After several highly publicised delays, Boo.com launched in the Autumn of 1999 selling branded fashion apparel over the Internet; however, after spending $135 million of venture capital in just 18 months, it eventually had to liquidate and was placed into receivership on 18 May 2000.
In June 2008, CNET hailed Boo.com as one of the greatest defunct websites in history.
Ernst Malmsten wrote about the experience in a book called "boo hoo" published in 2001.
Although there were several months of delays prior to launch and problems with the user experience when boo.com first launched as described below, these had been largely cured by the time the company entered receivership. Indeed sales had grown rapidly and were around $500,000 for the fortnight prior to the site being shut down.
The fundamental problem was that the company was following an extremely aggressive growth plan, launching simultaneously in multiple European countries. This plan was founded on the assumption of the ready availability of venture capital money to see the company through the first few years of trading until sales caught up with operating expenses. Such capital ceased to be available for all practical purposes in the second quarter of 2000 following dramatic falls in the NASDAQ presaging the "dot crash" following the Dot-com bubble. Boo would probably have failed for this reason even if the user experience had been excellent and the launch on schedule. Boo were only the first of numerous similar Dot-com company failures over the subsequent two years.
The complicated design required the site to be displayed in a fixed size window, which limited the space available to display product information to the customer. Navigation techniques changed as the customer moved around the site, which appealed to those who were visiting to see the website but frustrated those who simply wanted to buy clothes.
Its interface was also complex with a hierarchical system that required the user to answer four or five different questions before revealing that there were no products in stock in a particular sub-section. The same basic questions then had to be answered again until results were found.
The biggest loser among boo.com's investors was Omnia, a fund backed by members of Lebanon's wealthy Hariri family, which put nearly £20 million into the company.
Creditors, most of whom were advertising agencies, were owed around £12 million. Over 400 staff and contractors were made redundant in London and around the world, and many had not been paid for several months.
In a widely circulated article, Tristan Louis blamed the management of the company for its failure.
Fashionmall.com, which has been operating since 1994, bought the remains of Boo.com which included brand, Web address and advertising materials but this deal did not include any physical assets, software or distribution channels.. The deal also included the Miss Boo character. Boo's main assets, its software and technology, went to Bright Station for $250,000, Boo.com had purchased this technology for $70 million.. Bright Station is a British company run by Internet entrepreneur Dan Wagner.
In all, less than $2 million was earned by selling all Boo's remaining assets.
In 2005 CNET called Boo.com the sixth greatest dot-com flop.