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TUAW Joins iLounge as an AI-Powered Zombie Site 

On Mastodon, Christina Warren revealed that The Unofficial Apple Weblog, better known as TUAW, has been reanimated after being defunct for a decade. There’s nothing inherently wrong about buying a domain name and reviving a website, but the new owners, Web Orange Limited, kept the names of the original writers alongside AI-generated photos and bios and atop what seem to be AI-rewritten articles from the TUAW archives. In response to a complaint from Warren and the public outcry, Web Orange Limited changed the names, though in at least one case merely by changing a first name, turning well-known developer Brett Terpstra into zombie Paul Terpstra (no, not that Paul Terpstra).

TUAW author page for Brett/Paul Terpstra

In fact, the entire TUAW site seems to be powered by AI. Web Orange Limited says on the About Us page that it acquired TUAW “without its original content” but notes:

With a commitment to revitalize its legacy, the new team at Web Orange Limited meticulously rewrote the content from archived versions available on, ensuring the preservation of TUAW’s rich history while updating it to meet modern standards and relevance.

Christina Warren said AOL shuttered TUAW in 2015 and moved the archives to Engadget, breaking all the URLs. I suspect Web Orange Limited used a spider to crawl all old TUAW URLs on the Wayback Machine, had an AI tool “meticulously rewrite” those articles, and posted them on the new site. That would explain how we get Steve Sande’s favorite apps article from 2014 written by “Jeffrey Adams” but still using the first person. Compare against the original on the Engadget site.

TUAW copying Steve Sande post

TUAW was prolific, so there are thousands of articles going back to the site’s founding in 2004. When I checked out the oldest pages, I quickly found some places where the system broke down, linking modern headlines with ancient content and revealing what looks like generative AI behind the curtain.

TUAW bad post headlines

Why do this? There are a lot of old TUAW URLs floating around on the Web. They didn’t resolve a week ago, but they do now, and their content will often pass the average Web surfer’s sniff test. Having content on the other side of all those old URLs will help the overall SEO ranking for the TUAW site, thus increasing the chance Google will return TUAW pages for searches and cause people to see ads.

To that end, Web Orange Limited hasn’t restricted itself to resurrecting obsolete content. With a quick jump from 2015 to 2024, current articles have started to appear on the site. Curious as to their provenance, I fed the headlines of several articles to Google, and in many cases, one of the top hits was a MacRumors article. As you can see below, the TUAW article appears to be based on the MacRumors piece.

TUAW copying MacRumors

So much for that whole “editorial integrity” thing from the TUAW About Us page.

TUAW editorial integrity statement

So what is Web Orange Limited, anyway? The company is incorporated in Hong Kong, and its website says that it is an online advertising agency. Although it claims big-name clients such as Avast, Adobe, and ExpressVPN, the site leads with “Our Brands,” listing long-time Apple site iLounge alongside others with which I was unfamiliar. Web Orange Limited says its sites collectively attract over 10 million readers per month. We linked to various iLounge articles between 2005 and 2010, but my sense has been that the site has gone downhill in the past few years.

Web Orange Limited brands

I wasn’t wrong. In January 2019, iLounge founder Dennis Lloyd sold iLounge to Web Orange Limited. That sale included all the content, so many iLounge URLs continue to resolve to their original articles. Others redirect to unrelated articles dated after the 2019 acquisition.

Given that generative AI became widely accessible starting in 2023, the iLounge articles between 2019 and 2023 must have been created another way. Summarization tools have existed for many years, including the Summarize service in macOS, so iLounge could have used such a tool or hired people to recast text. This 2021 article about the “Lessons in Chemistry” Apple TV+ show looks suspiciously similar to another MacRumors article.

iLounge copying MacRumors

With the exception of zShare, which I couldn’t track down, all the other sites listed as brands on Web Orange Limited’s site are now nothing but random, seemingly AI-generated posts. Of these, Metapress, Tapscape, and The Hack Post were been digital content publishing companies; was an Austrian social networking and microblogging site; Ziddu did something with warehousing and blockchain; and I couldn’t dig up any background on IMC Grupo.

Metapress zombie site

What should we take away from this situation?

  • Avoid TUAW and iLounge: Both sites would appear to be scams designed to exploit other people’s work to generate ad impressions. Content from before 2019 on iLounge is still real, but everything else at both sites is suspect.
  • MacRumors may want to fire up its lawyers: It’s unclear if what Web Orange Limited is doing violates copyright, but given the pattern of behavior and the use of original art alongside rewritten text, at least a warning letter may be worthwhile.
  • Generative AI is complicit but not responsible: It’s tempting to blame AI for this, but remember that iLounge has been posting rewritten content since 2019, well before ChatGPT appeared. Generative AI deserves neither all the hype nor opprobrium it receives.
  • Google and other search engines are on the hook: This scam works only because TUAW and iLounge had decent reputations, both with the Apple community and in Google’s search rankings. AI slop, if that’s what this is, isn’t necessarily worse than human-generated plagiarism, but it can be generated at an unprecedented scale. It’s up to Google and other search engines to detect such sites and ensure they don’t bubble up to the top of search result pages.
  • Stick to trusted sources: Although search engines will always play a role in discovering Web resources and many people will continue to click random links fed to them by social media algorithms designed to increase engagement, I believe the best strategy to avoid AI slop and human-created crud (see Sturgeon’s Law) is to focus on trusted sources. Reject the algorithms and get your information from reputable publications, well-known individuals, and recommendations from either.

In the end, situations like this are just depressing because everyone other than the scammer suffers. Readers receive poor information, publications and authors lose traffic, and search engine reputations are damaged.

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Comments About TUAW Joins iLounge as an AI-Powered Zombie Site 

Notable Replies

  1. I don’t understand how this site isn’t considered flat-out brazen piracy.

    If AOL/Engadget’s lawyers need something to do, I think they now have a target they can and should sue into oblivion.

  2. Wow, thanks for that headline. I went to iLounge a few months ago and wondered what the hell happened. The content was incoherent and mostly pushed me through a bunch of reviews of cheap plastic crap. I used to go to that site all the time, I trusted their reviews.

    A friend of mine is in a disaster due to a stupid domain name problem. She let a domain name lapse, it got snapped up by a domain squatter in Singapore. They want like $3k to sell it back. I told her, think real hard about a new domain. She said, “I can’t, that’s the title of the book I’m writing!” And she is horrified because the domain squatter loaded the fake page with porn ads. I don’t know what to tell her. I figure with scumbags like that, first they ask $3k and then they want $10k, so think a lot harder about a new title and domain.

  3. Your conclusion that the situation is depressing is exactly what I felt reading the article. Things are changing - and not always for the better. I’m going to let people know about your article.

  4. Yeah, the same thing happened to me.

    I kept a 5-day a week blog for 5 years to support my business writing consultancy. When I decided to fully retired I took the site down and let the domain eventually lapse.

    I then discovered that someone had picked up the domain AND had scraped most of the daily content. Worse, they took my final post announcing my retirement and put words in my mouth recommending a paper mill.

    I tried getting it taken down, but eventually gave up. It’s still out there.

  5. Can you get law enforcement involved? If the site is claiming to be you, then that sounds like identity theft.

  6. I tried - couldn’t get any interest or help, even with a DCMA takedown notice.

  7. That’s horrible—sorry! I’m not surprised law enforcement wasn’t interested, sadly, since I’m sure they see it as a relatively victimless crime compared to many others.

    That said, you can sue anyone for anything, so that would offer some recourse. Probably not worth the expense, unfortunately, but maybe a threat would be enough?

  8. Everything that you published is copyrighted and you still own the copyrights even if you no longer control the domain where you published it. The copyrights stay with the author, not the domain.

  9. I don’t use Google for searches anymore. I don’t want to support their rapacious marketing.

    Currently using DuckDuckGo, but I welcome other suggestions from the knowledgeable readers here.

  10. I’m with you, Colleen. DuckDuckGo is my default, even though they are utilizing Bing technology.

    Not sure this is helpful, but Search Engine Journal did a story on 23 non-Google search options in Feb. Many are specifically tailored for certain kinds of topics but you may find something interesting.

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