LONDON - A Web site lampooning the United States' inability to locate weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has become one of the biggest hits on the Internet.
The site, which is designed to look like a genuine error message -- replete with "bomb" icon -- is the top result when "weapons of mass destruction" is entered into one of the Web's top search engines, http://www.google.com.
And despite being five months old -- a real veteran by Internet standards, the site is more popular than ever and is attracting over a million hits a week.
Linking to the page from Google yields the message "These Weapons of Mass Destruction cannot be displayed," and suggests that the country might be experiencing technical difficulties.
Because it looks like an authentic error message, many Internet users were under the impression Google had been hacked.
But despite its alarming appearance, the page is a harmless, regular Web Site, authored by one Anthony Cox, a 34-year-old pharmacist from Birmingham, England.
"It started off as a private joke for a few friends," Cox told Reuters on Friday. "Then it got passed on. People emailed it around and it ended up a few mailing lists. It went off and created its own life."
Cox said he created the site in February before the Iraq war when the debate about alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction first arose. With the war over and such weapons as elusive as ever, Cox's site has enjoyed new-found popularity.
He said the site clocked more than a million visits this week, more than in the past three months combined.
Cox, who said he was not opposed to the U.S.-led war on Iraq, included several links in his message. "Click the bomb button if you are Donald Rumsfeld," read one.
Doing so leads to a page on Internet book, music and video seller Amazon.co.uk offering a DVD version of the classic 1963 anti-war film "Doctor Strangelove."
Cox has also concocted a similar gag about The New York Times, which was recently hit by a scandal over plagiarized news stories.
The New York Times spoof page, also designed to look like an error message, contains an "Invent story" link that leads to an article about Jayson Blair, the Times reporter at the center of the scandal.
Additional reporting by Douglas Hamilton in Belgrade
Copyright 2003 AFP