You know you've made it on the Web when your site is spoofed. At least that's what executives are thinking at the Technology Network, a Silicon Valley political action group.
This weekend, a good-natured site spoofing the newly christened lobbying organization popped up at the domain name "www.technologynetwork.org." At the site, a space-age ticker flashes the following message: "On July 8, 1997, signaling a new era in technology industry political action, the formation of a powerful new political advocacy organization was announced...Unfortunately, these smart, rich, and powerful executives forgot two things. First, they didn't register their domain name. Last, they didn't invite Bill Gates."
Gates is not a member of TechNet, as the new lobbying organization is called. Currently, it includes only California high-tech heavyweights such as venture capitalist John Doerr and Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale.
Another click on the spoof site leads Netizens to a page with a smiling picture of Gates and the words "The Microsoft Technology Network." Its motto: "A high-tech political organization fighting to protect the world from dangerous Java applications, evil network computers, and all things Netscape."
Paul Williams, an investment banker in Jupiter, Florida, who created the site said he is no "domain napper" and the site was all in good fun. After posting the site, Williams did find the real TechNet Web site at "www.technetwork.org." But the spoof demonstrates how the wrong domain name can lead users astray. Many users simply assume that a group's URL is the company name plus ".com," for example.
Williams has already transferred his registered name to the lobbying group, although he admitted in an email interview that a few friends have half-jokingly said, "'These guys are billionaires, why don't you sell them the domain for a few hundred grand or something?'"
He said he "wouldn't mind getting an invite to one of the next meetings with [Vice President] Al Gore or a few of the industry bigwigs, but I don't want to be the kid who has to get picked for the team because he has the only baseball."
The idea for the spoof began after Williams, who was interested in joining TechNet, began surfing around for the lobbying group's URL. A Web search for "Technology Network" came up with too many possibilities, so he tried to guess the name: "technologynetwork.org," "technet.org," "technologynetwork.com," "technet.com," and "technology.net."
Being "technologically hip," Williams said he went to the InterNIC's Whois page to see if "technologynetwork.org" domain had been registered. When he found out it was available, the temptation for a spoof site became too great.
"I could have just let it go. But in this world, there's a fine line between being tired and being wired," he wrote on his site. "Sometimes the difference between being technologically hip and being just a nerd comes down to a sense of humor and a few well-placed lines of code."
TechNet, for its part, isn't promising any fancy invitations--except one into the "TechNet hall of fame." The group's vice president, Jeanette Morgan, said it will keep a link to the spoof page on its site and has given Williams an honorary membership. Morgan added TechNet is now considering a wide range of variations as aliases for its Web site.
As far as Bill Gates is concerned, "Gates is welcome to join, anytime," she said.