When news hit the web that the first product resulting from Kanye West's epic DONDA Twitter rant was a WHOIS domain registration lookup tool called WHODAT.BIZ, the world stopped and gawked. But soon naysayers began to pick apart the puzzling entity and discovered that WHODAT.BIZ was a pr stunt. However, most of the evidence of fakery was circumstantial and most of the evidence that OKFocus was the pr group behind this fakery was based on individuals saying, "yeah, we did it."
Has the mystery of WHODAT.BIZ been solved or has Kanye West headfaked the Internet not once, but twice?
When news spread of the launch of WHODAT.BIZ, the "Facebook of Websites," even members of Anonymous, or entities claiming such status, were dumbfounded:
Kanye West launches his own WHOIS service called "WhoDat" | arst.ch/t3f << Yeah, we don't even know what to say to this...at all.— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) March 28, 2012
And rightly so. Kanye West's DONDA Twitter rampage spelled out a lofty vision that drew inspiration from such great visionairies as Michael Jackson, Steve Jobs and George Bernard Shaw. So how could the first product of such powerful dreams be a mundane WHOIS service in a gawdy wrapper with a cliched title?
Or perhaps some of us failed to see what Hugh L saw:
Many websites featuring writing by so-called "journalists" were "ensnared" by what was soon labeled an early April Fools joke. As Craig Silverman, famed digital journalism B.S. detector, noted, they should have recognized the fakery because:
- They called it "The Facebook of Websites" and Facebook IS a website.
- It's silly to promote a WHOIS site when WHOIS is old news.
- Plus, it's a recently registered domain so there wasn't much time between registration and launch.
As I noted in a blistering response, "The Facebook of Websites" sounds like the kind of pitch VC's get every day, Kanye West is kind of silly at times and if he could brainstorm DONDA on Twitter why couldn't he let some intern throw up a site that he thought up while texting in the back of the limo?
In fact, couldn't WHODAT.BIZ be a vehicle for bringing a valid information service out of the shadowy realm of web geeks and into the arms of the adoring masses (aka Kanye West fans)?
Web media outlets found other reasons to name WHODAT.BIZ a fake. Huffington Post found an unnamed "source close to West." And multiple seemingly responsible media outlets claimed that the following enimatic quote from "a guy who works with Kanye" clarified that WHODAT.BIZ was a fake:
If a site existed it'd be obvious that it was real.— PYREX COOKWARE (@virgilabloh) March 28, 2012
But ultimately Gizmodo's Mat Honan revealed the only compelling evidence that WHODAT.BIZ is a fake. No, not the Google Analytics code or the WHODAT.BIZ WHOIS info. If you've worked in hip hop media, as have I, you know that last minute oddball nonsense is par for the course. Honan revealed two key bits of evidence:
1) Kanye West did not tweet about it on his verified Twitter account and "have you ever known Kanye to not self promote?"
2) Honan emailed a DondaMedia email address and eventually got a reply from the domain okfok.us, the site for pr firm OKFocus. After looking up the domain on WHODAT.BIZ, he got the voicemail of a founder and eventual was in touch with Ryder Ripps, one of the OKFocus cofounders.
Given that OKFocus also created such projects as LEMMETWEETTHATFORYOU, which features fake tweets from any Twitter address, WHODAT.BIZ seems in keeping with their MO.
LEMMETWEETTHATFORYOU even features the following fake(?) tweet:
Or is it a fake? It looks real to me! What if OKFocus is firing a test shot on behalf of Kanye West's lean startup DONDA to observe public reaction to an initial minimum viable product?
What if Kanye West is simply manipulating our assumptions about him and exposing our hypocrisy and lack of Westian genius?
Sure, representatives of OKFocus claimed credit when Betabeat contacted them. But they didn't say Kanye West wasn't behind it. And, yeah, Gizmodo says that Ryder Ripps called it a prank and that they hadn't heard from the "real Donda" but has anyone?
For my part, I'm going with the Kanye West double Internet head fake theory and wishing for a trifecta come April 1 while reblogging every post on the Donda Media Tumblr outpost and standing with those who say:
i really hope whodat.biz is a legit DONDA production. its perfection is breathtaking. a modern masterpiece fit for our times.— Jenna Wortham (@jennydeluxe) March 28, 2012
Hypebot Features Writer Clyde Smith maintains his business writing hub at Flux Research and blogs about dance at All World Dance. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.