The Useless Sites of the Useless Web

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On my first visit to Potato or Tomato I correctly answered the questions a few times in a row, then in my eagerness got it wrong. Honestly sometimes a site is so simple in its goal, and so perfect in its execution that it fills me with an overwhelming joy that it exists. This is definitely one of those sites!
 

Kevin Lesht ticks all my favorite boxes when it comes to a creator on the internet with projects covering the wierd, the practical, the confusing and the informative. Definitely worth a follow if you’re not already :)

How did Tomato or Potato come to life?

Hah - there’s this segment from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, where he goes into a classroom and asks kids if they can identify all sorts of different fruits and vegetables. He’s trying to prove that kids today are so disconnected from fresh food that they can’t even pick out the basics. Sure enough, at one point he holds up a tomato and a kid guesses potato.

I watched this video, and felt like it was my calling to clear up any of this misconception. Potato or Tomato was born as a game that individuals could play to test their knowledge of potatoes and tomatoes, and if wrong, come away with the difference.

Here’s that clip
 

Were there any particular challenges that popped up bringing it to life?

Oh yea. The first release of Potato or Tomato featured a wrong guess counter that sat on the win screen. When a player guessed correctly, they’d see a message like, “You’d be surprised, 728 have guessed wrong!”.

I debuted the game at a work event, and as we’re all playing through, the counter spikes up to the millions. I thought I had some bug in the code, and as I’m searching around for what it could be, one of my colleagues confesses that he just hacked the site.

I was using a database to manage the counter, and hadn’t locked down the access rights. He was able to write directly to my counter, and even delete the thing. I patched this up by removing the counter, but now that the site’s getting some added attention, I think it’s time to bring it back, and this time, in a secure fashion. Look for that feature on the horizon!
 

Do people get potato or tomato correct/incorrect the most often.

Well, Potato or Tomato is a data driven project, so I actually have some numbers for you! It’s kind of incredible how much traffic, and playthrough the game gets.

Over the last six months, Potato has been guessed 1,576,183 times, Tomato has been guessed 1,542,960 times, and there have been 520,893 incorrect guesses. That looks like almost 17% of all guesses being incorrect. Really hoping that’s mostly just individuals playing around.
 

What got you into web development?

When I was in college, I was really into skiing. If I wasn’t in the mountains, I was reading up on ski related news. I’d forward interesting articles I found to my friends, and figured I’d take that to the next level by putting together a roundup newsletter, because everyone would want to read that.

I created a little marketing site, and released the first newsletter, but never made it to the second. Building the site, I saw that as a developer you could take a raw idea and make something real out of it, and I had to have more of that.
I shifted my attention towards learning how to code, and later that year started freelancing. My first project was for a local business that could only barter, and paid with float tank sessions. From there, I was off to the races.
 

How long ago did you launch the site / what weirdness are you working on now?

I think Potato or Tomato came online around late 2017, and it might just be one of my oldest sites that’s still standing. There have been quite a few projects following that one, and if anyone out there is interested in keeping up, you can find me on Twitter, where I drop each release: .

One project I’d call out though would be my omelette blog. Near every day I eat an omelette, and take a picture of my work. To keep the blog up to date, I’ve just finished developing an automation that runs each morning and parses my recent photos for omelettes. If any are found, they’re uploaded to the blog, so that my fans never miss a meal.

I had to think long and hard whether or not to include both heeeeeeeey.com & hooooooooo.com into the useless web. When I first visited the site it took me a good triple take before I realized what was actually going on… and endless wonderful loop.
 

Creative Technologist Mike Bodge produces some really incredible stuff, and has a unique way of utilizing different services and tools and turning them into something completely new to the world!

How many Heeeeey Hooooo’s do you think the world has seen and heard?

The site has gotten around 50m unique visitors, and you have to assume they’ve been redirected a few times back and forth…so, god….a bazillion? I’ve made some really big websites for clients like Google and Apple and I will guarantee more people have gone to Heeeey-hoooo.
 

What were the circumstances behind creating heeeeeey Hoooooo?

Sometimes “creative” people need a kick in the ass and some structure to stop being lazy. I decided to do one of those 30 days of creativity where you try to make a project every day for a month. This stupid site was one of the things I made.

I remember the first version had some poorly illustrated hands-in-the-air images that looked like the glove from the Hamburger Helper commercials. Once I got rid of those terrible illustrations the site got a lot more traffic.
 

What was the hardest part of building it?

Technically the site is pretty basic…it is just a javascript redirect back and forth between two domains. The first version of the site would play a mp3 of the “hey…hooo” part of Naughty by Nature’s Hip hop hooray.

Thanks to everyone’s horrible spammy sites chrome and safari have disabled auto-playing audio so I had to take the music out. It’s obviously way better with the music, so that’s a bit sad.

I get at least one message a week from someone being really pissed off the site doesn’t make sound anymore. I’m sorry, it’s not my fault!
 

What came first, the domain or the code?

I had to register the domains first for the idea to work. I tried to get domain names that had the least amount of e’s an o’s possible and I guess I’m an idiot because i registered heeeeeeeey.com which has 8 e’s and hooooooooo.com which has 9 o’s. This has caused a lot of confusion for me because I always forget the URLs.
 

What is the weirdest thing that has come from owning/running such a unique-not-really-having-a-purpose site?

I get a lot of terrible ad salesmen that want to buy the site or plaster ads on it. Real vile people.

Someone told me they put the site up on all of the computers at any Apple Store they go to.
 

What got you into web development?

I wanted to make a fansite for the Smashing Pumpkins when I was like 11 years old. I learned HTML and all of that and have been literally doing that all day every since (for clients and myself, not the Smashing Pumpkins)
 

How long ago did you launch the site / what are you working on now?

I launched this way back in 2013. Now I’m working on what feels like everything. I’m lucky to be busy during this insane quarantine and collapse of the world, but wish I was making more useless stuff.
 

What is your favorite site on the internet?

If i were honest it would be Twitter…I like to just scroll through it and be mad all day.

RGB

By Ewoudt Boonstra Visit RGB

I found rrrgggbbb.com when I was looking for the original set of useless websites in 2012, it’s simplicity and quirkiness immediately made me smile, as well as the thought that someone could love the color space enough to build a tribute to it. Back then, it was built in flash, but as with much of the internet, it’s received a flashy HTML5 update down the line!  

It’s creator, Ewoudt Boonstra now runs his own studio, showcasing an amazing depth of creativity and artistic flair.

What were the circumstances behind creating your site?

Initially I didn’t have the intention to create a site. It all started with a spontaneous design that I made for the RGB letters. After designing it I thought that it would be nice to add some animation to the letters and then, for the full immersive experience, I asked Rimer London to create the sound.

What started as a useless design became a useless website.
 

What came first, the domain or the code & settle on the domain?

Once I had figured out that I wanted to make a homage to the colours red green and blue, the domain and the code came simultaneously.

I wanted the domain to visually mimic the sound of the site so I settled for rrrgggbbb.com.

Long enough to stand out, short enough to remember.
 

What is the weirdest thing that has come from owning & running such a “unique not really having a purpose” site?

The site hes been incredibly popular (mainly because of it being featured on The Useless Web), but out of the millions of visitors, there was only one person ever emailed me. She was asking me to recreate the same thing but she wanted me to replace RGB with her first name. I politely declined.
 

Was there anything surprising you learned while building rrrgggbbb?

rrrgggbbb.com is a homage to RGB (Red, Green, Blue) the colours used by screens to show us the internet.

I got a lot of questions from people asking me if I was working on a CMYK version but Cyan Magenta Yellow and Black are colours used for print, they do not come across on screens. I talked about this with my friend and graphic designer Anthony Burrill and he suggested to make a poster instead.

People that purchased the poster got a free link to cccmmmyyykkk.com, the digital version of the poster.

What I learned is that people like useless stuff and that people are willing to hang posters of useless stuff on their walls.

The Pigeon

By WANTED Visit The Pigeon

The Pigeon is one of the most perplexing sites on the useless web, I have done a lot of digging and haven’t been able to come up with any information. I was under the impression to have a .org domain you needed to be an organization.

 
Who is the pigeon, and what do they want?

If ANYONE has any information on this site, I have a lot of questions. Please send me a hot tip.

Endless Horse

By Colleen Josephson and Kyle Miller Visit Endless Horse

When I first stumbled onto Endless Horse I laughed out loud. It was such a unique and ridiculous idea with the domain name to match it. I scrolled down for a few minutes to see how endless it really was (bottomless pit endless in the answer) before opening the web inspector to see how it works.

 
Its creators, Colleen Josephson and Kyle Miller were both studying their PHD’s at the time (Electrical Engineering & Math) who found time to create some weird at a hackathon!

What were the circumstances behind creating your site?

The idea of an infinite horse came to me in 2014, when I first heard that .horse was going to be a TLD. I joked about creating a website called infinite.horse. In 2015 we participated in the “Stupid Shit No One Needs & Terrible Ideas Hackathon”, which was organized by some friends of ours, so the time to make infinite.horse was nigh (or neigh, if you prefer).
 

What came first, the domain or the code?

The domain. The scrolling code was a quick hack by Kyle using an infinite scroll library by Facebook – the best part is how legs.html works.
 

How did you settle on the domain?

At the hackathon some of the sponsors gave coupons for discounts on domain registration and hosting. Either infinite.horse was already taken or too expensive, so I brainstormed some alternatives and polled other attendees for which sounded best. Endless.horse obviously won.
 

How long ago did you launch the site / what are you working on now?

We launched the site in 2015. Since then, I started a PhD in Electrical Engineering (Kyle was already in his first year of a math PhD), and we’re both close to graduating. Also, fun fact: we’re getting married this May. Well, maybe. The coronavirus situation might throw a wrench into our plans.
 

What is the weirdest thing that has come from owning/running such a unique-not-really-having-a-purpose site?

The press coverage and popularity were unexpected, and we had no idea we were part of a nascent meme. Some of my favorites include hours-long youtube videos dedicated to people scrolling on endless.horse, being included in a lecture at the Parsons School of Design, and a request from a student in Germany that we add https functionality to the site (which I eventually did, see secure.endless.horse). As I mentioned, we’re PhD students so it’s been kind of funny being more known for this website than our academic research.

Cat Bounce is one of the very first websites on the useless web, and has been on the site right from the start of time, delighting millions with falling cats from the sky, which, if I’m honest, we all need every now and then.
 
The mastermind behind Cat Bounce, Tara Sinn is an incredibly talented artist, designer and all round creative who’s work will always be the kind I get excited about.

What were the circumstances behind creating your site?

I made Cat Bounce in 2012 when I was fooling around with a physics engine in Flash. I decided to replace the balls that bounced around the screen with cut-outs of cats because I’m a cat freak. I also recognized the Internet-popularity of cats and I wanted to see if I could make something that would be a hit on the Internet. The working title of the site was ‘Internet Crowd Pleaser’ but I ended up calling it Cat Bounce because it was less of a mouthful and it was WYSIWYG (more or less).
 

What is the weirdest thing that has come from owning/running such a unique-not-really-having-a-purpose site?

The weirdest/most surprising thing about Cat Bounce is that it’s had an incredibly long shelf-life. In 2019 it won a Webby Award and I still get tons of email every week from people who either love it, hate it, or want me to make a site like it but with dogs. I also got a job at adult swim after they saw Cat Bounce, so I can attest: cats are Internet gold.
 

What got you into web development? What are you working on now?

I started making websites in the late 90’s, my first website was on Tripod.com, and it was an offshoot of one of my zines. In the early 2000’s I started making websites for friends, started getting hired to make websites, and a few years after that, I began exhibiting websites as installations and browser-based art. I still make websites but nowadays most of my time is taken up by graduate school, I’m getting a masters degree in philosophy, poetics and mysticism.
 

What is your favorite site on the internet?

Hands down, my favorite websites are Reddit, Archive.org and are.na