This Little Website Went to Market

Illustration by Bob AulHow would you like to own a site that alternately pisses off companies, frightens investors, and provides hours of cynical amusement? Now's your chance. Web designer Philip Kaplan, founder and maintainer of dead pool (, announced on Sept. 10 he was putting the site up for auction on eBay ( By the next day, news site Slashdot ( claimed bidding was up to $20,000. But on Sept. 13, just three days after he decided to put it up for sale, Kaplan withdrew the site from bidding, saying he had decided to sell it privately instead.

Kaplan failed to respond to several requests for comment. His initial announcement of the sale on his site claimed he was putting it up for bid because "I was bored"; the sale announcement on the site says he is selling because "he does not have the time nor the means to fully satisfy the site's fans and bring the system to full bloom." Slashdot rather cynically speculated that the whole auction was merely a publicity stunt to get press coverage (Hey! Like this!).

And it's a cute system. Based on celebrity death pools like the notorious (, in which people place bets on which celebrities are going to die in the coming year, registered players at predict which companies are going to go belly-up (or, in site parlance, are fucked). Along the way, the site has turned into a kind of clearing-house for pessimistic business news-if you want to find out which companies are doomed or nigh-doomed, you go to

Kaplan (who goes by the screen name Pud) initially claimed he was running the site purely as a hobby, but since the site has become so popular, he has started selling ads and exploring other ways to make money-like selling the site.

That $20,000 bid notwithstanding, Kaplan is probably better off selling the site himself, rather than auctioning it off on eBay. The last high-profile domain-name auction on eBay,, garnered a whopping $10 million winning bid by Jan. 3-which turned out to be a hoax. The owners, Y2K guru Peter de Jager and the Tenagra Corp., turned to the next-highest bidder, who also turned out to be a hoax. They went to their third-best offer-a measly $2 million-and the buyer told them that he had withdrawn from the auction when he saw his bid was a loser and had subsequently invested his money elsewhere. At press time, de Jager and Tenagra were still running the site.

It's unclear whether Kaplan will fare any better. But if you are interested in doing the site up right, drop Kaplan a line because is a cynical treasure well worth preserving. Someone should give it the care it deserves.

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