X10. Just the company name is enough to send some Internet users into convulsions.
The firm was, for all intents and purposes, the first major user of the dreaded pop-under ad, which, at the time it was introduced, easily ranked as the most obnoxious and intrusive form of online advertising ever invented.
The good news is that X10 has gone bankrupt. If that’s not cause for rejoicing, I don’t know what is.
Bad Guys Finish First
Of course, there are few clear-cut bad guys in the technology world. X10, for example, was no doubt staffed by professional, well-intentioned people who truly thought that if they could just convince enough people to buy their spy cameras and wireless transmitters, the world would be a better place.
But X10 polluted the Web. There’s no other way to say it. Just as CyberRebate.com gave Internet commerce a black eye — albeit one it got over in the blink of that blackened eye — X10 made online advertising icky and annoying.
Everyone understood why the pop-under had to be invented and why it lives on today, though it is used much more sparingly. We’d all learned to ignore banner ads. Something had to grab us by the lapels and make us pay attention.
But the message inherent in X10’s collapse is clear: You can lure all the people you want to your Web site, via whatever sleazy means you can invent, but there is no guarantee that you will sell enough spy cameras to turn a profit or even survive.
Twenty Seconds of Fame
X10 made a splash, to be sure. Its innovation, if you’re willing to call it that, became the next big thing for about five minutes in mid-2001. X10 suddenly was one of the most-visited sites on the Internet at a time when that stuff still seemed super-important.
But it wasn’t long before the company’s sky-high traffic figures were being downplayed. After all, most of the suckers — oops, I mean surfers — who clicked on X10 ads left the X10.com site within 20 seconds. They certainly weren’t hanging around long enough to buy any wireless spy cameras.
The best part, the deliciously ironic part, is that X10 was probably forced into bankruptcy by the bills it rang up for those pop-under ads. The majority of the debts on the company’s books are either to the online advertising agencies that made and deployed its ads or to the networks — Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft are all top creditors — that ran them.
However, if you think X10’s demise is due solely to its barrage of pop-under ads, think again. The company already was being sued by AdvertisementBanners.com, which claimed X10 stole its method of delivering the annoying ads. AdvertisementBanners.com won at trial, and X10 was awaiting a verdict on how much it would owe.
In the end, it seems, X10 may not have been to blame after all. That is good news, because it means there’s still at least one bad guy out there. Besides the spammers, that is.
Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.