Webkinz Are Evil

Posted by Graham Wheeler on Saturday, February 2, 2008

My daughter bought a Webkinz today. These are cheap stuffed animals that sell at a premium because they have a ‘secret code’ that allow you to access the Webkinz website and play games, etc. So of course she wanted me to set her up to access the site (her PC was locked down to only allow access to PBS Kids).

We go to the site, sign her up, and then sign in. This launches a new window running an Adobe Flash app. The URL is not even tied to a domain, but uses a numeric IP address. After watching it flash ‘Loading’ for a while, we get a picture of a green field - and nothing happens. Meanwhile my wife starts complaining from upstairs that the network has slowed to a total crawl; not only can’t she browse but even the LAN is pretty hosed, with Outlook frozen up while trying to send an e-mail to the local Exchange server in the next room.

So I’m listening to this fussing from downstairs and up, and eventually we kill the Webkinz window - and I hear ‘Finally!’ from upstairs. We try the Webkinz app again and more complaints come from upstairs. So not only is the Webkinz site not working, but it’s killing the network.

My daughter is getting pretty upset by this stage. I try various things - adding the webkinz site and the numeric IP to the trusted zone, installing the latest version of Flash, even installing Firefox - and none of it works. But Firefox gives some confirmation that it is the Webkinz app that is killing the network - I see it continuously trying to connect to some other numeric IP, over and over in rapid succession.

Finally, to get my daughter off my back and placate the wife, I run the browser as administrator, and the Webkinz crapplication manages to run. Of course all the parental controls are now toast and this is not a sustainable solution.

I find it amazing that these people - who have no scruples about fleecing kids $10/pop for their made in China junk -  make a site that requires such a circumvention of basic security measures to allow kids in. While at the same time having stupid ‘pro-kid’ features like not allowing my daughter to choose the name ‘fluffballs’ for her pet because it contains a - gasp - dirty word. Heck, it didn’t until they so conspicuously pointed it out.

Hopefully this is a fad that will fade as quickly as it arrived.