goatse.cx (/ˈɡts dɒt ˌs ˈɛks/ GOAT-see-dot-see-EKS or /ˈɡt.sɛks/; "goat sex"), often referred to simply as "Goatse", was originally an Internet shock site. Its front page featured a picture, entitled hello.jpg, showing a naked man stretching his anus with both hands, to approximately the width of his fist. The inside of his rectum is also clearly visible. Below his anus, his erect penis and scrotum are visible, as well as a golden wedding ring on the ring finger of his left hand.

This site became a notorious surprise image which became widespread becoming an Internet meme, and was—and, through external mirror sites, still is—used regularly for bait-and-switch pranks, preventing hot-linking in a hostile manner, and defacing websites, in order to provoke extreme reactions. Even though the image from the site was taken down in 2004, mirror websites are widespread throughout the Internet. The site has changed owners, and was set to be used to host email addresses, which never materialized.

Website

goatse.cx had four sections, two of which had images noted for their shock value.[2]

  • "Receiver", the main index page, contained the titular hello.jpg image. The image, originally named gap3.jpg, originates from a set of 40 images called gap.zip, showing a man using dildos and butt plugs to stretch his anus. The 40 images including the main hello.jpg image were "located by the Stile Project" and were available from the "Contrib" section of the goatse.cx website.[3]
  • "Giver", a photo-edited photograph of a man reclining on a boat with a gargantuan penis reaching up to his chest, suggesting that the man in the first image is stretching his anus to accommodate the giant penis.
  • A Feedback page containing user emails.
  • The "Contrib" page, a collection of homages and parodies of the Goatse images sent in by users.[5]

The index page also contains a disclaimer about the content ("...if you are under the age of 18 or find this photograph offensive, please don't look at it. Thank you!") and a disclaimer warning about unofficial goatse.cx merchandise, re-assuring that official goatse.cx merchandise would be made available.[6] Newer versions of the site had links to dolphinsex.org and urinalpoop.org, while older versions linked to biganal.com.[7]

Domain suspension and sale of domain name

On January 14, 2004, the domain name goatse.cx was suspended[9] by Christmas Island Internet Administration for Acceptable Use Policy violations in response to a complaint,[10] but many mirrors of the site are still available,[11] remaining on display on many other websites. A Christmas Island resident named Rhonda Clarke filed the complaint that resulted in the suspension of goatse.cx's domain name.[2]

In January 2007, the Christmas Island Internet Administration put the domain goatse.cx back into the available domain pool. The domain was subsequently registered on January 16 through domain registrar Variomedia,[12] and the registrant tried to auction the right to use the domain.

An early attempt to offer the domain for sale by SEOBidding placed the reserve at $120, which was not met.[14]

The goatse.cx domain name was reportedly sold at an auction on April 30, 2007 to an unknown bidder. According to SEOBidding.com, the first auction ended with fake bids so the auction was reactivated.[15] This was again won by fake bidders, so in July SEOBidding.com announced that the website would be sold for $500,000 and that legal action would be pursued against the fake bidders.[16] On November 25, 2007, and continuing as of June 2010, the site was still for sale, listed as: "goatse.cx Asking: $50200 minimum".

The October 21, 2009 edition of the Rick Latona "Daily Domains" newsletter advertised the goatse.cx domain for sale at an asking price of $15,000, noting it as being a "famous site, [with] tons of backlinks".

As of May 16, 2010, the site was once again active, containing an announcement stating:

"goatse.cx 'Stinger' 2.0 Beta is coming
Only 24 days to go until Goatse Stinger 2.0 goes beta on May 9, 2010!"

The page showed a stylized representation of hello.jpg, which featured a pair of silver robotic hands 'stretching' a metallic, circular wall aperture in what appears to be a futuristic factory setting. Later in May, a new page was hosted at goatse.cx, for the stated purpose of offering email service at the site, featuring a sketch with hands spreading wide a view onto a mailing envelope.[17]

In July 2011, goatse.cx remained unchanged while www.goatse.cx began redirecting to a Web Hosting company.[18]

Email provider

As of November 2012, it was announced that the goatse.cx domain had been acquired by a new owner, who was advertising a forthcoming webmail service that use to give users access to goatse.cx email addresses.[19]

Goatse Coin

As of January 2014, goatse.cx has been preparing to launch its own cryptocurrency, the "Goatse Coin". As of August 2014, the site shows a YouTube video promoting dogecoin.

Subdomains

The site is currently allowing email sign-ups to create subdomains.

Reception and parodies

Because many Internet users have been tricked into viewing the site or a mirror of the site at one time or another,[21] it has become an Internet meme.[2] On November 24, 2000, the Goatse "giver" and "receiver" images were posted to the official online Oprah Winfrey Message Boards in the Soul Stories board. Trystan T. Cotten and Kimberly Springer, authors of Stories of Oprah: the Oprahfication of American Culture, said that this "seemingly considerable male intrusion drove many of the women elsewhere, and the board was retired shortly afterwards".[22] Slashdot altered its threaded discussion forum display software because "users made a sport out of tricking unsuspecting readers into visiting [goatse.cx]".[23] The Los Angeles Times Wikitorial was introduced on June 17, 2005, to be a publicly accessible method of directly responding to the paper's editorials; Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales had consulted on the project, and on its first day contributed a "forking" of the page to accommodate opposing opinions.[24] Prior to the feature's introduction, L.A. Times editorial and opinion editor Michael Kinsley stated that "Wikitorials may be one of those things that within six months will be standard. It's the ultimate in reader participation".[3] The wiki was closed two days later on June 19, 2005, because, The Guardian reported, "explicit images known as Goatses appeared on [it]".[24]

The practice of using goatse.cx as a "fake" link to shock friends became popular, according to ROFLcon organizer Tim Hwang in an interview on NPR, because

"it's ... the spectacle of the thing, right? You really want to be there when the person is seeing it. To the extent that there's all these sites online of sort of people taking pictures of their friends and showing them Goatse..." [In photos online,] "It's like thousands and thousands of people looking really shocked or disgusted. It's really great."[3]

The goatse.cx image has been used by website authors to discourage other sites from hot-linking to them. By replacing the hot-linked image with an embarrassing image when hot-linking has been discovered, an unsubtle message is sent to the offending website's operators, visible to all who view the web page in question.[3] In 2007, Wired.com hot-linked to another site in an article about the "sexiest geeks of 2007"; the site subsequently swapped the hot-linked image with one from goatse.cx.[3]

Images on the site such as hello.jpg and others have become subjects of parodies, mirrors, and tributes.[29]

Following Hurricane Charley in August 2004, a photograph purporting to show "the hands of God" in the cloud formations in the aftermath of the disaster circulated via email. The image was eventually proven to be a parody, the clouds having been photo-manipulated to include hands, as in the hello.jpg image.[3]

Disc images supposedly containing a leaked Mac OS X build, OSx86, which could run on standard "x86 architecture" computers, were distributed during 2005 on BitTorrent filesharing networks. But rather than load the expected Mac OS, the discs reportedly displayed the Goatse image when booted.[31]

In The Long Tail (2008) Chris Anderson wrote that goatse.cx is well-known only to a relatively small Internet-using "subcultural tribe" who reference it as a "shared context joke" or "secret membership code." Anderson cited a photo accompanying an "otherwise innocuous article" about Google in the June 2, 2005 The New York Times, in which Anil Dash wore a T-shirt emblazoned with stylized hands stretching out the word "Goatse".[3][5][5]

In June 2007, a proposed sketch of the 2012 Summer Olympics logo appeared on the BBC News 24 broadcast and website[36][38][39] as one of the 12 best viewer-submitted alternatives to the official logo. In it, two hands stretched the "0" wide in "2012", as the submitter wrote, "to reveal the Olympics".[36] The sketch was later shown as part of a gallery of viewers logos on BBC London News and BBC News 24, and was subsequently removed from the website. The editor of the BBC News website acknowledged the mistake in his blog, saying his team "simply didn’t spot it".[40]

In June 2010, a group of computer experts known as Goatse Security exposed a flaw in AT&T's security which allowed the e-mail addresses of iPad users to be revealed.[41][42] A member of the group was interviewed by the media and discussed the group's name, among other things.[43] The group uses a stylized cartoon of the cropped goatse.cx image as their logo and has the motto "Gaping Holes Exposed".[44]

In April 2011 an Audi billboard campaign was multiply reported as showing an image similar to the Goatse image. One article author asks, "unintentionally hilarious or intentionally evil?"[6][6]

The Register reported that Scottish TV News, while reporting on a hacking incident, unintentionally broadcast a link to Goatse images while showing the LulzSec Twitter feed on the victim site, which read, "For anyone that doesn't know what goatse is, check it out here, it's really eye-opening: [link]".[6]

In May 2015 pranksters displayed Goatse on a digital billboard in Buckhead, Atlanta.[6]

Pranksters placed ASCII Goatses on the PGP keys of Facebook and Adrian Lamo.[6]

Goatse in US jurisprudence

On 20 September 2013, the United States Department of Justice filed a response brief[6] in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in United States v. Auernheimer, an appeal in a criminal case from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, which involved the access of AT&T customers' email addresses by Goatse Security.[6] The brief explains on page three that "The firm’s name is a reference to a notoriously obscene internet shock site" and includes a footnote which reads "For a more graphic description, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goatse." The fact that a brief filed in a U.S. federal appellate court linked to a page about Goatse, even if only a Wikipedia article, caused a stir on social media.[6][6]