The Players Ball: A Genius, a Con Man, and the Secret History of the Internet's Rise

S. & S. Apr. 2019. 272p. ISBN 9781501122149. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781501122163. BUS
Kushner (Alligator Candy) portrays the 1990s as the Internet's "Wild West" era, and here offers a fun, raunchy romp through the burgeoning online porn industry, which at the time totaled 35 percent of all Internet traffic. This is more than a smut-filled tell-all, as it relates the story of two ruthless men who early on realized that fortunes were to be made in online porn. It focuses on Gary Kremen, who created in 1993, and Stephen Cohen, who served time in prison for bankruptcy fraud, and their fight over the rights to the domain. Advertisers would pay $1 million a month to promote their sites on, since people interested in porn would begin their searches there. The battle between Kremen and Cohen played out in federal courts, setting the precedent of establishing online domain sites as personal property. Kushner shows how destroying each other became their obsession.
VERDICT Readers intrigued by the Internet's history and the laws that govern it will breeze through this sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always revealing narrative. See also Evan Ratliff's The Mastermind.

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