man arguments are intentional and the main criticism he is making of his detractors is that they care.

Maddox is also often criticized for not updating frequently. He has responded to this criticism by posting a news update titled "Foreplay" in 2004 and a "special request" in 2005 Small updates are sometimes posted on the front page: an update on August 22, 2005 tells visitors, "Updates coming soon, I have work, get off my nuts."

Due to the nature of his rants, some of his fans occasionally come to criticize him for attacking their favorite thing. He calls these people his "ex-biggest fans" and says he has received "one email like this per week about every single one of my posts since 1998."

Due to the controversial content, four countries and some internet filtering products have banned his website. On January 8, 2004, the United Arab Emirates was the first country to ban his website. On September 11, 2005, the site was banned in Saudi Arabia. His site is also banned in Myanmar. Maddox wrote the Websense article in which he described being filtered and banned on several services, such as Websense, Lexmark, and the Department of Defense. In addition, several cities have banned access to his site on public access computers, such as Sligo, Ireland.

Beth Robbins, a mother, formed Mothers Against Maddox. Her slogan was, "Help us Fight and Finally Shut Down the Most Hateful site on the Internet." She also created a petition to get the site shut down. When Maddox wrote about it in his Websense article and posted a link to the original Geocities site, Mother Against Maddox was inundated with visitors and repeatedly exceeded its bandwidth limit, so Maddox hosted a mirror. After Maddox posted the petition link, the MAM petition shot up to the Top 10 Active Petitions on PetitionOnline, with Maddox fans flooding the petition and posting extremely vulgar comments. The petition was eventually deactivated.

Maddox has a long-standing feud with Something Awful webmaster Richard Kyanka and many of the site's thousands of forum members. After a falling-out with the site's administrators, Maddox berated Something Awful as being too capitalist (since it costs $9.95 to register on their message boards). Detractors point out that Maddox sells merchandise from his website. Unlike Something Awful, Maddox does not require payment to use any part of his site. Maddox states on his online store that "You're not doing me a favor by buying this stuff. I'm doing you a favor by selling it."

Rotten

Rotten.com is web site with a slogan of "An archive of disturbing illustration" operated by Soylent Communications. It is devoted to morbid curiosities, primarily pictures of gruesome fatalities, deformities, autopsy or forensic photographs depictions of perverse sex acts, and historical curios that are disturbing or misanthropic in nature. The site was founded in 1996, and its format has changed very little since that time.

Rotten.com was started by a California Bay Area BBS sysop in 1996. According to the rotten.com FAQ, it began as "a 'what should I do with this domain now that I blew a hundred bucks on it' exercise."

On an April 1997 morning, shock-jock Howard Stern surfed rotten.com live on national radio. Traffic jumped in one day from 4,500 people a day to 50,000. The site had to be closed down for a few days from the massive bandwidth increase.

During 2000 and 2001, Rotten.com was strongly associated with several of the Slashdot trolling phenomena, with Rotten exhibits such as "The Incident With The Bird" and "The Incident With The Fish" responsible for penis bird and penis fish, ASCII art messages posted to the Slashdot website. Mischievous users also put disguised links to images on the Rotten.com website in their messages in an attempt, much like with the Goatse.cx trolling phenomenon, to trick unsuspecting readers into inadvertently viewing unpleasant images.

YTMND

YTMND, an initialism for "You're The Man Now Dog", is an online community centered around the creation of hosted web pages (known within the community as YTMNDs) featuring a juxtaposition of a single image or a simple slideshow, which may be animated and/or tiled, along with optional large zooming text, and a looping sound file. Images used in YTMNDs are usually either created or edited by users. Most YTMNDs are meant to expose or reflect the more inane facets of pop culture, and some can be considered inside jokes.

YTMND originated in 2001 from Max Goldberg's original website, "yourethemannowdog.com", which he registered along with "dustindiamond.com" after seeing a trailer for the movie Finding Forrester. Originally, the website featured the text "YOURE THE MAN NOW DOG.COM" drawn out in 3D ascii text with no sound. The advent of zoomed text currently on the website was seen in the following months, where the website also featured a photograph of Sean Connery and a sound loop from Finding Forrester reciting the phrase "you're the man now, dog!" Goldberg's new creation inspired others to make similar sites with other movie and television quotations (or any other sound clip they wished to use). At first, Goldberg maintained a list and mirror of these sites, but the list soon became exceptionally long.

In 2004, Goldberg wrote a press release after winning a lawsuit filed by Dustin Diamond for the "fan page" at the aforementioned dustindiamond.com. He mentioned yourethemannowdog.com, as well as a new website, YTMND, that would be ready by April 10. The website opened that day after rushing through the coding and design process. The site caught on in popularity and became an Internet phenomenon when major weblogs began linking to the Picard Song YTMND.

Controversy

In January 2006, eBaum's World hosted and watermarked a Lindsay Lohan montage created by YTMND user SpliceVW without crediting either SpliceVW or YTMND. In response to their actions, users from YTMND joined users from other Internet communities, namely Something Awful, LUElinks, Newgrounds, and 4chan, and decided to attack the forums on eBaum's World, using spam posting and DoS to repeatedly crash them.

On June 10, 2006, a cease and desist form was sent to Max Goldberg by lawyers of the Church of Scientology, claiming that several Scientology-based sites had infringed on their copyrights to some Scientology material. In response, Goldberg replied to the lawyer that the cease and desist form was "completely groundless" and he would not be deleting any Scientology-related sites. Days later, a Scientology page section had appeared on the front page along with a disclaimer on the bottom stating the following: "This website is in no way affiliated, sponsored or owned by the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, SeaOrg, Dianetics, volcanoes or aliens of any sort. We are, however, sponsored by Citizens for the Release of Xenu, a not-for-sanity organization."

B3ta

B3ta is a humorous British website, described as a "puerile digital arts community" by The Guardian. It was founded by Rob Manuel, Denise Wilton and Cal Henderson. To inspire creative works, B3ta poses a weekly image challenge, such as "if cats ruled the world" and a "question of the week", for example asking "what's your most embarrassing injury?".

Throughout its history, B3ta and its contributors have been subject to a lot of controversy. The most notable events were the production of a Popstars flash animation which relied heavily on the use of phalli. When threatened with legal action the animation was pulled from the site. The site has also suffered from several media attacks and features in tabloid press on occasion. A photoshopped calendar by a member called sick_boy purporting to be of naked MPs caused particular concern.





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