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A character in a TV show or movie hops onto his computer, and begins to type in a URL into a Web browser as part of the plot. Or perhaps you spot a URL in a panel of a comic book, or hear a friendly voiceover in a video game, telling you to visit his site.

Cue every geek who saw it attempting to open up his Web browser and check the website in real life.

This sometimes succeeds: Most media companies have rules requiring producers to buy any domain name they show on the screen before the movie or TV show is released, so that if someone actually tries to visit it, he gets a Web site under their design. Many producers create a nice Web site designed to promote the show, that usually leans on the fourth wall by creating the website as it would be in-universe.

Sometimes this can be an in-universe blog of characters (which may also double as a Fourth Wall Mail Slot).

Pioneered by Alternate Reality Games, and also used for Viral Marketing. Can be a form of In-Universe Marketing as well.

Se also 555 (the prefix for fictional phone numbers) which exists for similar reasons.

Examples of Logging Onto the Fourth Wall include:


Due to the nature of the Web, please specify whether the URL is active or defunct when adding examples. If the site is active[1], please also provide a link.

Advertising

  • One Energizer bunny commercial had inmyunderwear.com, devoted to online sale of underwear so that you could be "surfing in your underwear". It used to actually sell underwear, but is now a porn tube site.


Anime & Manga

  • In the English dub of Duel Masters, Kintaro (dressed as Hakuoh) introduces himself by sending his cape flying, and tells another character that you can buy them at noveltyflyingcapes.com. Plastic Cow had registered the site for the one-shot gag. The link is currently defunct, but a reproduction of its content can be found here.
  • After the Durarara anime began airing, fan-versions of the show's Dollars chat room were created.
  • Galaxy Angel Rune episode 8 involves haunted text messages being sent from the nonexistent site http://xgi92.hxbleg.ga.
  • If you're quick, you can catch an ad in a newspaper in one scene from Hidamari Sketch for Fashionable Detective Lovely Chocolat complete with a (nonexistent) URL: www.shqft-wed.co.jp.
  • Hell Girl has the Jigoku Tsuushin website, the site that is accessed when people want to send others to hell. Naturally, someone created an actual URL, and is only one of many Jigoku Tsuushin sites. Link here.
  • In Paprika, the characters visit radioclub.jp, which gives an error page saying "Can not find server, DC mini error" in the real world.
  • Until Death Do Us Part has www.prizeneck.com. Going there now will send you to the publisher's site, but it may have lead to a promotional site once.
  • Shogun's UR Ls from Chaos;Head really exists. They're leads to gruesome anime-pictures with Haritsuke no Misa case victim on it.


Comic Books

  • One Astro City story had a character looking up the hero Roustabout on herocopia.com. If you looked up herocopia.com at the time, you got taken to the same page on Roustabout as the characters saw. These days herocopia.com is a sanctioned fan site for Astro City.
  • In Checkmate Carl Draper (the former villain Deathtrap, now Checkmate's head of security) has a blog at http://www.gideonii.com/ the address of which was visible on panel. (You need the username "CARL DRAPER" and password "wilhelmina" to access it.)


Film


Literature

  • A first-person account of the dangers of predators in online chats was written by one Katie Tarbox and published by Penguin under the title Katie.com. Only one problem: At the time of publication, the domain katie.com belonged to a completely different person who was unaffiliated with the book, and who had had the domain well before Tarbox even started writing. Someone at Penguin was really not thinking things through. Oh, and to make things even more facepalm-worthy, the original title of the book was Girl.com, but Penguin was fine with scrapping that title when it found out that a porn site was at that URL at the time.
    • Ironically enough, the domain name was sold, and now Katie.com is a porn site as well.
  • A Captain Underpants novel had a fight with a giant hamster, with a warning that urged the reader to visit whenhamstersattack.com. It, of course, exists.
  • In The Night Circus, when Bailey becomes the modern proprietor of the circus, his email address is listed as bailey@nightcircus.com. Guess what author Erin Morgenstern's email is? http://nightcircus.com
  • Animorphs had www.earthisours.com (defunct) and "The Yeerks Are Here" websites, though the real sites were fan-made, not official.


Live-action TV

  • Doctor Who: In the first episode of the new series, Rose uses a search engine called Search-Wise to find information about the Doctor; both Search-Wise.net and the conspiracy web site she finds exist in real life, the former maintained by an independent IT company as a service for film and television program makers and the latter a creation of the BBC's web team. The series went on to accumulate a large number of tie-in web sites, of which The Other Wiki has a convenient list.
  • Arrested Development had Oscar Bluth's "blog" (which was static, not really a blog) imoscar.com. And as of the final episode, imnoscar.com for one of Saddam Hussein's doubles, who claims he doesn't have a scar where the real Hussein does. Both are now defunct.
  • Dane Cook was on Saturday Night Live and his opening monologue concerned YouTube, and how you can type any random keystrokes in and get at least one hit, including "A:F6". The next day, sure enough, there were a bunch of new videos either named or tagged A colon F6.
  • Both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have jokingly mentioned URLs, which actually lead to the sites portrayed. Unfortunately, we still need an active example.
  • Ghost Whisperer displayed a URL on screen a few times. Actaully going to those sites (I forget what they are now) you will find (now outdated) tie-ins for the series.
  • The Big Bang Theory had PennyBlossoms.com in the episode where the geeks opened an online store. Yep, the site exists, and it's owned by the production company.
  • Friendface.co.uk from The IT Crowd exists, but displays a page showing that Friendface has been "blocked by Reynholm Industries' network": [1]
  • How I Met Your Mother does this constantly. The Other Wiki has a long list compiled of them.
  • Supernatural Season 1 had a group of nerds with their website, Hellhound's Lair. Googling this brings up the site with a bunch of the American Urban Myths other episodes of Supernatural had used.
  • In 2002, Sesame Street episode 3997 featured Oscar the Grouch seeing a commercial for the grouch amusement park Six Crabs Yucky World. The commercial showed the URL http://yuckyworld.org/ , which Oscar subsequently visited on the show. Troper Taper happened to be watching at the time and, amused by the .org domain, visited the site, only to discover that the producers had neglected to register the domain. He quickly registered it himself, putting up a placeholder page. Soon thereafter, he was contacted by Sesame Workshop and transferred the domain to them; they had intended to register the site but the paperwork had fallen through the cracks and not been filed by air time. Taper received several e-mails from parents who had watched the show and visited the site, thanking him for keeping the domain from being registered by a Shock Site -- this is the basis of his claim that he once saved Sesame Street. (The yuckyworld.org site no longer functions as a web site but is still owned by Sesame Workshop.)
  • ICarly has quite a few examples from links on its show, like: http://worldofchucks.com or http://chickapedia.com, which redirect to the iCarly website.
  • In season 3 of 24, a villain at one point mentions the website http://www.sylviaimports.com/. Going to that URL gets you a (now-dated) message from the show's producers.
  • There have been several Lost ARG websites, the earliest of which was oceanic-air.com, a site for the In-Universe Oceanic Airlines. It also contained a few Easter Eggs for the show (no longer available). Amusingly, a later ARG site that was about the In-Universe Apollo Candy became a porn site once the producers sold the domain.
  • Felicity had http://www.noelcrane.com/
  • Conan O'Brien made an off-hand joke on Late Night about http://hornymanatee.com. Because of (according to Conan) legal reasons, NBC actually had to buy the URL. It used to feature fan art, plus a donation link to a manatee help group. Now it just links to NBC.
  • The L Word would like to redirect this browser to http://www.ourchart.com/ Did you get that? It's OurChart.com
  • Sherlock has http://www.thescienceofdeduction.co.uk, Sherlock's personal website.
  • Two and A Half Men has an episode where Charlie discovers a website called http://www.charlieharpersucks.com which has mean information about him. It used to have such information, but is now a redirect to the show's main page.
    • Another episode has the characters mention a couple of fake porn websites. In real life you'll be greeted by a message from the writers berating you for trying to go to a porn site.
  • A crazed fan in The Amanda Show (played by Amanda Bynes herself) often advertised for her website www.amandaplease.com during episodes. The site actually existed as a crazed fan site by the in-show character.
  • The titular character of Nathan Barley boasted about registering his site, Trashbat, in the Cook Islands so it would end with ".co.ck". The producers actually did the very same thing with the site they set up for the show .
  • Psychoville featured several examples.
  • The Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode "The Tale of Station 109.1" had http://www.radiospace.com/.
  • Angel had Cordelia joking about a handy website used to find Darla
  • Jericho set up JenningsandRall.com, supposedly the in-universe Web site of Jennings and Rall, the corporation with a significant role in the second season of the series. It offered hints as to events on the show. The domain name has since lapsed, but the site can be seen here.
  • Happy Endings has www.steakmehometonight.com, which advertises Dave's food truck. The site has commercials for the truck, today's specials and links to the Twitter and Facebook pages (which exist) for the nonexistent food truck.
  • CSI: NY had an episode with Stella finding out her boyfriend had posted a sex tape on the site www.aresanob.com ('Bonasera', her last name, backwards). The site had a message saying "Click here to see what Stella saw", then showed the sex tape clip and an extended promo for the next ep, "All Access". (now it just takes you to the CBS page)


Newspaper Comics

  • Garfield once used this trick: One of the strips has the titular cat ordering coffee from a site called coffeequick.com, which Jim Davis apparently registered and checked for visitors IRL.
    • Beforehand, this strip had Odie registering dingleball.com. Both sites led to web games which can now be found on the official Garfield website: Dingle Ball for the Dingleball.com strip, Bean Me! for the Coffeequick.com strip.
  • Prickly City managed to screw this one up by mentioning a fake URL (CoyotePAC.org) in one comic that the authors didn't bother to register in real life. Cue a porn spammer grabbing the real-life domain as quickly as possible after the comic was printed. Oops.


Tabletop Games

  • White Wolf's Hunter: The Reckoning: The game mentioned a website with the URL "www.hunter-net.org", where the title characters would get together and discuss hunting monsters. Several websites with that URL (or something similar) were created in Real Life.


Video Games

  • Batman: Arkham Asylum: Arkham Asylum has an in-universe Web site, www.arkhamcare.com, as does the Gotham Municipal Service, www.gotamcitymunicipal.com.
  • Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories had a couple of Web sites named off by the game's radio stations, as well as appearing in the game's manual, which was written as a newspaper.
    • The GTA games started doing this way back in GTA 3. Anyone remember www.petsovernight..com?
  • Doom 3 has various spam messages readable in the PDA that point to www.martianbuddy.com. Going on that site would gives you a code to unlock two weapon lockers in the game.
  • The graffiti in one of Portal's Room Full of Crazy includes the address http://www.aperturescience.com/ which gives Backstory, and other appropriate weirdness.
    • Another graffiti had a username and password for the before-mentioned website (cjohnson and tier3 respectively). Logging in with said username and password would give more backstory about the game (that is, until the site was changed due to the release of Portal 2).
  • The World Ends With You has a URL (book3rd.tv.jp, now defunct) quite visible on a billboard in the Shibukyu Main Store (aka Tokyu Department Store) area.
  • Two websites are mentioned in Beyond Good and Evil--one for the news channel that broadcasts in-game, and one for the military force in the game. At one point, they were sites owned by the game's publisher Ubisoft, and had Bonus Content in them. However, they've since expired.
  • This ended up working out for Super Paper Mario, where Francis' website was digibutter.nerr, and someone bought the actual domain name at digibutter.nerr.biz for a fan site about Paper Mario.
  • In the NES Who Framed Roger Rabbit? game, at one point you find Jessica Rabbit's phone number. Back in the day, if you actually called the number, you would get certain hints.
    • The Angry Video Game Nerd did a follow-up video to his original review, and decided to call the number. It is now an x-rated phone line. He's amused that there exists an NES game that advertises such a thing.
  • Enter the Matrix had websites revealed through cutscenes and the "hacking" minigame, that when visited in real life, gave you clues to unlock additional secret, usually extremely helpful things in levels, ranging from heavier weaponry to make boss fights easier (like a heavy machine gun to take down a SWAT heli) to unlocking an easier/stealthier/etc route through a level. The websites were all done up as if they were in-universe sites, and if I recall correctly, you actually had to do a bit of work to find the clues you could use in game.
  • Pikmin 2 had the player receiving e-mail from the characters' families, which was sometimes replaced with spam mail. The spam would refer to a website - either nintendo.com or pikmin.com.
  • Sam And Max has maxforpresident.org , a site promoting Max as president. In canon, Max becomes the president on the United States running against Abraham Lincoln. The site has a free download for "Episode 4: Abe Lincoln Must Die!!" as well.
  • In A Vampyre Story, when Mona tries to read the Baroness von Kiefer's journal, the only entry she can find is instructions to visit a particular website (she doesn't get it, but Froderick tells her the message was received); at the website is...the Baroness' journal, which reveals backstory about the Baroness and her research.
  • Team Fortress 2 has ReliableExcavationDemolition.com and BuildersLeagueUnited.com which are the names of the R.E.D. team and B.L.U. team. Humorously, the BLU site has been hijacked by the RED site.
  • In Hatoful Boyfriend, Yuuya suggests the player character check out the blog of Brian the Pigeon. Apparently in the Hatoful universe, Brian is a multiple Pulitzer Prize winner for his writing.


Web Animation

  • Broken Saints does this with an IP address.
  • Many fictional websites mentioned on Homestar Runner have domains owned by the site's owners. Those that don't usually get snatched up by fans. One example of the "fans grabbed it" was Virtualpiz.biz from e-mail "pizza joint."


Webcomics


Western Animation

  • The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy: The "snake cult" members in a particular episode tell Grim to go to www.shnissugah.com to help summon an ancient Canadian Snake God.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Mr. X's Webpage from the episode "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes"
    • One of the chalkboard gags was "butt.com is not my email address". The problem was, at the time, it was the address of a real porn site. I think it was later changed to "butt.butt".
    • Lisa Simpson's email address, which was some variation of "smartgirl 6 3 underscore backslash at yahoo dot com." (Which wouldn't be legal, because email addresses can't contain backslashes.)
    • The Simpsons also went to an Internet cafe, which had the sign "http://wel.com" (which goes to a Korean website for something called Froebel).
    • In the episode "Home Away from Homer," Ned rents a room to a couple of seemingly innocent female college students, who then use it for their naughty webcam site, www.sexyslumberparty.com. When the episode first aired, the URL linked to an official show site featuring pictures of the two girls.
    • WhatBadgersEat.com also happens to exist.
  • From Robot Chicken: Glycerine Johnson dot blogspot dot com!
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force had the www.yzzerdd.com, a wizard with a popup-laden web site. And of course Williams Street registered the actual domain. (Note that the real-life site also spews popups-- hilarious fake ones, just like in the episode, but still...)


Real Life

  • During the 2004 debates, Dick Cheney suggested that Americans should go to factcheck.com. Unfortunately, anybody performing such a check would have been sent to a domain unaffiliated with the non-partisan factcheck.org, and which was subsequently redirected to George Soros' Web site.

Notes

  1. (at the time, anyway)
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