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WEB REVIEW: Internet provides means for millions

April 24, 2006

I've had quite a few odd things cross my desk recently, none of which require much attention individually, but taken together are worth a mention. They deserve some attention because at the heart of each is an idea-sometimes a great idea.

The first is probably the greatest idea of the bunch, and it's one of those things that cause me to ask myself why I didn't think of it first. Last summer, a student in England named Alex Tew was looking for a way to raise money to pay for school. He hit upon the idea to sell the actual pixels on one Web page for a dollar each.

He started by selling some space to a few friends, but when word began spreading around the Internet (they call this type of thing "viral marketing"), larger companies began to buy in. As it stands, Tew has sold all 1 million pixels on the page. The money will go to pay for his schooling, socks, and "some other business ideas."You can see the site at www.milliondollarhomepage.com.

Hats off to Alex Tew. He set his mark high and he reached it. The next guy has also set his sights high, and seems to be well on his way.

Kyle MacDonald's idea was a little different. On July 12, 2005, he decided to make a trade. He offered one red paper clip that was sitting on his desk, and his only requirement was that he "trade up." His stated goal at the time was to eventually barter his way to a house or an island. (You remember I said he set his sights pretty high, right?)

My first thought was, "Who sits around and thinks they can turn a paper clip into a house?" The next thought, of course, was that he would probably succeed. This is the age of the Internet, after all.

As of today, he's looking to trade one year rent-free in Phoenix, return airfare to your city, and tickets to a Diamondbacks game and is considering multiple offers. Yes, he got there from that one red paper clip. You'll have to see the site to find out how. You can find him at oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com.

The last item is not even real. This site touts a fake product, encourages you to buy it, but then provides no mechanism for you to purchase it. You can, however, buy a whole slew of related promotional items like mugs, T-shirts, etc. Scam? Definitely not. Hoax? Hmmm. The line is a little fuzzy here.

The site is Lasik@Home(www.lasikathome.com) and purports to be selling a product to allow you to perform your own laser eye surgery in the comfort of your own home. Of course, this is impossible, and the mere thought of it runs shivers down my spine.

The site is pretty funny and generated quite a buzz (again, that "viral marketing" thing at work.) Why would someone do this? Personally, I think the goal isn't so much comedy as financial. Each page of the site (and there are only a few) shows Google ads related to Lasik surgery. Each time a page is loaded, small ads appear for real Lasik surgery sites. Each time someone clicks on one of these ads, the person who owns Lasik@Homeearns a little money. If the site gets millions of page views and some small percentage of click-throughs, it's possible to generate a fair income. And since it's possible to create income from a small Web site that essentially incurs no cost, I think we'll see more of these "fake" sites in the future.

So put on your thinking caps! While we all missed out on these ideas, there are more great ideas out there and the Internet provides the means to achieve them.



Cota is creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service advertising agency specializing in the use of new technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at jim@rarebirdinc.com.
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