The Player’s Ball: A Genius, a Con Man, and the Secret History of the Internet’s Rise

David Kushner. Simon & Schuster, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-1-5011-2214-9
Journalist Kushner (Alligator Candy) delivers a surprising, cockeyed history of the internet’s early days through the entangled stories of two of its early innovators: Gary Kremen, “the father of online dating” and founder of, and Stephen Michael Cohen, an internet visionary, pornographer, and con man. Their precedent-setting battle over a single highly lucrative domain name,, began in 1994 and involved absurdist legal proceedings—Cohen showed up to one deposition with his glasses broken so he could not read any documents placed before him—and Kremen’s road trip through Mexico to prepare for seizing Cohen’s assets there, which proved to encompass both a seedy Tijuana strip club and a shrimp farm in a bucolic small village. Interspersed between these exploits, Kushner adds historical context about the development of online culture during the 1990s. Brief vignettes describe key moments in internet history, such as the launch of Mosaic, the first popular web browser, and the advent of rampant file sharing through Napster and similar sites. Kushner thus delivers a truly unexpected history of the internet and its growing impact on everyone’s lives. Forgoing dry tech-speak, Kushner delivers a fast-paced, raunchy tale of sex, drugs, and dial-up. Agent: David McCormick, McCormick Literary. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 12/10/2018
Release date: 04/09/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-5082-8527-4
Compact Disc - 978-1-5082-8529-8
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-5011-2215-6
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-9821-1529-6
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