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Snopes is an online repository of urban legends and folklore and a community that researches the history behind them, proving them true or false.
The site’s name Snopes is derived from the newsgroup handle of one of its creators, David Mikkelson, who used it as early as 1993. It is taken from the last name of a family that appears in three of William Faulker’s novels. As a key contributor to the Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.urban in the 1990s, Mikkelson began building a reputation for his ways with researching urban legends.
After connecting with another alt.folklore.urban poster named Barbara in 1994, the two got married and began running Snopes in 1995. While neither of them were researchers by trade, they were able to make the site a full-time job. Snopes was originally hosted on SimpleNet before moving to Snopes.com in 1997. As of 2009, the Mikkelsons continue to work on the site from their California home offices with their five cats.
The site received attention from the mainstream press for the first time by the Los Angeles Times in October 1997, followed by the Seattle Times and the Chicago Tribune in the 1990s. Throughout the 2000s, Snopes has been featured on NPR, CNN, Salon, ABC News, BBC News, The Guardian, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. In 2007, Snopes won a Webby Award in the “Weird” category. Academic folklorists including Jan Harold Brunvard and Patricia Turner have both praised the site and the Mikkelsons’ work. Though the couple has been approached with book deals, they have chosen to stay online only. As of July 2012, Snopes has 21,240 fans on Facebook and 56,937 followers on Twitter.
As early as August 2003, Snopes was accused of having a left-leaning political bias. A post on the conservative site Free Republic noted that Snopes disproved that those planning the 9/11 attacks registeresd several domain names before the event. The 17 domains listed were registered up to 15 months prior to the attacks, but none of them were specific to that attack. The names, including attackontwintowers.com, pearlharborinmanhattan.com and worldtradetowerstrike.com, were vague enough to have been applied to the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center or any other horrific event in New York.
This perceived bias was reinforced in October 2008 with a chain email that claimed the site was backing Barack Obama and covering up for him while approving lies about Senator McCain and Sarah Palin. This led to a full investigation by non-partisan site FactCheck.org in April 2009, which noted that Barbara is a Canadian citizen and therefore cannot vote, while David has no political affiliation. The following year, another rumor that the Mikkelsons and the site were funded by leftist billionaires began to circulate on personal blogs, the Ron Paul forums, and Free Republic.
As of July 2012, Snopes has a Quantcast rank of 268, a Compete score of 406 and a global Alexa rank of 2471. In 2004, the site was getting 150,000 visitors per day, costing between $2000-3000 a month to run. By 2010, the site was receiving an average of 300,000 visitors a day.
The site divides the urban legends into 43 categories, ranging through science, email, old wives tales, and Coke products. There is also a top 25 Urban Legends list that updates each day with the most circulated entries, as measured by page views, search traffic, email responses and news media coverage. There is also an active message board where fans can discuss urban legends and submit their own.
Seattle Times – Site-Seeing -- ‘’The Urban Legends Reference Pages’’