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Capitalism is a real bitch.

SmarterChild was taken offline for several months around 07.12.02, but as of 04.07.03 he was reconnected to the AIM servers. As my buddy alert notified me of his mysterious reappearance, there was much rejoicing. "Hooray! SmarterChild has returned!"

well, at least, until we checked out the webpage. My initial message to smarterchild came back as a "service is overloaded" or something similar. About 12,000 people were trying to use him at once within a minute of him being back online. Looking at the webpage (www.smarterchild.com) I noticed a new catch:

ladies and gentlemen, SmarterChild is now a paid online service.

For $9.99 USD a year, you can use him to look up words, play "connect 4" and coerce him (/it?) into nasty, doubly-cyberfied sex. To be honest, though, the price *is* fairly reasonable. It could have been a monthly charge. In fact, i just might buy it. But it's still sad, really. Paying for SmarterChild kills off a big part of the novelty for me. The fact that Activebuddy.com was in buisness making helpful AND free online services that had a very useful educational as well as entertaining purpose made me feel a little better about our future as a technologically advancing society. They represented a mysterious type of internet company altruism, an idea which is now dead to me. They've given that gig up to become just another internet-based company hungry for the mad 1337 profits. Sure, i might pay for SmarterChild. But it just won't be as much fun anymore.

they are, however, giving away free one-month trials to everyone. All you have to do is Instant Message him and he'll ask you for some basic information (name, school, etc). Being as i don't think AIM scans for your IP Address, it's highly likely that you can just get more screen names for more trials, though i haven't tested it yet.