cDc paramedia: texXxt #399
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     ...presents...        The Rise and Fall of E/N
                                                       by VoiceofAnarchy

           __//////\   -cDc- CULT OF THE DEAD COW -cDc-   /\\\\\\__
                    __      Grand Imperial Dynasty      __
 Est. 1984   \\\\\\/ cDc paramedia: texXxt 399-11/28/2004 \//////   Est. 1984

  ___    _   _    ___     _   _    ___       _   _      ___    _   _      __
 |___heal_the_sick___raise_the_dead___cleanse_the_lepers___cast_out_demons__|

     E/N.

     That term is a joke now.  There are people who would tell you that E/N
used to stand for "Entertainment/News." Then, through a degeneration of the
genre it became "Everything/Nothing."  Finally, now it's a meaningless phrase
that indicates a site is basically a blog that doesn't always get updated on
time and probably has some naked women and Flash games on it somewhere.  E/N
is what you had for dinner two nights ago, it's what you covered in fifth
grade social studies.  But all of that doesn't really matter.


VoiceOf Anarchy: I'm going to put together something about the rise and fall
                 of E/N. It should be fun and pointless.
VoiceOf Anarchy: I need help with the "rise" part though.
Capn Incredible: Sounds like it should be worth a read.
Capn Incredible: There were some posts pertaining to the rise of it on CFUS a
                 couple of years ago.  Sadly, they've all been purged.
VoiceOf Anarchy: always remember, never forget.
VoiceOf Anarchy: Maddox was one of the first, was he not?
Capn Incredible: I think there were a handful that predate maddox, but he
                 fits into the timeline somewhere or another.
Capn Incredible: I think he showed up around '97 or '99
VoiceOf Anarchy: around the same time as SA
VoiceOf Anarchy: when did orsm and stile come into the picture?
Capn Incredible: stile was '99
Capn Incredible: '99 is the year you're really looking for.  That's when e/n
                 took off.
VoiceOf Anarchy: yeah
Capn Incredible: I never heard of it until 2002.
VoiceOf Anarchy: It's not going to be real timelinish though, so that
                 ballpark is pretty much what I need.
Capn Incredible: A harder question to answer is when it died.
VoiceOf Anarchy: I'd say it's undead at this point.
Capn Incredible: festering, rotting, yet still shambling around?
VoiceOf Anarchy: pretty much
VoiceOf Anarchy: kept animated solely by the unholy powers of celeb sex
                 tapes.
Capn Incredible: Hooray for the middlemen of the Internet.
VoiceOf Anarchy: yeah
Capn Incredible: Providing porn for people too stupid to find it themselves.


     No one really remembers or cares when it started.  E/N is like a zombie
infestation, the origin is unlikely and cloudy.

     So, how did it all start?  The Internet boom created a rush to colonize
cyberspace, whatever that means.  The story of how the layman got to the
Internet is not one I am going to tell (or am capable of telling).  I am the
layman.

     But I digress.  There was a select group of people who, with no funding
or previous experience and little in the way of technical knowledge, set out
on the noble task of creating a bunch of websites.  Websites centered around
their lives, websites about 80s cartoons, robots, and how society sucked.
In the words of Bad: "[it was] mostly about kids with little or no social
lives who needed an outlet to talk to other kids in the form of rants, blogs,
and other self-centered crap.  It did develop into a community of a sort, but
it still came down to a digital version of high school with rare glimpses of
intelligence.  And more flaming, one-upsmanship and trendiness."

     Among them there were some people who were pretty good at writing
articles.  Guys like Maddox and Lowtax.  Guys that got popular because their
personality, ability, and luck carried them farther than the rest.  A lot of
it wasn't great writing or very clever, but most of it was entertaining enough
for the average Joe to devote ten minutes a day to it.  The Internet, in its
infinite glory, gave them the power to share their writing with the masses
without the difficulties of print media.

     What did they write about?  Maddox once did something about how little
kids can't draw.  Lowtax wrote about living in an apartment and eating ramen
noodles.  It was this and that.  An article manufactured for the purpose of
tying several jokes together.  A pun made funnier by the author drawing
attention to the fact that it was, indeed, a pun.

     To those reading, it seemed easy. 

    "All Maddox ever does is insult stuff he doesn't like.  I could do that.
All I need is a few bucks a month to pay for hosting and some basic HTML
knowledge.  I can write better than Maddox.  Maddox is a hack."

     And a new wave of E/N webmasters rolled in. 

     But let's back up a bit.  A little bit before Maddox and Lowtax came into
the scene there was Newgrounds.  Tom Fulp helped propel Flash to one of the
most recognizable mediums on the Internet.  By creating a Flash portal, Tom
allowed every budding Flash artist to host his animation on Newgrounds and win
international acclaim, or at least show off to his friends.  Soon Tom didn't
have to create all of his own content anymore, there were hordes of kids lined
up to take their shot at the Newgrounds front page.

     So many Flash animations were being pumped out of Dad's computer.  A few
of them made it, the rest stayed in the portal; archived and forgotten.
Surely someone could do something with them.

     But I'm forgetting porn.  Porn underwent a renaissance on the Internet.
The emergence of reality porn and the ability to cater to a greater amount of
fetishes on the Internet are mostly superficial.  More people like porn than
Coke.  The problem with most porn is that you can't buy it at the local
grocery store.  There is no Hardcore Anal Loving aisle at the Dominic's.

     With the increasing popularity of broadband, and the abundance of credit
cards in America, porn had the foundation to thrive.  Now all porn needed was
advertising.  On the Internet you did not walk to something.com and happen to
see a porn site on the way.  Porn had to come up with an effective means of
advertising but, at the same time, a system that guaranteed a return on
investment.

     The godsend that Internet porn was looking for came in the form of
cookies and referrer tracking.  As opposed to classic TV and print
advertisements where you can't really know which ad sold units, Internet
advertising partners could be tracked.  You could tell which sites referred
people and you could tell which sites generated sales.  Sites that didn't sell
your products got no money.  Sites that did sell got a fraction of the sale
back.  Money from porn advertising was now available to everyone who was
willing and capable of selling it.  It was perfect.

     But who would put explicit porn ads on their site in exchange for a few
bucks every time they could get someone to buy?

     Do you remember those people who thought they could write as well as
Maddox and Lowtax?  Well, most of them couldn't.  The vast majority couldn't.
So, what is an aspiring webmaster to do?  Generate "content," of course.
While content used to refer to the nature of a web page, now it became another
term for stuffing.  People who could not get by with writing alone began to
turn their web pages into repositories.  With each 300 word update came
funny/shock pictures, Flash animations, and naked women.  The websites became
supermarkets.  For some, the shotgun approach worked remarkably well.  Their
sites became popular.  The goal was seemingly achieved.

     Just one problem.

     The act of scouring the Internet for Flash, porn, and funny pictures is
not fun.  Sites that just regurgitate little bits of the Internet that they
found elsewhere find it harder than most to generate any kind of community.
There are a lot of sites identical to yours, so no one really cares if you
stop.  They don't need you.  You pay for hosting so you can do something
that's not fun so people who don't care about you can enjoy themselves.  You
are a slave.

     This makes you bitter and angry.

     But you are stubborn, too.  Even more so because you are so bitter.  So
what's the next best thing to being a slave?

     Wageslave!

     Remember the porn?  That's right.  You can make money off porn.

     Then you can cover your hosting bills and have some money left over for
beer.  Beer money!

     Here begins the love affair between E/N and porn.  To a genre of sites
based on creativity, this is disastrous.  A group of websites that were once
labors of love become cash cows and attempted cash cows.  Older, traditional
E/N sites began to die off, replaced by websites with admins that spend most
of their time worrying about conversion rates of porn ads.  The road seems
smooth and effortless, but there are still problems.  Even an industry such as
porn cannot support a limitless amount of insubstantial websites.  People at
the bottom determine that in order to break even, their site needs to generate
more traffic, or "hits."  By doing so they will be able to sieve more people
through their porn ads and wind up with more sales.  Hits become the commodity
of the E/N world.  They are like currency, and are given a value in currency.
The worth of your site becomes directly tied to the amount of hits you get.

     This is as good of a place as any to talk about the term "ePenis."  The
Internet, as we all would like to believe, is a classless society.  Everyone
is evaluated based on their opinions and their ability to express them.  After
all, what else do we know about the person on the other end of the chat
client?  Well, it would seem that when you shove a bunch of bitter jerks
together, they can attempt to create a system which makes them seem more
important and powerful.  People with larger, more successful sites could pick
on people with smaller sites because the person who generated more unique
hits was more of a man or something.  "ePenis" is just a mocking name given to
that system based on the fact that it is useless and completely biased.

     We all know of the basic ads that websites use.  These include text,
banner, popup, popunder, autodialers, and spyware cookies.  They are listed in
order from least annoying to most.  These are the tools that are used to make
sure that most of the people visiting your site are giving back.  All of them
cut down on return visitors and the ease of use of the site, but they greatly
increase the money that can be earned per unique hit.  You can think of it as
a game.

     Each visitor has a tolerance to ads.  Too few ads, and he doesn't buy
anything.  You don't want that.  Too many and he doesn't buy anything and
never comes back.  You really don't want that either.

     You would rather have too few ads than to many.  But maybe if you throw
in one more ad, it won't matter.

     A popunder doesn't really disrupt visitors from viewing the page.  "Maybe
if I have it display 10 minutes after they load the page they won't
notice...."

     In the words of a true E/N webmaster: "I hate pupups, but I love money."

     Now, do you remember how porn producers had those problems with visitors
finding their sites?  Sure you do.  So, how do you think E/N sites got
traffic?  Do you know of a concept called a link exchange?  I'll explain.  You
own Site A and someone else owns Site B.  You place a link on your front page
for Site B, and they place a link on the Site B front page that goes back to
you.  By doing so you pass a fraction of your traffic to each other,
increasing the traffic both sites get.  More traffic = more money.  So,
obviously, it's to your advantage to trade links with every single person you
can.

     The plan was simple.  Write an email to every single E/N site you knew of
asking for a link exchange.  It was like a ladder.  The sites that were way
above you were out of reach, and the sites way below you were useless. The
sites right above and right below you, however, could help you climb to the
top. The trick was getting as many link exchanges as possible. And, believe
me, no webmaster message forum was left unspammed. Link exchange approached a
social function of the E/N community.

     But why go through all the trouble?  Why not save a lot of time and
simply purchase ad space on a very large site and let the hits roll in?  The
first step to making money is not spending any.  It didn't matter that you
spent four hours to get an extra 100 unique hits a day.  As long as you
weren't spending money you were ahead of the game.  This mindset translated to
a void of monetary exchange between webmasters.  Instead, they traded hits in
the form of permanent links or plugs.  Hits were now currency.  And with tools
like search engine optimization and Google bombing, there was eProsperity for
all who were willing to work for it.

     Sadly, this was not to last.  E/N became so saturated that you could
hardly tell sites apart any more.  Some of them were decent, even good.  But
there were just too many, and they weighed each other down.  You could no
longer rise above the masses because the audience was spread too thin.  Due to
the forgettable nature of the articles, the only distinguishable part of the
sites became the color scheme; viewing several E/N sites in a row made them
blend together.  The practice of link exchanges almost ensured that visitors
did.  People, including myself, began to either quit or convert their sites to
porn.  The last few that remained traded content on forums and tried not to
burn out.  Little did they know that something big was coming....

     It was murky at first.  A jumbled green mess shot with a camcorder that
was somewhat behind the curve in its night-time recording capabilities.
During some parts the viewer was uncertain of whether he was watching two
people having sex or Iraq being bombed by night.  And who could forget that
phone call from "Fred" halfway through.  But the footage itself was entirely
inconsequential.  The importance of the occasion was that some rich girl no
one cared about had sex with some guy who was once involved with a celebrity
and the tape was out.  It could have been simple hype for "The Simple Life,"
but that's beside the point.  Paris Hilton had made a sex tape.

     The news of the sex tape hit a day or so before the tape itself, leaked
over from the Adult industry to E/N.  Sites were immediately updated with
the news.  One creative webmaster even authored his own fake sex tape by
putting on a fake mustache and crooning something along the lines of, "Hi,
this is Paris Hilton.  I just had sex and I hope the tape doesn't get out"
into his webcam.  Comedy gold!  It was at this time that news of the tape
spread to the major Internet communities and people began registering for
hosting in far-away nations in hopes of the tape seeing light.

     Right after Google refreshed its archived pages, the tape hit. E/N sites,
already at the top of the search page for Google, combined efforts with porn
sites that were willing to charge people a $20 signup fee to view a site that
had the tape on it.  Never mind that the tape was available for free if you
looked hard enough, and that it was only slightly over two minutes of the
least arousing thing you've ever seen.  Then, Jay Leno announced it on his
show and the thing hit mainstream America.  The money flowed in.

     Others followed.  There are six or so "celebrity sex tapes" out there
now, maybe more.  They all suck.  E/N continues a slow spin down the toilet
bowl; only with more porn, more ads and more greed.

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