Mirsky's Worst of the Web
Mirsky's Worst Of The Web (WOTW) was a website devoted to showcasing what David Mirsky, a former Harvard Lampoon writer, considered "the worst web sites ever". WOTW was the first well-trafficked site to feature "bad" web sites for entertainment purposes. His commentary was short on constructive criticism and long on insulting the web site layout, content and graphics, and sometimes the web designers themselves.
WOTW was created by Mirsky in January 1995, in response to sites such as Glenn Davis's Cool Site of the Day. The format was simple: three days a week, Mirsky would select about three new sites, providing links and one-sentence comments that were "acidic, addictive, and insanely funny". For some time, at least, this was a paid job, supported by web service provider Volant.
The site’s tagline was "If it isn't Mirsky's then it isn't the worst!"
An early article on the site (from Marketing Tools) gives some of its flavor:
There's a page with fuzzy photos celebrating the (unremarkable) renovation of a restaurant's dining room, which neglects to give the restaurant's name anywhere except in the small-print hypertext links at the bottom. There's one detailing a hamster's courageous but ultimately unsuccessful battle against tuberculosis (thankfully unillustrated). And there's a page for a surgical instrument supplier with nothing on it but the cover of the Fall catalog, featuring a shot of an intrusive-looking piece of equipment superimposed over an outdoor scene, and the caption, "Reaching New Horizons" ("Maybe the manufacturers are subtly hinting that it can also be used for fishing," Mirsky cracks.)
According to several interviews, Mirsky expected WOTW to lead to money-making opportunities, and grew frustrated with maintaining it because it never did. On November 1, 1996, Mirsky stopped producing WOTW.
Those interested in WOTW could be divided into two broad groups: fans who enjoyed his commentary, and critics who accused him of being insulting and unhelpful. While his fans found his commentary entertaining and suggested he provided a service by illustrating what to avoid while creating a web site, his critics called him unfair, saying he only insulted people for entertainment and had no qualification for judging web site design and content.
Reaction to being featured on WOTW
The general reaction from the web site designers themselves proved interesting. While the usual expected responses ranged from indifference to indignation, a surprising number of people whose web sites were featured on WOTW took it as a badge of honour to be slammed by Mirsky. Some web sites even proudly had a link to WOTW's review through a cheerful graphic that read "As featured on WOTW!!"
- Mirsky's current site
- Using HTML, by Mark Brown, John Jung, et al., a 1996 book (ISBN 0-7897-0758-6), warns web designers of the punishment for bad design: ending up in Mirsky's
- Glenn McDonald On Mirsky, the website, and Mirsky's days at the Harvard Lampoon
- Interview with Mirsky
- Marketing Tools magazine, Jul/Aug 1995, has an article on the site and an interview with Mirsky. (Google cached copy) (dead link 11 sept. 2010)