|What is my ethnicity:||Nicaraguan|
|My sexual preference:||Male|
|Eye tone:||I’ve got lustrous green eyes but I use colored contact lenses|
|I can speak:||French|
|What is my body features:||My body features is fat|
The forgotten joke website influenced YouTube, Twitter, Tinder, and so much more.
It's now seen at best as superficial and crass, at worst as problematic and potentially offensive. Sure, we may have gotten rid of the 1 to 10 rating scale, but likes on Instagram selfies still essentially serve as an implied aggregated score of exactly how hot or not the internet thinks you are.
Soon after finding instant meteoric success, HOTorNOT then invented the most foundational concept of online speed-dating through the Meet Me featurea proto-Tinder over a decade ahead of its time. Dating sites like Match. Instead of extensive bios and questionnaires geared toward long-term commitment, HOTorNOT limited you to a picture, short bio, and keyword tags that reflected your interests.
The rating scale of the main website functioned similarly to the dating app swipe, back when ubiquitous smartphones with touch controls sounded like sci-fi. But tech has a tendency to spiral beyond its original intent. For better and for worse, it ignited our impulse to turn to the web as a collective, objective judge of our self worth. And the person rating was communicating back — not with words, but with a of their opinion.
We saw that as a conversation. A good friend of Hong, he called him one of the smartest people he knows in Silicon Valley, crediting the HOTorNOT team with ushering in many of the pioneering ideas that influenced the early social web.
Others included Bittorrent and Zipdash which eventually became Google Maps. It was proof that sites could be profitable through scrappiness, cheap overhead, and attention-grabbing concepts that spread like wildfire without spending a single cent on marketing. The site launched at around 2 p.
Hong and Young sent s with the link to a few friends who were engineers for feedback, uncertain of how it would be received and requesting they be gentle.
Less than 12 hours later, tens of thousands of IP addresses were flooding the site. In a panic, the two broke U. Berkeley gr considered shutting it down. At three or four in the morning, they drove it to Berkeley, where Young was still a graduate student.
They did notice. He came clean. A similar billboard hung outside the building. To add icing to the cake, HOTorNOT was run by two college kids with no money, when most other web startups relied on the venture capitalist funding model. While there are a few variations to the origin story, it always starts with Hong and Young drinking beers some versions have them in a dorm, others their living room, another at a bardebating whether a woman was a perfect 10 or not.
So they programmed a website that could give them an answer. Hong remembers wanting to port the experience of IRL people watching onto the web. It was seen as a solution to the growing of people working in isolated office cubicles with only a computer for company. I had just wrapped up a paper for school, and needed to blow off some steam. The HOTorNOT craze also amazed their Silicon Valley friends because Young and Hong were one of the first web engineers to get some social cache and fame from outside of their insular tech-nerd circles.
They were like mini-celebrities in a world where there weren't a lot of celebrities created via the internet. Not because of any presumption of riches, but because people saw the site as imbuing naked hot or not with some sort of magical ability to be an objective arbiter of attractiveness. Your friends would probably lie about your out of kindness, they figured.
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But the internet certainly would not. Famously, they put up a three-story billboard on the side of their datacenter on Main St. Ultimately, Hong said, the rationale was that real-world society already placed the same value on attractiveness, regardless of whether HOTorNOT brought it to the web. Many of their initial worries also turned out to be unfounded since only under 2 percent of visitors actually submitted pictures.
Those brave enough to seek ratings were self-selecting, rarely surprised by their scores. They even got some positive feedback from people with lower scores because, inevitably, some rated them much higher than expected.
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Still, they did think a lot about deing the site in a way that lessened its potential negative psychological effects and misuses. Those who submitted photos could opt out of public ratings or even a different one at any time. If anyone ever contacted them to request taking down a picture ed of them without their consent, they always did so as quickly as possible with little to no questions asked.
To further deter bullying or inappropriate use of the site, they implemented a pioneering moderation system that incentivized power users to become mods through gamification.
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Becoming a mod was presented as selective and aspirational, requiring users to apply, get accepted, and then receive rewards and status symbols the more they contributed to protecting the community. Keeping things clean meant not letting it become just another place for porn which, of course, immediately became its biggest ongoing problem. Like much of the early web, HOTorNOT contributed small innovations so rudimentary we take them completely for granted.
Actually, Hong eventually launched a proto-Instagram himself called Yafro, a social network photo-sharing site. But he shut it naked hot or not prematurely after hearing rumors that the Bush administration would soon crack down on illegal images spread through web platforms. Suitors on the Meet Me speed dating service could buy each other digital flowers. It connected online and offline social interaction in new ways never imagined or implemented before. It gave all of us that went through its doors the realization that the internet was one big social experiment.
Not everyone including Hong himselffor various reasons sees some of the social web conventions HOTorNOT innovated as something to celebrate. Both men and women opted into being rated. According to aggregated scores, men were also on average rated more harshly than women by several points.
Surprisingly, men submitted photos of themselves at almost double the rate of women, too, requiring Young to actually insert coding that ensured both would be presented for rating at a more equal frequency. Though, to be fair, the purpose of implementing it was twofold. They reflect much of the same biases of who gets the most likes or biggest followings on modern social media.
Though, Hong argued, since the internet shifted the power of defining beauty standards away from just mass media and advertising companies, more alternative and diverse definitions of attractiveness have been able to thrive on digital platforms like TikTok. Reductive portrayals of HOTorNOT as an all-male company inventing misogynistic internet culture erases the existence, contributions, and perspectives of its women employees. Dawn Ngo, hired in for customer service and eventually promoted to operations manager, said her opinions and feedback were very sought after, her ificant contributions as equally valued as those of technical contributors.
Ngo and Therianos described a workplace environment at HOTorNOT that was a far cry from modern stereotypes of sexist tech bro culture, despite some questionably racy but innocuous humor. That poster version of the billboard, for example, was one of the first things one would see upon entering the office. Both women felt supported, heard, and were given ample opportunities to grow and pursue ideas in similar ways to the male engineers.
Therianos was one of the employees who left with Gao to help build Crunchyroll, working with the anime site for over a decade as an HR consultant. There, she helped get a Girls in Engineering Program off the ground. To this day, she said she still naked hot or not Hong and Young for advice sometimes. Two decades later, employment diversity is still lacking at Silicon Valley tech companieswith Black and Latino employees holding very few leadership and technical roles.
After all, social platforms bear the biases of the people who make them. HOTorNOT may have been the beginning of this, but I think it is a reflection of culture and not the origin of sexism online. Even now, women CEOs and tech leaders are held to higher ethical and even physical attractiveness standards.
It makes one wonder if there has ever been a time when two women co-founders especially queer, trans, Black or brown women co-founders would be universally celebrated for putting up a three-story billboard with their naked bodies advertising how average-looking they are.
InThe Social Network 's iconic retelling of Facemash depicted a college-aged Zuckerberg making it after a girl rejected him on a date. It solidified the public perception of this type of platform as a revenge-of-the-nerds type power trip with tech geniuses seeking to belittle those who ever doubted them, particularly women.
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It also pitted two people against each other, asking users to comparatively vote on who was hotter. After hearing about how Zuckerberg was nearly expelled for making Facemash, Hong reached out to him via to offer help and free hosting and services as he had done with so many others, like Twitter and YouTube. He never heard back.
Years later when Facebook was already taking over the college scene, Hong saw Zuckerberg at a Silicon Valley launch party.
He asked in passing why he never responded to the. Facebook representatives declined to comment on the interaction.
Or maybe this kind of violation which used to frighten us in pre-HOTorNOT culture is now just the accepted price of admission to the world wide web, especially for women and other marginalized people. Did we invent insecurity? But we for sure evolved the web in a direction where we brought those things more clearly onto these platforms that accelerate them. And, as a society, as engineers, yes of course we need to care about that. When the printing press was invented, Hong pointed out, it helped spread literacy and ideas at rates ly unimagined. Back in the day, Facebook was created to, in essence, let a bunch of horny college kids check each other out.
Init was investigated by the Senate to determine if it had influenced the election by spreading fake news and selling to Russian propagandists. We don't necessarily just throw those technologies out, though, because they also bring a lot of value.
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But we need to figure out what went wrong. Questioning the impact of even the best-intentioned, most superficial and crass technological innovations like HOTorNOT is crucial. Yet trying to conclusively declare whether it was an ethical or moral net positive is not only impossible, but futile.
Yeah, maybe. In the end, HOTorNOT's co-founders are wary of taking both too much credit and too much blame for the parts of the social web that trace back to them. Technology — especially on the internet — is defined by building on someone else's building blocks.
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He also cited the loss of their talented and ambitious employees who left to start their own companies, like Crunchyroll. As two people who got in the startup game to pursue exciting ideas, the routine started to feel stifling. As a last-ditch effort to motivate himself to stay, Hong proposed pivoting HOTorNOT into an incubator, using its excess of funds and resources as a platform to quickly iterate on and launch wild, pioneering ideas — like the ones they helped their friends get off the ground in the beginning. Unfortunately, a board member shot the proposal down.
As it stagnated, he watched peers like Steve Chen play much bigger roles in shaping the future of the web by turning YouTube into a billion-dollar company in only a year.