Logging onto the Fourth Wall
A character in a TV show or movie hops onto his computer, and begins to type in a URL into a Web browser as part of the plot. Or perhaps you spot a URL in a panel of a comic book, or hear a friendly voiceover in a video game, telling you to visit his site. Cue every geek who saw it attempting to open up his Web browser and check the website in real life. This sometimes succeeds: Most media companies have rules requiring producers to buy any domain name they show on the screen before the movie or TV show is released, so that if someone actually tries to visit it, they get to do some extra marketing and avoid the risk of getting sued for DDoSing some third-party's website. Many producers create a nice Web site designed to promote the show, that usually leans on the fourth wall by creating the website as it would be in-universe. Sometimes this can be an in-universe blog of characters (which may also double as a Fourth Wall Mail Slot). Pioneered by Alternate Reality Games, and also used for Viral Marketing. Can be a form of In-Universe Marketing as well. See also 555 (the prefix for fictional phone numbers) which exists for similar reasons.
Examples:Due to the nature of the Web, please specify whether the URL is active or defunct when adding examples. If the site is active (at the time, anyway), please also provide a link.
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- One Energizer bunny commercial had inmyunderwear.com, devoted to online sale of underwear so that you could be "surfing in your underwear". It used to actually sell underwear, but is now a porn tube site.
- There's an Orkin pest control commercial wherein a giant termite mentions blinddatelove.com. Although the domain name redirects to Orkin's site now, it used to be a parody of a dating website where half of the prospective dates were vermin.
Anime & Manga
- In the English dub of Duel Masters, Kintaro (dressed as Hakuoh) introduces himself by sending his cape flying, and tells another character that you can buy them at noveltyflyingcapes.com. Plastic Cow had registered the site for the one-shot gag. The link is currently defunct, but a reproduction of its content can be found here.
- After the Durarara!!!! anime began airing, fan-versions of the show's Dollars chat room were created. And now we have a site based on the idea of the group of the series. The most accurate is called Dollars-bbs
- Galaxy Angel Rune episode 8 involves haunted text messages being sent from the nonexistent site http://xgi92.hxbleg.ga.
- If you're quick, you can catch an ad in a newspaper in one scene from Hidamari Sketch for Fashionable Detective Lovely Chocolat complete with a (nonexistent) URL: www.shqft-wed.co.jp.
- Hell Girl has the Jigoku Tsuushin website, the site that is accessed when people want to send others to hell. Naturally, someone created an actual URL, and is only one of many Jigoku Tsuushin sites. Link here.
- In Paprika, the characters visit radioclub.jp, which gives an error page saying "Can not find server, DC mini error" in the real world.
- Until Death Do Us Part has www.prizeneck.com. Entering it once directed the user to a promotional site which had its main page replicate the site's contents in-universe. Going there now, however, redirects the visitor to the publisher's page, and attempts to see it using the Wayback Machine will lead to pages consisting almost entirely of broken images.
- Shogun's URLs from Chaos;Head lead to gruesome anime pictures with Haritsuke no Misa's case victims on them.
- One Astro City story had a character looking up the hero Roustabout on herocopia.com. If you looked up herocopia.com at the time, you got taken to the same page on Roustabout as the characters saw. These days herocopia.com is a sanctioned fan site for Astro City.
- In Checkmate Carl Draper (the former villain Deathtrap, now Checkmate's head of security) has a blog at http://www.gideonii.com/ the address of which was visible on panel. (You need the username "CARL DRAPER" and password "wilhelmina" to access it.)
- A couple of characters in Glyn Dillon's The Nao Of Brown are fans of the fictional manga and anime series Ichi by the equally fictional Gil Ichiyama a teaser on the website http://ichi-anime.jp is mentioned.
- The Wicked And The Divine #7 gives the url https://tinyletter.com/DionysianKissStory, which takes one to an actual website to subscribe to updates on the event.
- The Ring: For a long time, http://www.moeskoislandlighthouse.com/ existed. It was moved to http://www.sweb.cz/moesko/ by fans.
- Transformers: Ladiesman217 is an actual registered e-Bay user. It just doesn't have anything for sale at the moment (bummer).
- A companion piece that ran as a sort of infomercial on the Sci Fi Channel, called "The Curse of the Blair Witch," featured the website http://www.blairwitch.com/ for The Blair Witch Project that was in theaters at the same time, which was part of the very successful viral marketing campaign. The website, at the time, spoke of events in a very A True Story In My Universe sort of way, and had a lot of people believing that, "In October 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland, while shooting a documentary. A year later, their footage was found."
- The Kevin Smith film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back features a website called Movie Poop Shoot. Not only was a real website created as a tie-in (where Smith blogged about his productions), for a while it actually operated as a legitimate movie review site (reviews from the site are even indexed by Rotten Tomatoes).
- A first-person account of the dangers of predators in online chats was written by one Katie Tarbox and published by Penguin under the title Katie.com. Only one problem: At the time of publication, the domain katie.com belonged to a completely different person who was unaffiliated with the book, and who had had the domain well before Tarbox even started writing. Someone at Penguin was really not thinking things through. Oh, and to make things even more facepalm-worthy, the original title of the book was Girl.com, but Penguin was fine with scrapping that title when it found out that a porn site was at that URL at the time.
- Ironically enough, the domain name was sold, and now Katie.com is a porn site as well.
- A Captain Underpants novel had a fight with a giant hamster, with a warning that urged the reader to visit whenhamstersattack.com. It, of course, exists.
- In The Night Circus, when Bailey becomes the modern proprietor of the circus, his email address is listed as firstname.lastname@example.org. Guess what author Erin Morgenstern's email domain name is?
- Animorphs had www.earthisours.com (defunct, though some of it exists on the Wayback Machine) and "The Yeerks Are Here" websites, (the second based on a website the kids found in 'The Warning') though the real sites were fan-made, not official.
- The website www.t-grad.com is described in a series The Secret City by Vadim Panov. In the fictional world the website was used by secret ancient magic races of Moscow. The input demanded finger pressing to the screen for identification of the user. The real website doesn't demand it..., it seems so.
- The comedic YA sci-fi series Outernet revolved around an intergalactic computer network (the titular "Outernet") used by a group of benevolent alien freedom fighters to exchange information and maintain communication. The web address "Go2Outer.net", which the main characters used to access the Outernet, was once a real website, which linked to an ARG role-playing game where readers could join up with the Friends Intelligence Bureau and undertake missions relating to the plot of the books.
- Doctor Who: In the first episode of the new series, Rose uses a search engine called Search-Wise to find information about the Doctor; both Search-Wise.net and the conspiracy web site she finds exist in real life, the former maintained by an independent IT company as a service for film and television program makers and the latter a creation of the BBC's web team. The series went on to accumulate a large number of tie-in web sites, of which The Other Wiki has a convenient list.
- Arrested Development had Oscar Bluth's "blog" (which was static, not really a blog) imoscar.com. And as of the final episode, imnoscar.com for one of Saddam Hussein's doubles, who claims he doesn't have a scar where the real Hussein does. Both are now defunct.
- Walter Jr's website savewalterwhite.com from Breaking Bad is a real website designed to look exactly like it looked in the series. At the time the show aired, the donation button would redirect to a message by the creators encouraging to donate money to real cancer patients; now it redirects to the show's website.
- Dane Cook was on Saturday Night Live and his opening monologue concerned YouTube, and how you can type any random keystrokes in and get at least one hit, including "A:F6". The next day, sure enough, there were a bunch of new videos either named or tagged A colon F6.
- Several years ago there was a Spoof Ad for a bank called "clownpenis.fart." They were late getting online and that was the last domain name left in the entire internet.
- Sigourney Weaver was looking for herself online and found a Nip Slip on "eyesugar.biz," which redirects to NBC.
- And now shop on-line at http://email@example.com!
- Both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have jokingly mentioned URLs, which actually lead to the sites portrayed. Unfortunately, we still need an active example.
- Ghost Whisperer displayed a URL on screen a few times. Actaully going to those sites (I forget what they are now) you will find (now outdated) tie-ins for the series.
- The Big Bang Theory had PennyBlossoms.com in the episode where the geeks opened an online store. Yep, the site exists, and it's owned by the production company.
- Friendface.co.uk from The IT Crowd exists, but displays a page showing that Friendface has been "blocked by Reynholm Industries' network": 
- The Urban Dictionary page for "Tnetennba". Includes "One who looks up words which have been artificially created for the purpose of fiction or comedy".
- Howlonghaveyougot.com from "Return of the Golden Child" exists, and the questions match those from the episode.
- How I Met Your Mother does this constantly. The Other Wiki has a long list compiled of them.
- The only exception so far is a rate-your-teacher website from "Subway Wars", which doesn't exist. They only show Ted searching and finding the site through Bing.
- The Rate-my-teacher website exists and Ted is consistently rated as "Awesome" although his lecture slides are noted to feature drunk chicks on a toilet. Bonus points, he is said to teach at Hogwarts Middle School - Architecture section
- The only exception so far is a rate-your-teacher website from "Subway Wars", which doesn't exist. They only show Ted searching and finding the site through Bing.
- Supernatural Season 1 had a group of nerds with their website, Hellhound's Lair. Googling this brings up the site with a bunch of the American Urban Myths other episodes of Supernatural had used.
- In 2002, Sesame Street episode 3997 featured Oscar the Grouch seeing a commercial for the grouch amusement park Six Crabs Yucky World. The commercial showed the URL http://yuckyworld.org/ , which Oscar subsequently visited on the show.
- Troper Taper happened to be watching at the time and, amused by the .org domain, visited the site, only to discover that the producers had neglected to register the domain. He quickly registered it himself, putting up a placeholder page. Soon thereafter, he was contacted by Sesame Workshop and transferred the domain to them; they had intended to register the site but the paperwork had fallen through the cracks and not been filed by air time. Taper received several e-mails from parents who had watched the show and visited the site, thanking him for keeping the domain from being registered by a Shock Site — this is the basis of his claim that he once saved Sesame Street. (The yuckyworld.org site no longer functions as a web site but is still owned by Sesame Workshop.)
- iCarly has quite a few examples from links on its show, like: http://worldofchucks.com or http://chickapedia.com, which redirect to the iCarly website.
- In season 3 of 24, a villain at one point mentions the website http://www.sylviaimports.com/. Going to that URL gets you a (now-dated) message from the show's producers.
- There have been several Lost ARG websites, the earliest of which was oceanic-air.com, a site for the In-Universe Oceanic Airlines. It also contained a few Easter Eggs for the show (no longer available). Amusingly, a later ARG site that was about the In-Universe Apollo Candy became a porn site once the producers sold the domain.
- Felicity had http://www.noelcrane.com/
- Conan O'Brien made an off-hand joke on Late Night about http://hornymanatee.com. Because of (according to Conan) legal reasons, NBC actually had to buy the URL. It used to feature fan art, plus a donation link to a manatee help group. Now it just links to NBC.
- The L Word would like to redirect this browser to http://www.ourchart.com/ Did you get that? It's OurChart.com
- The final episode of Monk has Monk saying that Molly hosts movie reviews at MollyEvansReviews.com. Although now defunct, the website once allowed visitors to purchase Monk DVDs and books.
- Sherlock has http://www.thescienceofdeduction.co.uk, Sherlock's personal website.
- Two and a Half Men has an episode where Charlie discovers a website called http://www.charlieharpersucks.com which has mean information about him. It used to have such information, but is now a redirect to the show's main page.
- Another episode has the characters mention a couple of fake porn websites. In real life you'll be greeted by a message from the writers berating you for trying to go to a porn site.
- The titular character of Nathan Barley boasted about registering his site, Trashbat, in the Cook Islands so it would end with ".co.ck". The producers actually did the very same thing with the site they set up for the show .
- Psychoville featured several examples.
- The Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode "The Tale of Station 109.1" had http://www.radiospace.com/.
- Angel had Cordelia joking about a handy website used to find Darla
- Jericho set up JenningsandRall.com, supposedly the in-universe Web site of Jennings and Rall, the corporation with a significant role in the second season of the series. It offered hints as to events on the show. The domain name has since lapsed, but the site can be seen here.
- Happy Endings has www.steakmehometonight.com, which advertises Dave's food truck. The site has commercials for the truck, today's specials and links to the Twitter and Facebook pages (which exist) for the nonexistent food truck.
- CSI NY had an episode with Stella finding out her boyfriend had posted a sex tape on the site www.aresanob.com ('Bonasera', her last name, backwards). The site had a message saying "Click here to see what Stella saw", then showed the sex tape clip and an extended promo for the next ep, "All Access". (now it just takes you to the CBS page)
- 'Hung Out To Dry', the first Shane Casey episode, had http://www.kodecan.com, which was based off the real life Edoc Laundry clothing line and website,whose products appeared in the episode. It's dead now.
- Drew Carey once made a joke on Whose Line Is It Anyway? about Brad Sherwood, playing a superhero called Prissy Boy, having the e-mail address "PrissyBoy@aol.com". After the game is done, he acknowledged that PrissyBoy@aol.com was going to get a thousand e-mails. Luckily, when they checked, they didn't find anyone. Colin Mochrie was bleeped for telling the "actors" in Hollywood Director that you could see them on "www.crap.com".
- The Amanda Show's recurring skit involving Loony Fan Penelope Taynt eventually had Taynt creating an in-universe fan website called "www.amandaplease.com" (named after her famous Catch Phrase and Verbal Tic), which was devoted to praising her idol Amanda Bynes in the creepiest fashion possible. At the time the show was broadcast, it was indeed a working website, and all of the games and videos that Taynt described on her Show Within a Show could be found there. Though the URL itself is now defunct, Nickelodeon has archived the site here.
- Open Heart features a tie-in app, "Open Heart: Unlocked", which allows viewers to access Dylan's phone. You can see texts from the characters, photos, and access Dylan’s pinblr account, which are updated in real time during and between episodes.
- Typing in "SeeStanBlog.com" into your web browser will merely redirect you to the Disney Channel webpage for Dog with a Blog, but unlike other shows' webpages the site is actually modeled closely after Stan's blog as seen on the show, including featuring the blog entries he writes in the show (and many that aren't seen on the show).
- Alan Jackson created an "alanjacksonmemory.com" website as a tie-in to his 2000 single "www.memory".
- A rare variant of this (especially these days) is the use of a real phone number that people can call for a tie-in. Mojo Nixon in the late 1980s had a hit record with 619-239-KING where he asked listeners — or, preferably, the man himself — to call in if they had information about whether Elvis Presley was still alive. The number was real.
- Garfield once used this trick: One of the strips◊ has the titular cat ordering coffee from a site called coffeequick.com, which Jim Davis apparently registered and checked for visitors IRL.
- Prickly City managed to screw this one up by mentioning a fake URL (CoyotePAC.org) in one comic that the authors didn't bother to register in real life. Cue a porn spammer grabbing the real-life domain as quickly as possible after the comic was printed. Oops.
- Alan Wake has a Microsoft Tag in the top floor of the mental health retreat. It directs you to a phone number, and if you let your smartphone dial it you will get the answering machine for the place you are in in the game. (The answering machine is full, so you can't leave a message.)
- The Cave has one for the Third Trial of Zenness. This is the only page. Lampshaded later by The Cave.
- The Austin Powers video game spinoff Austin Powers: Oh, Behave! has www.ssh.com appear in one of its minigames. At the time, it really pointed to a random website that was related to some school, later becoming a personal website. It is now claimed by a commercial-grade product.
- Batman: Arkham Asylum: Arkham Asylum has an in-universe Web site, www.arkhamcare.com, as does the Gotham Municipal Service, www.gotamcitymunicipal.com.
- Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories had a couple of Web sites named off by the game's radio stations, as well as appearing in the game's manual, which was written as a newspaper.
- The GTA games started doing this way back in GTA 3. Anyone remember www.petsovernight..com?
- Doom 3 has various spam messages readable in the PDA that point to www.martianbuddy.com. Going on that site would gives you a code to unlock two weapon lockers in the game.
- As of BFG Edition, www.martianbuddy.com redirects to Bethesda's online store where you can buy more Doom games. Oddly fitting...
- The graffiti in one of Portal's Room Full of Crazy includes the address http://www.aperturescience.com/ which gives backstory, and other appropriate weirdness.
- Another graffiti had a username and password for the before-mentioned website (cjohnson and tier3 respectively). Logging in with said username and password would give more backstory about the game (that is, until the site was changed due to the release of Portal 2).
- The World Ends with You has a URL (book3rd.tv.jp, now defunct) quite visible on a billboard in the Shibukyu Main Store (aka Tokyu Department Store) area.
- Two websites are mentioned in Beyond Good & Evil—one for the news channel that broadcasts in-game, and one for the rebel faction in the game. At one point, they were sites owned by the game's publisher Ubisoft, and had Bonus Content in them. However, they've since expired...except for a Ubisoft UK mirror of the Hillyan News site. The Iris Network site was backed up on the Internet Archive.
- This ended up working out for Super Paper Mario, where Francis' website was digibutter.nerr, and someone bought the actual domain name at digibutter.nerr.biz for a fan site about Paper Mario.
- In the NES Who Framed Roger Rabbit game, at one point you find Jessica Rabbit's phone number. Back in the day, if you actually called the number, you would get certain hints.
- The Angry Video Game Nerd did a follow-up video to his original review, and decided to call the number. It is now an x-rated phone line. He's amused that there exists an NES game that advertises such a thing.
- Enter the Matrix had websites revealed through cutscenes and the "hacking" minigame, that when visited in real life, gave you clues to unlock additional secret, usually extremely helpful things in levels, ranging from heavier weaponry to make boss fights easier (like a heavy machine gun to take down a SWAT heli) to unlocking an easier/stealthier/etc route through a level. The websites were all done up as if they were in-universe sites, and you actually had to do a bit of work to find the clues you could use in game.
- Pikmin 2 had the player receiving e-mail from the characters' families, which was sometimes replaced with spam mail. The spam would refer to a website - either nintendo.com or pikmin.com.
- Sam And Max has maxforpresident.org , a site promoting Max as president. In canon, Max becomes the president on the United States running against Abraham Lincoln. The site has a free download for "Episode 4: Abe Lincoln Must Die!!" as well.
- In A Vampyre Story, when Mona tries to read the Baroness von Kiefer's journal, the only entry she can find is instructions to visit a particular website (she doesn't get it, but Froderick tells her the message was received); at the website is...the Baroness' journal, which reveals backstory about the Baroness and her research.
- Team Fortress 2 has ReliableExcavationDemolition.com and BuildersLeagueUnited.com which are the names of the R.E.D. team and B.L.U. team. Humorously, the BLU site has been hijacked by the RED site. These are still active.
- This system has been compromised
The page you are looking for has most likely been deleted, stolen, or corrupted.
Please try the following:
* Verify that the facility hosting the Web site has not been damaged or destroyed by opposing forces.
- There is also a technical support link on the error pages, which leads to another site, Spytech Industries which is also still active.
- This system has been compromised
- In Hatoful Boyfriend, Yuuya suggests the player character check out the blog of Brian the Pigeon. Apparently in the Hatoful universe, Brian is a multiple Pulitzer Prize winner for his writing. Even though Brian Pigeon is active in the 2010s, birds don't become sentient until the 2070s, and the game takes place in 2188.
- The three-game series In Memoriam (the first game is known in the US as Missing: Since January) from French developer Lexis Numérique live on this trope. It used Internet searches (using real and phony websites), and regularly sent emails and SMS (in the third game) to the player.
- The Secret World uses this and an in-game browser as gameplay mechanics: many investigation missions require the player to follow web addresses found on in-game cards or billboards to solve Investigation missions. The Orochi Group and its eight subsidiaries are one major nexus, unsurprisingly, given their status within the game world. The Hell and Bach mission eventually rewards the clever with a spoilerific YouTube channel, and other missions reference other social media as well. There are also Twitter accounts for some NPCs, such as Carter.
- In Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, you can call Konami's customer support number in-game, only for the operator to tell you you're beyond even their help.
- Marten's blog Yelling About Music (also here) and the now-defunct VespAvenger site in Questionable Content.
- Most of the main characters also have their own Twitter pages.
- Randal Munroe defictionalized WetRiffs (NSFW) after this xkcd strip. Shortly after the Tumblr strip, http://raccoonsexdungeon.tumblr.com was defictionalized as well.
- Homestuck: Dave's ironically maintained blog: http://sweetbroshellablog.blogspot.com/
- This is also used in a roundabout-meta way earlier on, when John visits MS Paint Adventures in-universe here. Visiting the url displayed brought curious readers to this page, which possibly foreshadowed the Midnight Crew Intermission that occurred between Acts 3 and 4.
- Also when Rose visits the Spore GameFAQs page, and when Jade visits a FurAffinity user profile.
- Caliborn has an actual deviantArt page, registered three weeks before the relevant pages were posted, that features the "art" that was featured in said update. Caliborn even left a review on the How to Draw Manga book used, in 2013.
- Parson is seen checking◊ the hit count on his "Hamstard" webcomic (24 uniques -- a record!) shortly before being summoned into Erfworld.
- Several webcomics have shown QR codes in the comic. The codes typically point either to the comic you are reading, or to the homepage of the comic.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: The "snake cult" members in a particular episode tell Grim to go to www.shnissugah.com to help summon an ancient Canadian Snake God,Its redirects to the games section of Cartoon Network´s official website. It used to redirect to an internet shrine to said Snake God. There was also another website that a misspelling Grim makes redirects to.
- The Simpsons:
- Mr. X's Webpage from the episode "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes"
- One of the chalkboard gags was "butt.com is not my email address". The problem was, at the time, it was the address of a real porn site. It was later changed to "butt.butt".
- Lisa Simpson's email address, which was some variation of "smartgirl 6 3 underscore backslash at yahoo dot com." (Which wouldn't be legal, because email addresses can't contain backslashes.)
- The Simpsons also went to an Internet cafe, which had the sign "http://wel.com" (which goes to a Korean website for something called Froebel).
- In the episode "Home Away from Homer," Ned rents a room to a couple of seemingly innocent female college students, who then use it for their naughty webcam site, www.sexyslumberparty.com. When the episode first aired, the URL linked to an official show site featuring pictures of the two girls.
- WhatBadgersEat.com also happens to exist.
- In the episode "The Dad Who Knew Too Little", Homer gives his e-mail address as "firstname.lastname@example.org". Matt Selman, the writer of the episode, registered the e-mail address prior to the episode going out and attempted to answer any emails that were sent in for as long as possible until the backlog became too much.
- From Robot Chicken: Glycerine Johnson dot blogspot dot com!
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force had the www.yzzerdd.com, a wizard with a popup-laden web site. And of course Williams Street registered the actual domain. (Note that the real-life site also spews popups— hilarious fake ones, just like in the episode, but still...)
- In the first Futurama film "Bender's Big Score", Bender's e-mail address is email@example.com. Typing in www.ilovebender.com redirects to the official Futurama website.
- During the 2004 debates, Dick Cheney suggested that Americans should go to factcheck.com. Unfortunately, anybody performing such a check would have been sent to a domain unaffiliated with the non-partisan factcheck.org, and which was subsequently redirected to George Soros' Web site.
- Microsoft-based IT qualifications sometimes use contoso.com as an example domain name in their official training materials. Any student curious enough to see if there's a real website registered to this domain will find themselves redirected to the Microsoft home page.