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From Perez Hilton to Billie Eilish, today, we’re surrounded by people who have used the Internet to become a celebrity. But where did it all start? Who was the first person that the Internet made famous? Here’s the story of Mahir Cagri and how his “I Kiss You” home page in 1999 made him the world’s first Internet celebrity.
Personal profile pages have existed on the Internet for a long time. But before LinkedIn, MySpace and Facebook, Internet users had to create free “home pages” on portal sites like TriPod and XOOM. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, countless home pages were created detailing people’s hobbies, interests and lifestyles. These pages were mostly forgettable, but a few stood out.
One of the most popular homepages of all time was created in November 1999 by a guy named Mahir Cagri from Izmir, Turkey. His XOOM page innocently listed his hobbies and interests, but the combination of goofy photos and entertaining broken English made it an instant hit on the Internet. Mahir’s XOOM profile slowly grew in popularity, and then started generating millions of page views.
Here’s the story behind Mahir’s “I Kiss You” home page and how it became one of the first pieces of digital content ever to go globally viral on the Internet.
The “I Kiss You” Home Page
When you first arrive at Mahir’s home page, the header text excitedly says in all caps, “WELCOME TO MY HOME PAGE !!!!!!!!! I KISS YOU !!!!!” This is why Mahir’s home page is commonly called the “I Kiss You” site by Internet users.
As you scroll down the page, there are several photos of Mahir doing things like playing Ping-Pong, showing off his accordion skills, and even tanning at the beach in a Speedo bathing suit.
Mahir Cagri’s photos alone were entertaining enough. At first glance, you might have thought they were taken in the 1960s, not 1990s.
Then scattered in between his photos were several passages of text entertainingly written in broken English. The text lists his hobbies and interests, including travel, music, sex, and even photographing nude models, his height and weight, and a humble brag about living alone and owning a car.
Then at the bottom of the page, Mahir includes his phone number and an invitation for a “she” to come stay with him. He probably didn’t realize it at the time, but Mahir had just created one of the Internet’s first online dating profiles.
Mahir Cagri’s Original “I Kiss You” Home Page
All the original XOOM pages were deleted years ago. The company was dissolved shortly soon after being purchased NBC.
However, MethodShop was launched in 1996, and we loved Mahir’s home page so much that we took screenshots and even saved as archive of it!!! Here’s a complete archive of Mahir Cagri’s original XOOM home page from November 1999. Enjoy!
This is my page …….
WELCOME TO MY HOME PAGE !!!!!!!!!
I KISS YOU !!!!!
I like music , I have many many musicenstrumans my home I can play
I like sport , swiming , basketball ,tenis , volayball , walk ………
I like sex
I like travel I go 3-4 country every year
I went , Germany , Nederland , Belgium , Austria , Denmark, Sweden , Hungary
Moldovia , Ukraina , Bulgaria , Romania , Macedonia ,Azerbaijan , Georrgia , Iran …..
My profession jurnalist , music and sport teacher , I makepsycolojy doctora
I like to take foto-camera (amimals , towns , nice nude models andpeoples)…..
My tall 1.84 cm (6.2 feet) My weight 78 kg.
My eyes green .. I live alone !!!!!!!!!
I have home – car ………
I like to be friendship from different country ..
I live in TURKEY -town IZMIR …( 4 million peoples – near the sea – old history)…
Who is want to come TURKEY I can invitate …..
She can stay my home ……..
I speake turkish , english , rusian , I want to learn otherlanguage !
mobil tel: ++ 90 532 31235 50
NERD NOTE: XOOM was acquired by NBC in May 1999 and combined with NBC’s other Internet ventures including Snap.com. XOOM was originally founded by Chris Kitze in September 1996.
The “I Kiss You Home Page” Goes Viral
Mahir Cagri’s page was hilarious, and most early web users couldn’t help but email the link to their entire address book. After all, before the days of social media, your inbox was how things were shared. Word quickly spread about Mahir’s “I Kiss You” website. Much to Mahir’s amazement, the page grew in popularity every day, attracting web traffic from all over the world.
At the time, most websites included “hit counters,” small GIF images that publically displayed their page views. Back then, most personal websites rarely generated more than a few hundred views. At its peak, Mahir’s home page was generating over 300,000 views per day. Sure the Hamsterdance and dancing baby meme were popular at the time in the United States, but with millions of page views, Mahir’s home page was one of the first things on the Internet to go globally viral.
Mahir’s “I Kiss You” Home Page Gets Mainstream Attention
It didn’t take long for members of the mainstream media to take notice. Because Mahir was the first person to achieve global fame from a personal website, news organizations like The New York Times and Salon.com were quick to interview him. Mahir even made the Forbes Power 100 list in the year 2000. The resulting publicity only helped fuel his viral popularity and increase the global traffic to his website.
And Mahir’s fame wasn’t just a flash in the pan either. In 2005, six years after he first published his home page, “I Kiss You” was ranked #2 on CNET’s list of Top 10 Web Fads. And in 2006, The site was also included in PC World‘s “The 25 Worst Websites” list.
Mahir vs Borat
Just when Mahir’s stardom was starting to fade, he got another surge of popularity thanks (no thanks) to Sacha Baron Cohen‘s character, Borat. Mahir describes himself as a nice and easy-going guy, but he does not like Borat. Mahir feels that Sacha Baron Cohen’s character is an unauthorized copy him. Everything from his mustache and his fashion style, to his love of sex has been stolen and integrated into the Borat character.
To make matters worse, Mahir is often compared to, or worse, even called Borat. He would have given permission to Sacha Baron Cohen to use his likeness for the Borat character, but Mahir says that he was never approached. Between 2006 and 2009, Mahir made a case against Sacha Baren Cohen and sued him. However, in the end, Mahir lost.
Life As An Internet Celebrity In The Early Days Of The Word Wide Web
Mahir was one of the first average citizens to achieve professional success as a direct result of something he posted on the Internet. His popularity was so great that he was able to briefly take a break from his day job as a journalist and earn a living as a full-time Internet celebrity. Fan clubs, corporations and anyone with enough money to cover his travel expenses, booked Mahir for personal appearances.
In the years that followed, people like Tron Guy, Star Wars Kid, and Chocolate Rain Guy would follow in Mahir’s footsteps and earn celebrity from their activities on the Internet. At one point, Internet celebrities even had their own convention called ROTFLcon and were featured in a music video by Weezer.
Fast-forward to today, and we are surrounded by Internet celebrities. It’s no longer a fad or a joke. Some social influencers and Internet celebrities make millions of dollars by posting photos on Instagram, videos on YouTube, or streaming on Twitch.
What Is Mahir Cagri Doing Now?
But alas, all good things must come to an end. Today, Mahir Cagri is no longer making a living as an Internet celebrity. Mahir’s Internet fame lasted for many years, but it eventually ran out.
Mahir’s fame even outlived XOOM, the now defunct site that originally hosted his personal home page. After XOOM, Mahir moved his site to ikissyou.org where he detailed his life as an Internet celebrity. Now that his fame is over, Mahir has gone back to his journalism roots and uses the site to post articles for his Turkish readers. Please visit his site if you get a chance, and use Google Translate if necessary.
Frank Wilson is a retired teacher with over 30 years of combined experience in the education, small business technology, and real estate business. He now blogs as a hobby and spends most days tinkering with old computers. Wilson is passionate about tech, enjoys fishing, and loves drinking beer.