Boo.com back after dot-com boo-boos

One of the most high-profile failures of the 2000 dot-com crash, a British fashion site, takes on a new form as a travel site.
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor
Boo.com, which was originally an online fashion retailer when it fell into liquidation in 2000, has been relaunched as a social-networking and travel-booking site, using user-generated content to help travelers decide which hotels to book.

After reportedly burning through 85 million pounds ($169.58 million) of investor capital in 18 months, Boo.com went into liquidation after failing to raise about $40 million for a restructuring plan. The old Boo was hobbled by usability issues that alienated its customer base.

The domain was purchased in December 2005 by Web Reservations International, an online travel reservations company.

The site took longer than expected to relaunch, as it involved integrating search, travel content aggregators such as Expedia, customer review and social-networking functionalities, according to Feargal Mooney, Boo's chief operating officer. The site has been built on existing WRI technology infrastructure using PHP and Ajax. The old infrastructure was sold when the company went into liquidation.

Mooney said the goal of mitigating potential negative associations with the Boo name also slowed down the site relaunch process.

"Given the history of the old Boo, we wanted to get it out there that things work well," Mooney said. "We didn't want to have to pull (the site) down five minutes after launching it. The techie space will remember, but the general public will not remember that much."

To investors, Mooney added, Boo is the "anti-Boo"; WRI started working on the site with less than $275,000.

"Every shareholder in the company has got back their investment, we're giving money back, and they're still holding a chunk," Mooney said. "We won't rely on venture capitalists giving us money to burn--the contrast with the old Boo couldn't be more striking."

Mooney remains unconcerned that Web 2.0 technology companies might suffer the same fate as happened to many online companies in the year 2000 frenzy.

"I think a lot of people are jumping up and down about Web 2.0--it has been hyped," he commented. "But the core of user-generated content--what it comes down to is that a lot of companies that are jumping on the Web 2.0 bandwagon are not going to succeed, but companies built on more solid foundations will continue doing well."

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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