After some sleuthing, Betabeat discovered that WhoDat.biz is in fact a project of New York-based OkFocus, a full service digital agency run by Ryder Ripps and Jonathan Vingiano that’s notorious for their PR stunts.
Mr. Vingiano confirmed to us over email that WhoDat.biz is “an OKFocus project.”
We reached out to Small Girls PR, friends of OKFocus, and asked about the project.
“Way to punk the entire Internet, Mr. Vingiano!” we said.
“Yeah, he’s very good at that,” they responded. “He used to run a @Balenciaga twitter in which the L was actually an upercase i … rihanna retweeted it.”
When we reached out to the fake Donda Media address, they originally responded with AIM slang–“a/s/l?” After some back and forth, we finally laid it on the line: “C’mon, Ryder,” we wrote. “It will feel so good to be honest. And then you can get press for OkFocus while everyone still cares! This WSJ article obviously didn’t do you justice.”
The folks at OKFocus responded, “Hehe. Yes it’s an OkFocus project.” Mr. Ripps even duped his friends, posting a link to WhoDat.Biz on his Facebook page 18 hours ago, along with the following commentary:
Since everyone was fooled, we’ll take it upon ourselves to dish out some grades on how long it took various sites to realize the whole thing was a hoax.
The Washington Post: F
Headline: Kanye West’s Donda Media unveils Whodat.biz, the ‘Facebook of Websites’
Time posted: 4:09 p.m. EST
Time redacted: Not yet (as of 7:03 p.m.)
Headline: What the Hell is Kanye’s Insane Tech Start Up? updated to This Can’t Possibly Be Kanye’s Insane Tech Start Up, Can It?
Time posted: 2:53 p.m.
Time redacted: 5:30 p.m. (That New “Donda Media” Site Is Fake As Hell (Updated))
Headline: Kanye’s New Startup is Ridiculous
Time posted: 2pm-ish
Time redacted: 3:47pm (via a tweet and an update: Kanye’s New Startup Is Ridiculous (Update: And Fake))
Betabeat: B, because it took a helpful tweet sent just after our original post to cue us in. Also, apparently everyone in New York knew; we were told we “need more Facebook friends.”
Headline: Introducing Kanye West’s Bizarre New Startup, WhoDat.Biz
Time posted: 4:10 p.m. (but updated at 4:15 p.m. to Introducing Kanye West’s Possibly Fake But Definitely Bizarre New Startup, WhoDat.Biz [UPDATED])
Time redacted: 5:35 p.m. (Fake Kanye Site Punks Internet, 30 Minutes Later Internet Debunks Fake Kanye Site) and 6:13 p.m. (Meet OKFocus, the PR Stuntmen Behind Fake Kanye West Site WhoDat.biz)
PopDust: A, for being skeptical from the start.