THEY'VE always been around, the sharp-eyed entrepreneurs who come up with a brilliant idea that has us all asking, "Why didn't I think of that?" The ideas are often ridiculous, such as Pet Rocks, a 1975 fad started by Californian salesman Gary Dahl.
Who in their right mind would have believed that the world would go crazy to own a pebble? But once Mr Dahl had been written up in Newsweek and appeared twice on The Tonight Show, he sold 1 million rocks for $US3.95 ($4.31) each in just a few months - and became an instant millionaire.
Now the Greatest Show on Earth - the internet - is a dazzling fairground open to anyone with a sharp eye for a profit and a good dose of chutzpah willing to tap into a global audience to make money, exploit the community's goodwill or just to see how far they can push a social experiment.
Perhaps no one epitomises this better than Alex Tew, a 21-year-old British student, who came up with the idea of the Million Dollar Homepage (www.milliondollarhomepage.com).
When Mr Tew was accepted into a business course at Nottingham University in August 2005 he realised his tuition fees and accommodation for the first term would come to about $17,000 and he faced graduating at the end of his course with a huge debt.
He set up a website explaining his situation, clarifying that he wasn't after handouts but instead was selling 1 million pixels (the dots on a computer screen that make up images) on his home page at $US1 each. He set up a grid measuring 1000 x 1000 pixels, which could be bought in minimum-size blocks of 100 - "anything smaller would be too small to display anything meaningful", he explained on his website. Advertisers could buy as many blocks as they liked and post their logos on the space, which was then linked to their own homepage.
Mr Tew has promised to keep the advertisements on his website for five years.
Mr Tew's idea went "viral" on the internet and was picked up by mainstream media. By December he had sold 850,000 pixels. He reserved the last 1000 for eBay, which sold for $US38,100. Mr Tew made $US1,037,000 in four months.
Still selling pixels, he launched a new project, called Pixelotto (www.pixelotto.com), last December. A free-to-play lottery with a $US1 million jackpot, visitors to the site who click on advertisements go into a draw to win $US1 million plus $US100,000 for a charity of their choice.
Mr Tew's idea has spawned many copycat sites, although none has been as successful - a fact that, perhaps, holds a message for would-be internet millionaires. One, launched by Natasha, a "very shy blonde girl from common family living in St Petersburg", in Russia, also attempted to sell pixels, this time in the shape of her body (www.isellbody.com). "The minimum purchase is $US100 for 100 millimetres - for making real drawings on my body and getting real photos of it. And the light choice is $US10 for 50 pixels on website - I will not draw these pictures on my body; they will be only at the site," she says. Would-be surfers be warned: this is not a Grated website.
Just as upfront about wanting to raise cash but not actually selling anything, Karyn Bosnak, a 29-yearold US TV producer, launched her Save Karyn website (www.savekaryn.com). In 2002, she had run up a credit-card debt of more than $US20,000. "I thought to myself: '$20,000 isn't that much money.
If 20,000 people gave you just $1, then all that yucky debt would be gone!' So on a whim I created a silly little low-budget website that asked people to help pay off my $20,000 credit card bills. All I needed was 20,000 generous people," she said on her blog."
Before I knew it, people around the world were logging on to savekaryn.com and sending me money through PayPal and the mail.
And, believe it or not, it worked. In 20 short weeks my website received over 2 million hits and all my debt was paid off."
Read rest of article: http://www.theage.com.au/news/web/theres-one-born-every-minute/2007/11/07/1194329266039.html
Kyle MacDonald, a young Montreal man who was using the power of the internet to trade up a paper clip to a house poses for a photo with a mock paper clip.
Click to view image: '118323-paperclip2_narrowweb__300x4880.jpg'
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