- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2007

(AP) — Satire, parody, spoof: These are not difficult to find online. The Web, in general, relishes its otherness, often pointing its giant pixilated finger back at reality and laughing at its folly.

There’s plenty of self-parody on the Web, too. A number of sites satirize some of the most popular destinations on the Web.

To be sure, there is a big difference between a good-humored spoof site and a duplicitous hoax. Phishing is a technique in which one site masquerades as another in hope of obtaining personal information. It has been a notable concern for such sites as EBay, PayPal and banking sites where credit-card information can be stolen.

There’s no mistaking a satire like www.GetAFirstLife.com, which drew attention earlier this year for its spoof of the virtual world Second Life. The site, just one page, includes the slogan “Go Outside. Membership Is Free.”

Another line reads, “America’s teens, your First Life dream world awaits. Hang out at the mall! Embarrass yourself in gym class! Get acne! Experiment with mind-altering recreational drugs! The First Life world is your oyster.”

Second Life (http://SecondLife.com), which is owned by Linden Lab, had a sense of humor about the site. The creator of GetAFirstLife, blogger Darren Barefoot, received a mock cease-and-desist letter from a lawyer with Linden Lab that, instead of threatening legal action, endorsed the site.

Social networks, of course, are a huge component of today’s online environment, but not everyone is enthralled at the idea of charting their friendships and many personal connections.

Snubster.com, created by Bryant Choung, is a clear spoof of Friendster.com. Instead of a smiley-face logo like Friendster’s, Snubster is accompanied by a frowning face. After signing up, users create lists of people who aren’t friends but are either “on notice” or “dead to me.”

Similar is www.Isolatr.com, a social-networking spoof created by Sean Bonner whose logo is, “Helping you find where other people aren’t.” The answer to every “frequently asked question” is an emphatic “No.”

(There’s also a parody site of Facebook.com, whose name is unprintable here. Instead of compiling profiles of faces, it asks for photographs of one’s behind.)

Snubster’s “on notice” and “dead to me” labels will remind many of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” on which host Stephen Colbert often updates lists of those names. That’s not the only spoof site Mr. Colbert has inspired.

Wikiality.com(www.wikiality.com), a parody of the open-source encyclopedia Wikipedia, calls itself “the truthiness encyclopedia,” using the Colbert-coined term for truth that you feel in your gut. The site generally takes its cues from Mr. Colbert. One entry on meatloaf defines it as “the sophisticated older brother of the hamburger.”

As several of these parody sites suggest, the Web 2.0 naming style (which often skips vowels and is almost always lowercase) has become a subject for spoof, too. The site http://rdiculous.com once was aggressive about poking fun at sites for their spelling but has been dormant for nearly a year. Perhaps the trend became too pervasive to keep up.

Of course, the reigning king of parody is Weird Al Yankovic, and even he isn’t absent from this new form of satire. Way back before there were YouTube or Wikipedia or Facebook, there was http://Yankovic.org, a Yahoo spoof in which Weird Al news and links replace the search engine’s usual material.