Further evidence that another dotcom bubble is swelling to popping point has come to hand. It is called Livr, and is an app that was timed to launch at (where else?) the South by Southwest festival in Austin.
A truly intoxicating product, Livr was designed to help you get boozed, and immediately appealed to the hordes of dedicated tech sites.
Slimply blow into the device you can attach to your phone, and, explain the founders, “If you’re inebriated enough, we’ll let you in to the app”.
Among the first to enthuse was Engadget, where Steve Dent wrote:
If you’ve heard one too many gripes about your boozy postings, don’t fret — there’ll soon be a like-minded social app for you. It’s called “Livr”, and you won’t even be able to log in without a smartphone breathalyzer confirming you’ve tippled enough. In fact, the higher your BAC, the more app features are unlocked. Those include a crowdsourced “truth or dare” game and hotspot map that shows the location and sobriety of other users. You’ll even be able to drunk-dial random Livr folks, simulating the types of encounters you’d normally have at a bar (sans the possibility of getting punched). After a questionable evening, whatever happens on Livr can stay on Livr, thanks to the “Blackout” button that deletes all evidence of your misdeeds. We’re not sure if this is one of the best or worst ideas in recent memory, but in any case, prepare your actual liver — the app will arrive to Android and iOS sometime in the spring.
Unbelievable? Yes. A hoax, in fact, dreamt up by “Brandon Schmittling and Brandon Bloch, two Brooklyn creatives with a lot of free time and little patience for what they call the ‘absurdity’ of modern Internet culture”, explains Caitlin Dewey in the old-fangled Washington Post.
After dreaming up an idea for a start-up so ridiculous no one would believe it, Bloch and Schmittling set out to entice people to buy in. They bought a domain name, designed a Web site, enlisted actors to play Livr’s earnest co-founders; they “leaked” a fake press release on Reddit, promising an improbable “online party at all times”, a social network limited only by the user’s blood alcohol concentration.
The media leapt at it. Venture capitalists were suddenly on the phone.
Who to hold responsible for such unchecked frenzy?
Dewey – whose interesting piece is well worth reading in full – has this to say:
Although it’s easy, and perhaps comfortable, to blame the deceivers, the reality is far more complicated. The Web incentivizes page views, no matter how they’re racked up. And so hoaxes are hatched not only by lone pranksters but also by Web-savvy marketers and public relations firms eager for attention. They’re often propagated by journalists hungry for clicks and starved for time. Then they’re swallowed whole by an audience drowning in so much information — such a cacophony of demands on their eyeballs and attention — that only the truly crazy stuff stands out.
It’s easy to condemn the wide-eyed naivete of the Twitter dolts sharing this latest hoax: Haven’t they learned yet? Couldn’t they just Google it?
But condemnation is futile. The Web, after all, is an organism spun to divert and distract attention. Might as well condemn the entire multibillion-dollar industry of display ads, or the fresh-faced 21-year-olds graduating from journalism school and disappearing into an industry where their worth is judged by the clicks they generate.
Better yet, blame the very foundations of human nature, which wants to trust. To believe. To experience real awe — even for a fiction. As Plato wrote 2,300 years ago, before even the Bible told a story about turning water into wine, “everything that deceives may be said to enchant.”