April 1, 2002 5:35 PM PST

Pranksters rig Web for April fools

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No joke--Web prepared for April Fools' Day

April 1, 2001
File-swapping company Napster has purchased Microsoft for more than $328 billion and is planning to file a copyright infringement lawsuit against itself.

F***edCompany.com, an irreverent Web site that documents the demise of dot-coms, has been bought by Internet incubator Idealab.

Microsoft's MSN has launched the Gates Open Directory, otherwise known as GOD, which seeks to simplify copyright on the Web by purchasing all copyrighted material.

These and other more believable spoofs were among the stories making their way around the Web on Monday, April 1. In an annual tribute to the gullible, Web sites brought out everything from prank pages to e-mail greetings.

GigaLaw.com posted the spoof on Napster's financial and legal woes, which joked that funds for Microsoft's acquisition of the file-swapping service were provided by former dot-commers, including ex-Webvan CEO George Shaheen. The story added that Napster's former lead counsel David Boies is expected to become chairman of the new company, while former Vice President Al Gore would be named chief intellectual officer.

Phil Kaplan, who operates F***edCompany, posted the phony news story about Idealab on his own site. To make his April Fools' joke as believable as possible, Kaplan tweaked the Web address of the fake story so that it looked like it was posted on Yahoo News.

Kaplan, who has earned a reputation for lampooning the tech sector, said he was impressed with the negative e-mail he received from readers Monday afternoon.

"They're calling me a sellout and saying they'll never read the site again," Kaplan said. "Obviously, some people got the joke, but others didn't. Either they think it's funny or they don't...I'm just having fun."

Meanwhile, the Netscape Communications-backed Open Directory Project poked fun at rival Microsoft, describing the company's vision to be a "single clearinghouse for all intellectual property." It provided a fake press release, saying that people who believe they own intellectual property should submit it directly to Microsoft's site or any one of the MSN sites.

eBay also had its dose of thrills. The auction site took a step back in time, offering tips on fashion and beauty from the '80s. For instance, the company posted a fake link called "'80s hair don'ts" and advised people to beware of leg warmers, black eye shadow and Velcro earrings.

Three years ago, however, eBay wasn't laughing on April 1. In 1999, several spoof pages poked fun at the Web's leading auction site. San Francisco Web site builder Vivid Studios produced vBay, a fake auction site that said to people "sell your junk" or "buy somebody's junk." The site also had a special section for "antiques that aren't fakes."

News.com's Greg Sandoval contributed to this report.

 

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