Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Stuff you wish you had thought of first.

We all have these thoughts; someone invents or discovers something so annoyingly simple that makes them a heap of money. This week, I am talking about none other than:

The Million Dollar Homepage.


Pixels = Money

You know that saying that sometimes the best ideas are the simple ones? Well, Alex Tew from Wiltshire, England came up with a frustratingly easy way to make a million dollars: He created a homepage in which each pixel in a grid would be sold for $1, and business could buy blocks of pixels to have a linked graphic leading to their own website.

That’s it.

What started as a word of mouth campaign between friends and family members soon grew into an Internet phenomenon, reported by the BBC and many other media outlets. After what seemed a very short time, there was only one space left on the grid and the only logical thing to do was to sell it on eBay. Because of the site’s popularity and the huge volume of daily curious users, it was a very sought after space and went for $38,000. At the end of it all, Alex Tew made $1,037,100 in gross income. What a bastard.

A cheap imitation.

Other sites immediately started popping up, offering pixel advertising for cash, but none of them really took off the same way TheMillionDollarHomepage did; most ended up looking sparse and empty. The original site relied on its status as a novelty, and something that had not been done before. No one wants to look at a page of adverts, but Alex achieved the impossible and made it happen; lightning will not strike twice on this one.

Pay up or the pixels get it!

TheMillionDollarHompage gathered such popularity that in January 2006, it was effectively held ransom by an organisation known as ‘The Dark Group’. Their demand was that Alex was to pay a ransom of $5000 , or the site would be subjected to a ‘distributed denial of service attack’. This meant that the website would be bombarded with false requests for information which eventually crashes the system. Alex ignored the threat and sure enough the website was attacked, leaving it closed for a week before new security measures were put in. Incredible.

Here is a dramatic artist rendering of the attempted holdup.

It’s hard to not have grudging admiration for Alex, who made a million dollars out of selling pixels. The idea is so simple, yet it caught on like Velcro superglue. Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go and cry because I didn’t think of it first.


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