The 10 dumbest tech moves of 2009

What do Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and AT&T have in common? They're all winners of Cringely's awards for bringing low comedy to high tech

It's that time of year again -- time to look back and offer my 2009 awards for the most malicious, obnoxious, offensive, or nonsensical behavior in technology. The 10 winners this year include some of the best-known companies on the planet, as well as some obscure but worthy candidates.

This year's Moonie awards come with a special commemorative statuette depicting Steve Ballmer and Carol Bartz making the search engine with two backs.

[ See which products make Cringely's list of "The biggest tech turkeys of 2009." | And stay up to date on all Robert X. Cringely's musings and observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

Without further ado, here are the 2009 winners. I can't imagine a more deserving bunch.

1. War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength award: Goes to Jeff Bezos and the crew at Amazon, after they reached out and deleted copies of "1984" and "Animal Farm" from customers' Kindles. Apparently, they also deleted the entry for “irony” from the Kindle's built-in dictionary.

2. The "I'm not a laywer, I just play one on TV" award: Goes to Charles Nesson, a Harvard Law professor who advised his client, admitted file swapper Joel Tenenbaum, to admit he swapped files on the stand -- whereupon the judge declared him guilty, ultimately costing Joel $675,000 in damages. We really liked the bit where Nesson crumbled up styrofoam to show how MP3 files get broken into bits and distributed across the Net. We hear he'd have used paper and scissors, only he's not allowed to handle sharp instruments.

3. Surest sign the apocalypse is upon us (No. 27 in a series) award: Goes to Hollywood production companies Revielle and Brillstein Entertainment, which came up with an idea for a reality TV series based on Twitter. Because this is apparently what reality TV really needs: updates about people's cats.

4. Best use of vomit as a promotional tool award: Goes to Microsoft, for its ever-so-charming TV ad for Internet Explorer 8's InPrivate browsing feature, in which a woman accidentally sees what sites her husband has been visiting and immediately begins projectile vomiting all over the kitchen. Interestingly, that's also how most Microsoft products make me feel.

5. Epic failures in punctuation award: Is a tie between the country of Sweden and Google. Back in October, Sweden's 9 million residents were booted off the Net when a piece of DNS-updating software left out a period before the country's domain name (.se), causing all sites using that domain to go dark for about 90 minutes. Similarly, for about 40 minutes last Jan. 31, anyone clicking on any Google search result got a “Warning! This site might harm your computer” message. The culprit? Some employee updating Google's StopBadware database accidentally added the URL “/” to the list of dangerous sites -- which in IP-speak means “all sites.” In other words, a single slash can bring the Net to its knees. See, your English teacher always told you punctuation was important.

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