A Wild West look at the early days of the internet—the incredible battle between the founder of Match.com and the con man who swindled him out of the online domain name Sex.com in an all-out war for control over the fuel that still powers the online world to this day: love and lust.
In 1994, visionary entrepreneur Gary Kremen used a $2,500 loan to create the first online dating service, Match.com. Despite only 5 percent of Americans using the internet at the time, Kremen insisted his invention would transform our lives. That wasn’t all he was accurately predicted. He also anticipated that internet addresses, or domain names, would be the bedrock of the dawning digital frontier, eventually gathering the same kind of value as real estate properties. So, while his friends thought he was crazy, he bought dozens up, including the domain Sex.com. Love and lust, he believed, would fuel this new world to new heights. But in 1995, as Kremen prepared to launch his next venture, he was shocked to learn that someone named Stephen Michael Cohen had stolen the rights to the Sex.com name and was making millions that Kremen had never seen.
In The Players Ball, award-winning journalist David Kushner draws from years of research and interviews to vividly recreate the Wild West years online, when innovators and outlaws battled for power and money. He explores the risks, rewards, challenges, and back alleys of how the world online came to be and provides essential insights about where it’s heading. The Players Ball is the rollicking true story of a decade-long cat-and-mouse game between a genius and a con man that changed the way people connect, and defined the digital age.
A contributing editor of Rolling Stone, David Kushner also writes for publications including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, The New York Times Magazine, New York, GQ, and Esquire. Kushner served as the digital culture commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday, and has taught journalism at Princeton University and New York University. He has been featured in The Best Business Writing, The Best American Crime Reporting, and The Best Travel Writing, and his ebook The Bones of Marianna: A Reform School, a Terrible Secret, and a Hundred-Year Fight for Justice, was chosen by Amazon as a Best Digital Single of the Year. His books include The Players Ball; Alligator Candy: A Memoir (an NPR best book of 2016) ; Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto; Levittown: Two Families, One Tycoon, and the Fight for Civil Rights in America’s Legendary Suburb; Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids: How a Gang of Geeks Beat the Odds and Stormed Las Vegas; and Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture.
“A real-life Wade Watts, David Kushner found the Golden Easter Egg of internet history—the spy vs spy story of the struggle over Sex.com at the very dawn of the World Wide Web—and he tells the tale masterfully.” —Adam Fisher, author of Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley
“David Kushner has written any number of remarkable books and articles about how the American tech industry has invaded our lives and dreams. With The Players Ball, he’s found his raunchiest, funniest, most fascinating story yet. You’ll tell yourself—frequently—while reading this book, ‘That can’t possibly be true,’ but it is. Then again, truth is stranger than fiction only when it’s this well told.” —Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter
“As usual, Kushner delivers a funny and thorough history of some corner of our technological era. He also paints a compelling portrait of two men whose genius and obsession drives them to an almost operatic confrontation played out over decades. Fast and funny, but also tragic and bizarre, Kushner delivers what might be his most unusual and thought provoking work about two men both way ahead of, and emblematic of, their time.” —Zak Penn, coscreenwriter of Ready Player One
“The epic battle of the internet visionary behind sex.com and the man who stole it right out from under him, making millions in the process. David Kushner brilliantly tells a fascinating and often hilarious true story about the early days of the web.” —Terence Winter, creator and executive producer of Boardwalk Empire and screenwriter of The Wolf of Wall Street