by Danny Cohen
It’s late at night in Palo Alto and Isaiah Nickson is wrapping up finalizing the newest feature set on his website. The 900 million members have been yearning for more Boppbopp. This new feature will reinvent the Boppbopp brand, says Isaiah, from “a global phenomenon to a human phenomenon.”
Rewind six months ago when Boppbopp was just being launched. “I had the idea one evening, just by myself, that the world is so hectic these days… and then I made Boppbopp.” We all know the Boppbopp creation myth by now. Struggling sandwich delivery boy turned Silicon Valley superstar overnight. He’s dined with Barack, wined with Oprah and slept with the hottest of Hollywood’s starlets (Easy A? Yes). Yet, for those of you who have been living under a rock (and even then you would’ve heard about it on the Boppbopp-osphere), allow me to introduced you to Boppbopp. The exciting new internet surface is taking 140 characters down to one. It works on desktops, mobiles and Boppbopp key fobs. It’s easy to login with just an e-mail address, though now people are logging into Twitter and Facebook via their Boppbopp accounts, if at all through the aging sites.
Boppbopp accounts are symbolized with the ზ symbol, created by artist Susan Kare. Suspicions exist on Popob, an online community built around Boppbopp, that Boppbopp’s founder Isaiah Nickson created the symbol himself. The suspicions come from the lack of interviews from Isaiah or anyone on the Boppbopp team. However, they’ve allowed me to follow them as they introduce their exciting new features. (Full disclosure: Bopppbopp granted this exclusive look into the development of their new features through an undisclosed agreement with Minutiæ’s parent company, TARK.)
“People are always looking for holes,” says Isaiah, “They want to think there is some darkness to what’s behind Boppbopp. To those people, I have to say I apologize. I’ve heard the rumors and none of them are true.” This is a powerful web surface, and the fiction surrounding it grows every day from the disgruntled ex-employees to New Orleans residents claiming Boppbopp is hindering the rebuilding of their home, in order to discontinue human interaction in favor of a pure online Boppbopp interaction. “I feel bad about the situations of those less fortunate, but I cannot stop people from how they are using Boppbopp. I only provide the surface. I love Black people.”
When Boppbopp started, it was considered a fun diversion from the overwhelming onslaught of tweets and pokes and zoops (from the failed Boppbopp competitor, and now subsidiary, Zoople). In the beginning, users would send boppbopps to each other—not knowing what they meant—as sort of a cute game. Yet, as time went on, users, or pobs, began to assign meaning to the messages, and the Boppbopp land-grab began.
The Boppbopp community is exploding, not only amongst regular internet users, but also with celebrities who have embraced the web service wholly. Justin Bieber is currently boppoppular with 510 million pobs, second only to founder Isaiah Nickson. UK Prime Minister David Cameron started a Boppbopp account last August, but due to national security concerns, his boppbopps are now encrypted.
Even businesses have begun to launch Boppbopp presences. The now classic story of State Farm Insurance using Boppbopp to offer discounts resulted in a 300% increase in revenue. Does anyone remember Geico? They went the way of the cave men. However, great success on Boppbopp has also been met with huge financial failure. Supposedly, American Eagle set up a Boppbopp account, and two days later their business was down 80% after sending out confusing boppbopps like “ზ” followed 20 minutes later with “ზ”.
“Ginger Spangler is a fucking rockstar because of Boppbopp,” says known recording artist Pick, who discovered the Hungarian sensation after falling in love with the lyrics she posted on Boppbopp. In a short time, Spangler has already pressed two platinum records and has launched a sold-out world tour “Spangled.” Even the rowdy boys from the reality show “These Boyz ‘R’ Noyzee” have found success through Boppbopp, funding their own charity that builds schools in Africa. “We love Black people.”
The morning before Boppbopp’s press conference at Boppcon 2010 at the Yerba Buena Center, Isaiah is going over his keynote speech and the exciting new feature: colors.
In an attempt to simplify the huge growth of the surface, four colors are being introduced, created by Boppbopp’s Color Artists in Palo Alto after a seven-month sabbatical to The Ukraine. The secrecy surrounding these colors have nearly made Boppbopp a prison state to work in the previous weeks. Colorblind guards have been standing guard day and night. Nickson can’t wait any longer to tell the world about the incredible innovation.
The keynote speech begins with Nickson covering the past six months, and then the moment happens. The slide turns to the four nameless colors and the room erupts in a mixture of applause, tears and shock. Nickson is unable to continue with the speech as the thousands in attendance, and millions worldwide, flock to Boppbopp to start sending boppbopps in color. The internet comes to a shrieking halt.
Two days later Nickson wakes up a multi-billionaire. Despite the company not being public, estimates say that his 80% share in Boppbopp is now valued somewhere between 4.2 and 140 billion dollars (The irony? Yes). Money like that, however, is sure to attract naysayers and rattle a few cages. Wall Street Journal reporter Clyde Eckhart wrote “we have no way of knowing the true value of Boppbopp. They don’t host ads, they don’t release their earnings. I’ve come to the conclusion that the business is valued somewhere around $650. The amount it costs to host a site of that size and pay for the employees that we know for sure work for the company. They don’t even advertise themselves.”
The huge growth of Boppbopp can largely be attributed to Pobbpobb, the grassroots user community that has grown up around Boppbopp. “Hell yeah I love Boppbopp,” says Pobbpobb founder Nyle Goodwhyld (pob name Born2BGoodwhyld). “I started Pobbpobb because I saw the potential that this surface would have. It has brought people together in extraordinary ways. In the past six months, I’ve been all over the world, meeting other pobs, starting grassroots campaigns to raise awareness.” (It worked? Yes). Pobbpobb has the largest Boppbop dictionary and compendium in the world, and is constantly being expanded to include new terms, which has become especially difficult with colors. “I was there that day when Isaiah introduced the colors. I blacked out. And when I woke up I was in an oxygen bar back here in Leeds.”
Pobbpobb has been especially helpful in naming the new colors. They were released by Boppbopp without official names or meanings, and it’s been up to the user community to assign them. There is ‘Re,’ ‘Fa,’ ‘Ti,’ and ‘La’ (the names have since been trademarked by a company called Enterprises), and the grassroots campaigns (such as Banksy’s unforgettable boppication of the Lincoln Memorial) have secured the new colors’ place in the world.
There are suspicions, though, that Boppbopp itself started this grassroots user community. Several graphic designers have formed a coalition to create unofficial Boppbopp badges, stickers and decals for water bottles. However, there is mounting evidence that Boppbopp started this user-generated coalition. Organizations such as P.A.ზ. (People Against Boppbopp) have sprung up all around the world. “We are not associated with Boppbopp.” There are rumors that P.A.ზ. is a Boppbopp-backed organization.
All these rumors lead back to one man: Isaiah Nickson. “I hate to have to say this, but I’m going to set the record straight. Our pobs simply love Boppbopp, and that’s why there is this outcry of support for us. There are no conspiracies, there are no secret organizations in the Underworld, and there is no dark side to Boppbopp. Gay people aren’t even allowed on Boppbopp. The longer story, well, that doesn’t fit into Boppbopp’s brand strategy.”
The naysayers will go on and on about the inconstancies of Boppbopp’s story. Boppbopp has recently expanded to larger Palo Alto offices, however, an official address is not registered with the city or state. It is unclear if Boppbopp pays taxes or generates revenue of any kind, positive or negative. The only official employee of Boppbopp is Isaiah Nickson, with everyone else being freelance or an independent contractor. Yet, when I sit down with Nickson, he hands me page after page of an employee roster (Good enough for me? Yes).
But not everything is cheery in the Boppbopp-osphere. “All I did was set up the surface,” Nickson says, “it’s up to the pobs to shape it as they see fit. Sometimes there are bad pobs, but we hope they don’t spoil the entire surface.” Kids are being expelled from school from sending inappropriate boppbopps. Stories are surfacing everyday of relationships crumbling from miscommunication over Boppbopp. The blackish Boppbopp color ‘Re’, is considered to be a sign of polite affection, like a tap on the shoulder, on the West Coast. However, disparities across the country and the world have led to differing understandings of ‘Re’, such as a strong disinterest or a medical emergency (Local 911 call centers are currently integrating Boppbopp geolocation into their systems after public outcry that it could have prevented the infamous suicide incident of Kevin Gregors).
“Kevin kept on sending ‘Fa’ boppbopps, but he had just moved out to San Fransisco and we thought that was good,” says Kevin’s mother Liane, “but he had gotten mixed up with some new people who had other understandings of the Boppbopp colors. We were flying out to visit him when he smashed his head through the computer monitor. To this day, I can only describe the entire incident as ‘Ti’.”
“Not to be defensive,” Nickson says, “but we followed up with that incident and discovered that there was no one named Kevin Gregors, and when we tried to get in touch with Liane, she had mysteriously disappeared to Argentina and was refusing to answer our questions. We were horrified at the story, but that’s all it is. It’s a story. Fiction.”
What’s not fiction is the tremendous financial and cultural success of Boppbopp. “Kids in Africa, boys in England, girls in Kansas, all over the world it’s Boppbopp, and we don’t see that ending any time soon,” Isaiah says between boppbopping on his Boppbopp key fob, “Boppbopp won’t rest until we’re able to pinpoint each member of society, corral them into resorts, and begin the cleansing systematic production of the ideal human specimen. It’s why I started Boppbopp in the first place: I love Black people.” ✦
(Ed. note: We tried to print the color palate of Boppbopp, but our printers were not capable of reproducing them. Minutiæ also sends our heartfelt prayers to the families of the reporters who wrote this piece. We hope they are located soon.)
(Pub. note: Look, sometimes people just get up and go and don’t leave a note. Let’s go back to bed.)