Internet

A Net home for hackers

Hacking news and information site AntiOnline embarks on a plan to morph into a full-fledged portal.

Hackers are about to get a place they can call home on the Net.

Hacking news and information site AntiOnline has embarked on a plan to morph into a full-fledged portal. The next generation AntiOnline blueprint features a network of sites serving up editorial content, search, e-commerce, technical support, and free home pages, all focused on the world of hacking and computer security.

In order to achieve its goal, AntiOnline has secured something rarely discussed in hacker circles: venture funding. And if that weren't enough to distinguish the site from the culture of its scrappy followers, the site already is in negotiations to acquire some of its competitors.

AntiOnline founder (and now general partner) John Vranesevich started AntiOnline in high school and reached a turning point when, by his account, the University of Pittsburgh tried to expel him for running the Web site from his dorm room. Vranesevich left college and ran the site out of the corner of his parents' living room, going on to break numerous stories about computer security breaches.

Shortly therafter, Cleveland-based Lamrite--best known for its craft stores--approached Vranesevich through its Catanzarite Investment subsidiary about funding AntiOnline. Now Vranesevich has an office, a full-time information systems manager, and a staff of 30 freelance writers culled from a pool of 7000 applicants.

"AntiOnline is going to be one of the most unique Web businesses out there," Vranesevich said.

The new AntiOnline may be first in its class, but in some respects the business is falling in line with two Internet trends. One is the rise of affinity portals, or sites aggregating information geared toward a specific interest or identity group. Affinity portals see an opportunity left by the sprawling--and enormously successful--megaportals like Yahoo.

The other trend AntiOnline's move follows is the rising interest in computer security issues, which affect not just the rag-tag, half-teen army of hackers but multinational corporations and even governments reeling from the implications of new concepts such as "infowarfare."

While Vranesevich acknowledges both those groups as natural parts of his target audience, his eye is firmly trained on a much larger population: the novice user.

"They're lost in this whole ordeal," Vranesevich said. "Companies are trying to sell them products, the media is telling them about all these hazards, and right now there's nowhere to go to find out what all these things are and how to deal with them."

Hacking and security resources abound on the Net and elsewhere, Vranesevich acknowledged, but those materials fail to reach a broad constituency.

"There are magazines about this that are filled with source code," he said. "That means nothing to the average user."

The new AntiOnline, set to debut February 16, will feature six of its own domains, along with at least one other property that Vranesevich is in negotiations to acquire.

AntiOnline.com will continue to provide news. AntiSearch.com will use InfoSeek technology to search a database devoted to information security Web sites. IOMagazine.com will provide more technically advanced editorial content. AntiStore.com will sell security software, books, and other goods. AskBub.com will provide automated responses to security queries. And AntiOnline.org will provide free Web space for users.