Bill Gates will pay you $245 for forwarding this e-mail. At the stroke of midnight, March 31, the Internet will be shut down for 24 hours for its annual spring cleaning. Microsoft is developing a portable toilet with Internet access called the iLoo.
Sound familiar? Those are just a tiny sampling of the thousands of ridiculous Internet myths that have run the spam e-mail circuit over the past decade. Not that we ever believed any of them, of course.
What is it about the Internet that makes it such fertile territory for goofy hoaxes, elaborate jokes and urban legends? Perhaps because many of us are so awed about how much the Internet has changed our lives, yet equally clueless about how the thing actually works. As a result, we find ourselves taken in by the Internet’s many distractions — some innocuous, some quite harmful.
What follows, in no particular order, are the top five myths that continue to warp our understanding of the Internet, its origins, who controls it, how it makes people rich (or poor) and who’s prowling in its darkest corners.