The Story Of The Internet Famous ‘Million Dollar Homepage’

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Alex Tew, an English student from Wiltshire, created the Million Dollar Homepage in 2005 in an effort to raise money for his college tuition. The main page has a million pixels organized in a grid of 1000 × 1000 pixels, and image-based links were sold in blocks of 10 × 10 for $1 each. The buyers of these pixel blocks supplied the small images that would be shown on them, the URL that the images would link to, and the phrase that would appear when the cursor was over the link. The website’s objective was to sell every pixel in the picture in order to bring in a million dollars for the artist. As noted by The Wall Street Journal, the website served as an inspiration for other pixel-selling websites.

After being launched on August 26, 2005, the website gained popularity online and prompted the creation of imitation websites. Web traffic peaked at about a 127 ranking on Alexa; as of May 9, 2009, it was 40,044. The last 1,000 pixels were auctioned off on eBay on January 1st, 2006. With a winning bid of $38,100, the auction ended on January 11th, bringing the total revenue to $1,037,100.

A ransom demand and distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) occurred during the January 2006 auction, rendering the website unavailable to users for a week while security was improved. The attack and attempted extortion were looked into by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Wiltshire Constabulary.

Soon after, Tew made the decision to leave the business degree program for which he had initially designed the website. The Million Dollar Homepage continued to draw thousands of visitors every day even in 2019. However, by 2017, a large number of the website’s links had developed link rot, which prevented the URLs from operating as intended.