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WEB & TECH / APR. 30, 2016
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Top 3 Greatest Dot-Com Disasters in History

“When we link information in the web, we enable ourselves to discover facts, create ideas, buy and sell things, and forge new relationships at a speed and scale that was unimaginable in the analogue era,” British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee once wrote- the man who basically invented the World Wide Web.

See Also: 11 Things About Your Website That Annoy the Crap Out of People

Behind that very simple idea is the very first website in history, info.cern.ch, which Berners-Lee launched in December 1990 at the age of 35. Millions and millions of websites have since followed in its wake, including the most successful online brands like Amazon and the most popular social networking sites like Facebook. Some have been around since the birth of the Internet and others barely even seen the light of day.

While some dot-coms went to become website empires, others failed, and they failed miserably and were permanently deleted from web history. Here are the top three greatest dot-com disasters ever.

1. Boxman.com

Boxman.com screenshot
Boxman,com via Wayback Machine

A lot of amazing things came out of Sweden including ABBA, H&M, IKEA, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and, you know, Alexander Skarsgård. Sadly, however, the same cannot be said for Boxman.com.

An online CD retailer, and an early pioneer in e-commerce, Boxman.com was cofounded, among others, by Ola Ahlvarsson in 1997. Surprisingly, taking its poor design and usability into account, the site managed to attract some 500,000 customers and make about £5 million in sales in the first six months of 1999. However, despite claiming to have a 20% market share of online sales in Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the UK, they didn’t last very long.

But it wasn’t the site’s dodgy design that led to its downfall. Because online credit card payments were impossible in certain countries in Europe, someone at Boxman.com had the genius idea to ask customers to send cash payments after – yes, after – goods had been delivered. It’s no wonder the company filed for bankruptcy in October 2000, but we’re pretty sure customers were thankful for the music.

2. Pets.com

Pets.com screenshot

Amazon, the largest online retailer in the US, started as an online bookstore before diversifying to sell everything and anything including CDs, DVDs, toys, jewelry, electronics, clothing, food, and furniture. Throughout its 21-year operations, the online giant made pretty smart acquisitions including AbeBooks, Alexa Internet, Goodreads, Zappos, and Pets.com. Only Amazon bit off more than it could chew when it acquired Pets.com in 1999, a move that is widely viewed as one of the worst business decisions in recorded history.

Pets.com, which began operating in August 1998, sold pet accessories and supplies to consumers over the World Wide Web, and thanks to a massive advertising campaign that was rolled out after it was acquired by Amazon, sales rose dramatically. However, its success was short-lived: its high marketing costs forced it to sell its merchandise at prices well below cost for the duration of its operations. In fact, financial statements show that for every $46 spent on advertising in the fiscal year of 1999, only $10 was made in sales. The site went from an IPO on a major stock exchange to liquidation in 268 days, and permanently shut down in November 2000.

3. eToys.com

eToys.com logo

In addition to the hours of entertainment playing with toys provides, toys are also extremely beneficial to a child’s development. Over the years, scientific research has proven time and again that play helps children promote social skills, develop motor skills, encourage teamwork, practice language skills, and even advance physical development. Toys are simply an extremely important part of human existence.

With the rise of the Internet, it was only natural that many companies started taking their business online and many more were created specifically as online enterprises. And the toy industry was an obvious first choice to do business in, especially since about $221 million is spent on children between the ages of eight and 12 alone in the US each year.

eToys.com was one of those sites, and launched in 1997. It went financially public in 1999 and started offering shares priced at $20 each and, by the end of the first day of trading, stocks had closed at $76 per share. Things were going great and, as can be expected, parents started flocking to the site for the Christmas season. However, things took a downturn after the company went against its own slogan: “Childhood dreams delivered”.

The site promised low prices and delivery of goods on or before Christmas Eve, but children were left disappointed and their parents fuming on Christmas Day when Santa Claus hadn’t delivered on his promise. eToys.com managed to survive through Christmas the following year but filed for bankruptcy by March 2001. The site was later reopened by KB Toys who also filed for bankruptcy in 2008, and was later acquired by Toys “R” Us in 2009.

See Also: 13 Utterly Useless Websites

Can you think of any other websites that failed miserably? Tell us in the comments section below, and don’t forget to share this article with family and friends!

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