The Million Dollar Homepage is a site born in 2005, from the inspiration of Alex Tew, then an English student. In particular, Alex was attending the University of Nottingham at the time and was looking for a way to pay for his studies in economics. So, it occurred to him to create the site, where, for a small expense, he envisaged a profit of one million dollars. But how did it all come about in detail? And now what happened to the site?
The Birth of The Million Dollar Homepage
Shortly after the site’s launch in August 2005, its creator had this to say:
From the start I knew the idea had potential, but it was one of those things that could go one way or the other. I thought I had nothing to lose (apart from the 50 euros or so that domain registration and hosting setup cost me). I knew the idea was outlandish enough to generate interest… The Internet is a very powerful medium.
And in fact Tew was right in betting on the potential of the World Wide Web. He was about to start a three-year course in Business Management at university and was worried about finding himself with a student loan. That especially in countries across the Channel and overseas that he would have taken years to be repaid.
The idea to raise funds was to sell a million pixels on a website for $1 each; buyers would add their own image, logo or advertisement. Additionally, they would have the option to include a hyperlink to their website.
Not a bad college expense fund! AND Tew’s astuteness also suggested that he sell the pixels in US dollars instead of British pounds. The US online population is larger than the UK and at the time the pound was strong against the dollar: 1 pound was about $1.80
The site’s home featured a web banner with the name and a pixel counter showing the number of pixels sold. To top it all off, a navigation bar containing nine small links to the internal web pages of the site; finally, an empty square grid of 1,000,000 pixels divided into 10,000 blocks of 100 pixels.
In addition to space for customer images once pixels were purchased, Tew made a promise to each of them. That is, the site would remain online for at least five years, i.e. at least until August 26, 2010.
Since individual pixels are too small to see, Tew separated them into 100-pixel “blocks” that measured 10×10 pixels; the minimum price was therefore 100 dollars. Initially, The Million Dollar Homepage made its way through word of mouth and Tew’s friends and family. After earning 1000 dollars, however, newspapers began to talk about it, favoring its success.
Tew was able to sell 999,000 pixels in total, putting the rest up for auction. He eventually earned a gross of $1,037,100 in five months. All this for a really negligible expense. Among buyers of the pixels also include important names, such as Panda Software, the Makers of Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. And again, The Times, Tenacious D, Rhapsody, Yahoo! and many small online casinos.
The Million Dollar Homepage, oggi
After a short time, Tew dropped out of the business degree program for which he had created the site. In 2008, Tew founded Popjam, an Internet aggregation and social networking company, and on May 4, 2012, the software company Calm. Finally, in 2016, Tew found himself working as an entrepreneur in San Francisco.
On January 7, 2006, three days before the end of the auction of the last 1,000 pixels, Tew received an email from an organization called “The Dark Group”. If he hadn’t paid, The Million Dollar Homepage would have suffered a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. Tew solved the problem when the host server updated the security system by filtering traffic through anti-DDoS software.
To date, however, the site is always visible on the homonymous page, although the only working link is the one that redirects to the Tew twitter page. A recent Harvard study found that links from the site’s main page that were still alive exhibited a significant degree of link rot. In fact, of the 2,816 original links, 547 (342,000 pixels, sold for $342,000) were dead. And 489 (145,000 pixels, sold for $145,000) redirected to a different domain.