Hundreds, if not thousands of websites went dark Wednesday (some more literally than others) protesting the SOPA and PIPA bills that, if enacted by Congress, might have the potential to disrupt the entire infrastructure of the Internet and usher in a firewall of government scrutiny. The potential regulations could stymie innovation, kill creativity, and they would give a limited amount of protection to the folks (i.e. Hollywood) they seek to protect anyway.
Plenty of websites shut down, or put up artful mock-censorship banners to protest. But let's be real. The protest isn't quite a protest. There were no rallies, no mace being sprayed. This wasn't Occupy Wall Street. For some companies, the opportunity to blackout—or create the visual effect of a blackout—was simply a favorable branding opportunity, answering the question: What can make us look cool?
So, here's a look at nine of Inc.com's favorite sites spreading SOPA awareness, from the big guys (e.g. Wired, Google) to sites you've probably never heard of (e.g. 941 Media). Let's count 'em down. (And let us know which of these you think is the best—or the most effective protest—below.)
Scroll across the screen for a flashlight-like effect. Greenpeace, by the way, has the same design.
A Softer World, a weekly webcomic and a collection of subversive resumes founded by Joey Comeau and Emily Horne, went with the fashionable all-black look.
Protesting can be fun. Here's Minecraft, a sandbox-building independent video game created by Markus Persson, with the not-so-astute-but-kinda-cute play on words.
Google, which did not officially black out its sites (this article could not have been completed without its help) opted for the minimalist look of a "censored block" over its logo.
This pop-up parody site of the White House re-directs to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The site's owner, who remains anonymous, notes "No animals were harmed while making this website (except maybe that one time when I was a little late feeding my dog his dinner)."
The Tao of Pooh society, a fan club for Benjamin Hoff's 1983 classic, decided that if you're going to intentionally send users to a 404 Error Page, why not go at it with some flair?
As everyone knows, the Internet revolves around kittens. Matthew Inman, founder of the The Oatmeal, created this animated .gif, which claims that using SOPA and PIPA to fight pirated material is like blowing up kittens to catch a lion that has escaped from a zoo. Seriously.
We're not really sure what 941Media is—or what they do, honestly—but, well, this ode to anti-SOPA sentiment is just plain funny.
Classy and to the point, Wired.com takes the cake for the most aesthetically pleasing "blackout," without, of course, suffering any loss of ad revenue for the day for actually blacking out.
What other sites are doing blackout day in style? Are any doing something you consider a truly effective protest?