'Shipwrecked' website turns into cult chat room

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The Independent Online

It started life as a website where wannabe reality-television participants could post their audition clips. After less than six weeks, Islandoo.com, a site for would-be contestants for Channel 4's Shipwrecked, has become an internet phenomenon to rival the social networking site MySpace.

In its short life, Islandoo.com has attracted more than 18,000 profiles, more than 1.5 million comments from participants and more than 10 million page views.

Those visiting the site have a simple aim - to be auditioned for the Big Brother-style show, which strands two rival teams on separate islands for several months with basic tools to build their own shelters and prepare food.

Yet according to its creators, Mint Digital, Islandoo.com has also become to the world's friendliest online party.

Andy Bell, Mint Digital's managing director, said: "If MySpace is like a pub where you chat with your friends or sit at the bar and occasionally check out the chicks, then Islandoo is the world's friendliest party where as soon as you go in people greet you with a comment - it creates a really interesting dynamic.

"We have a huge amount of chat. The site encourages people to go out of their way to be friendly to each other."

Islandoo.com asks wannabe participants to upload pictures and videos that are available for all visitors to the site to view. The most popular are then put to the vote every Friday, the winner gaining an audition for the show.

In order to be in with a chance of securing a place on the show, users of the site have to make friends to succeed. As a result, anyone joining Islandoo immediately gets bombarded with friendly messages as soon as they log on.

Mr Bell acknowledged that this was fuelling the site's extraordinary popularity.

"We knew there was a tremendous passion for people to try and get on Shipwrecked and that's what we were trying to tap into," he said. "The difference between Islandoo and MySpace is that people have a real motivation to communicate with each other because they want to rise in prominence within the community so they get picked by the television producers."

Shipwrecked was dreamt up by RDF Media, the production company behind Wife Swap. Faking It and Scrapheap Challenge.

With a £70,000 prize for the winning tribe to share, the show follows a familiar reality-television show format, including weekly beach parties in which the young contestants are able to get to know each other.

Although many other television shows have tried to branch out onto the web with related forums and chat rooms, none has achieved the success of Islandoo.

Even allowing for the fact that the show is set on desert islands and a lot of the girls have posted pictures of themselves in bikinis, the site has attracted more people in a short period of time than its creators expected.

One would-be contestant, Joeyboy, who describes himself as a carpenter, club promoter and model, poses in his audition in a pair of leopard-print trunks.

His entry reads: "I'm a carpenter and the islands would benefit from a good pair of hands! Also I would inject some life into the show because I'm always on the go, I live for now, I can't sit around doing nothing. A day not laughed is a day not lived!"

He has already attracted more than 1,000 comments from other users of the site, and could well be heading for the small screen. One enthusiastic response reads: "Thanx Tiger Pants, that was well sweet of you. You are my best friend on the website too and deffo deserve a penny (a vote of support). Good luck today babes x"