Would you pay $1 to find out how many other people have paid $1? A new website shows curiosity pays

Johan McCubbin has an offer for you: pay him $1 and he will tell you how many other people have paid him $1 to find out how many people have paid him $1.

It is a stupid idea. It shouldn’t work. Who would pay? Yet, by the time his website crashed on Thursday night under the weight of interest, and PayPal limited his account due to “suspicious activity”, he had earned … well, that would be telling. But it is more money than anyone would have reasonably expected.

It is the latest in a long line of ridiculous stunts that have found fortune on the internet. Perhaps the original sin is the Million Dollar Homepage, set up in 2005 by British student Alex Tew. The site offered permanent advertising space to anyone willing to pay $1 a pixel for a spot on a 1,000 x 1,000 grid. The idea was that the novelty of the site would drive traffic, which would drive advertising, which would increase the novelty, and so on. On 11 January 2006, the final 1,000 pixels sold for a boosted price of $38,100.

Then there was I Am Rich, an app launched in the early days of the iPhone: it cost $999 and did nothing – other than earn its developer $8,000 in sales.

That was followed by the simple stupidity of Ship Your Enemies Glitter, which launched in 2015 as a stunt site, but was rapidly overwhelmed by real orders.

There is still room on the internet, it seems, for a relatively stupid idea to take off. McCubbin says he drew inspiration from the Million Dollar Homepage.

“I know there are loads of simple ideas that can make a man rich, all with just a bit of programming knowledge,” he says. “I like creating things (and also like cash). I’ve had offers to sell it to people from all around the world, but it’s my baby!”

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