The iLoo sounds like someone making fun of Apple's recent software naming convention, but the "first Internet enabled outhouse" is (or rather was) a very real project developed by MSN UK.

Reading in the loo is common place in Britain (and probably elsewhere too), and it seemed the MSN wanted to take that habit into the 21st century.

On the outside the iLoo (also known as the WWWC) looks like your average portable toilet (except perhaps for the prominent MSN logo). Inside though is a plasma screen, a waterproof keyboard and a 802.11b (wireless) network connection. Hidden under the sink is a common garden PC running Windows XP Pro. No expenses were to be spared, the iLoo was to have a 6 speaker surround sound system.

The plan was that a few of these devices would be scattered around festivals in the UK this summer, increasing brand awareness but also allowing people to stay in touch with their friends via HotMail or MSN Messenger, or simply to keep up to date with the latest news. There are people who can't unplug, even for a few hours. They really had thought of everything: the loo rolls were going to be printed with URLs (and I presume that companies would have to pay to have people wipe their butts with their URL). I just hope they didn't let the ever helpful Clippy anywhere near the project ("It looks like you're trying to take a crap. Would you like help?").

Design problems

Of course, as with most revolutionary concepts there were problems associated with the design:

  • Security: the iLoo contains some pretty expensive kit, people might just try and carry the whole thing off. If I saw one I couldn't say no to having one of these unique devices in my garden. Microsoft's suggestion was to have a security guard. As you might imagine this raises costs considerably, although admittedly cost isn't really the issue here.
  • Queues: these can be bad enough as it is (especially when women are involved). Just imagine how much worse it would be. If someone discovered E2 they would probably be there all day. The current solution to the problem is to bang loudly on the door.


When the story was leaked at the beginning of May 2003 many people thought it was a hoax. Microsoft's new "Pee-C" also became the butt for many jokes, which the folks in Redmond didn't really appreciate. Originally Microsoft denied all knowledge of the project, before claiming it was a belated April fools' joke. Eventually Microsoft admitted the project was real. It turns out that MSN UK has a certain amount of leeway and is allowed to take its own initiatives. After the initial story broke, the senior management of Microsoft felt it wasn't in line with the company's and the project was canned. According to Lisa Gurry, MSN group product manager at Redmond, "It didn't really map to our global branding objectives".

A British law student, Andrew Cubitt, is not amused by the whole affair. He claims to have had the idea first, and that by initially claiming it was a joke, they not only stole his idea but discredited it too. Oh the tragedy of unrecognised genius!

Sources: (has a nice diagram of the iLoo)

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