Whistling Through the Dot-Com Graveyard

People all over the world travel to see the tombstones of celebrities, from Marilyn Monroe in Los Angeles to Jim Morrison in Paris.

Why should online businesses be treated any differently? One of the Internet’s quirks is that it offers easy access to the dot-com cemetery. Most deceased sites leave their Web sites up in some form long after the companies themselves meet their demise.

Just as in the human world, a walk among the dot-com tombstones can be both cathartic and enlightening. Keep your eyes open and your courage up, and every once in a while, you can even make contact with a spirit from the dead — especially if the dead leaves you a contact number.

Reflections from the Great Beyond

Pandesic.com, formerly a provider of business-to-consumer e-commerce solutions, has not altered its Web site since announcing its shutdown July 28th. Unlike most Web tombstones, Pandesic not only left behind an e-mail address and phone number to contact for more information, but also a specific person. One.

That is how Pandesic director of corporate communications Paula Stout became a lone gatekeeper of the afterworld. Believe it or not, the job is not always as glamorous as it sounds.

“When you make an announcement like this, your phones are flooded with recruiters calling for your personnel,” Stout told the E-Commerce Times. “Hundreds and hundreds of people from over the world want your employees.”

Stout confirmed that outliving an online venture can still be a badge of honor. Some recruiters did not settle for asking about individual Pandesic employees; they inquired about hiring entire squads, such as a marketing team or a sales team. Stout said that every time she got off of one call, she checked her voice mail.

“There would be 15-20 messages when I had just been on a call for 10 minutes,” Stout said.

Fond Recollections

Graveyards naturally draw out sympathy for the dead, but the tombstones of two Web sites brought solace to the sadness with upbeat messages, implying that the demise of an online business does not mean the end of the world.

The tombstone of online shopping boutique Violet.com, which took its last breath April 25th, thanks those who shopped with the company but also wrote, “Though we are closing our doors, we hope you’ll continue to seek out unique and interesting items that bring inspiration to the things you do every day.” Feel free to sigh wistfully here.

When Auctions.com closed August 31st, it also took the time while thanking its customers to share its favorite memories.

“We’ve made national headlines by auctioning off some very unusual items,” the site’s Web page reads. “Remember the Chicago Cow Auction? Beautiful bovines that found their way into hearts and homes of lucky Auctions.com bidders. And let’s not forget Elton John’s famous jump suit.”

New Leases on Life

Others might find it even more encouraging to learn that yes, Shirley MacLaine, reincarnation does exist. Boo.com found itself destined for the graveyard in more than name alone when it squandered $120 million (US$) in venture capital funding and folded in May. However, its Web marker, hosted by colorful virtual shopping assistant Miss Boo, promises a rebirth this autumn.

“I’ve been off on holiday jetting around the world, and I’ve squandered a fortune!” Miss Boo exclaims cheerfully. “But I’m back with some yummy things for you to wear and do this season — not to mention a glorious suntan.”

However, Boo No. 2 will have a whole new soul. FashionMall.com, which purchased the domain name in June, changed Boo.com from an e-tailer to a portal and hired all new personnel, meaning that Miss Boo is literally the only functionary making the transition from Boo No. 1.

ActionAce, a resaler of hard-to-find toys, has already made its journey back from the dead. Proclaiming that “The Beast is Back,” the site wryly explains its demise as a mysterious conicidence linked “with the brief period in which the A2Shop stopped processing orders.”

It is worth noting that the “brief period” lasted more than two months, long enough for anyone to give up hope in Action Ace. But apparently a never-say-die attitude was in order.

Hard To Let Go

Of course, appearances of an afterlife can be a form of denial. BBQ.com’s tombstone proclaims that its site is on vacation. Indeed, by almost all appearances, the site lives and breathes, providing information and links for barbecue lovers.

But if you look close enough, you can find the grim news. “Feel free to browse and read our great content, but the store is closed Now go out and grill.”

Other sites that have met their maker make it easier for the living to accept the bad news by referring their customers to other companies. HomeWarehouse.com offers a link to CornerHardware.com, along with a $10 coupon. WorldSpy, formerly a free Internet access provider, comforts mourners with news of its agreement with Juno to continue serving them.

Sometimes Dead is Dead

But just when you think death might not be so bad, there are plenty of tombstones that extinguish that hope.

Value America and Living.com offer unemotional status reports, relating reorganization and bankruptcy procedings. These companies may reincarnate somehow, but they are not having a lot of fun in the process.

Other sites are even more terse. The gravesite of Gazelle.com, a purveyor of women’s legwear, merely offers a two-sentence thank you. FooFoo.com, a shopping site whose name would make you expect some sort of farewell flourish, merely tells the visitor that “FooFoo.com is under construction.” Previously, FooFoo had a tombstone announcing its closure, so perhaps this is simply the ravages of decomposition taking effect.

Still, even these stops within the dot-com cemetery show that death is not the final step for most Internet ventures. But some things just do not last forever. Toysmart.com and CookExpress.com do not even have Web pages anymore. Don’t bother looking for those tombstones: the company remains are all gone.

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