This is hilarious – I hope it’s a joke but it may well be serious. Remember the Million Dollar Homepage? It was set up by Alex Tew in 2005 and sold space on the page on a pixel-by-pixel basis. Surprisingly, it became a success and Tew made his million. Now a Chinese student is attempting the same thing – with ASCII characters.
The ASCII Million Dollar Page, launched today, is made up of 25 blocks of ASCII characters. For $20 you can buy 1 character on the page. Buy a block of characters and you can create an ad in ASCII art. According to the site’s FAQ this is a deadly serious project designed to raise money to fund student Wu Zhe’s internet startup dreams.
The Million Dollar Homepage was a one-off success – you couldn’t do the same thing again, the value was in its novelty. The idea of selling ASCII art at $20 per character is insane – you can’t even buy space in the first character block on the site because it’s “For internal testing, not for sale”. Despite promising to keep the site online for 10 years, Zhe isn’t even sure it’s a good investment. “It’s quite interesting to see what the page will look like when all space is sold, a piece of art? Or a complete mess.” I’m betting on the latter, that is if any space at all is sold.
Despite being completely ridiculous, you have to at least respect Zhe for giving it a go. As one commenter on Hacker News says, “I bet if he had seeded it to make it look like a few people had already paid, he might have made some sales by now”. Then again maybe it’s all a joke. Please say it’s a joke!