LONGMONT, CO—The Information Age was dealt a stunning blow Monday, when a factual error was discovered on the Internet. The error was found on TedsUltimateBradyBunch.com, a Brady Bunch fan site that incorrectly listed the show's debut year as 1968, not 1969.
Caryn Wisniewski, a Pueblo, CO, legal secretary and diehard Brady Bunch fan, came across the mistake while searching for information about the show's first-season cast.
"When I first saw 1968 on the web page, I thought, 'Wow, apparently, all those Brady Bunch books I've read listing 1969 as the show's first year were wrong,'" Wisniewski told reporters at a press conference. "But even though I obviously trusted the Internet, I was still kind of puzzled. So I checked other Brady Bunch fan sites, and all of them said 1969. After a while, it slowly began to sink in that the World Wide Web might be tainted with unreliable information."
Following up on her suspicion, Wisniewski phoned her public library, the ABC television network, and the office of Brady Bunch producer Sherwood Schwartz—all of whom confirmed that "Ted's Ultimate Brady Bunch Site" was in error.
Attempts to contact the webmaster of "Ted's Ultimate Brady Bunch Site," identified as Ted Crewes of Naugatuck, CT, were unsuccessful. The page has been taken offline by its host, Cheaphost.net, which released a statement Tuesday.
"We at Cheaphost were deeply saddened and disturbed to learn that one of the millions of pages we host contained a factual discrepancy," the web-posted statement read. "Please be assured that we are doing everything within our power to ensure that nothing of the sort happens again. We will not rest until the Internet's once-sterling reputation as the world's leading source for 100 percent reliable information is restored."
Paul Boutin, senior editor of Wired, said the error is likely to have a profound effect on how the Internet is perceived.
"Will we ever fully trust the Web again?" Boutin asked. "We may well be witnessing the dawn of a new era of skepticism in which we no longer accept everything we read online at face value. But regardless of what the future holds, one thing is clear: The Internet's status as the world's definitive repository of incontrovertible fact has been jeopardized."
Peter Luyck, 30, a Dallas-area graphic designer and frequent Internet user, was crestfallen.
"If it happens once, it can happen again," Luyck said. "I shudder to think that, one dark day in the future, misinformation could again make its way online. In fact, it may already have. How do we know that trusted sites like the Drudge Report and Fucked Company are as accurate as we instinctively trust them to be? Can we blindly trust that SpideyRulez.com is correct in its reportage that the upcoming Spider-Man sequel will feature Christopher Walken as Dr. Octopus? Pandora is out of the box."
Though the Brady Bunch error is the first confirmed instance of false information on the Internet, scares have occurred in the past. In 1998, an e-mail sent to a woman in Warner Robins, GA, made an unverifiable claim that she could earn thousands of dollars from an initial $5 investment. The claim was never conclusively proven false, and no charges were filed.