We are now seeing that having old stuff resurface is largely detrimental. Back when it was just some photos in a shoebox, or a paper journal, the worst that could happen to your silly teenage ramblings was some embarrassment that you could quickly move on from. Now you face potentially losing your whole career and family because of some stupid thing you said one time when you were in a bad mood.
One of the most important functions of the brain is forgetting. If you were forced to remember everything, especially all the dumb stuff you did, your mind would be perpetually cluttered and you could never progress and grow. You only remember the significant stuff, and let everything else go.
The slow degradation of old sites is the Internet’s form of cleanup and forgetting, and it’s a natural part of the lifecycle.
Sometimes when I am in a nostalgic mood, I will revisit forums that I once frequented almost 20 years ago (surprisingly, the owner has kept it alive all these years). I love looking at those old posts, reflecting back on how things were at that point in my life. Reflecting back on the community members and my long lost virtual friends, wondering where they are now. They could be dead for all I know. I am glad that it has been archived.
In contrast, I have a side project that I work on occasionally. It is a plugin for a legacy game. The hacking community of this game has long since moved on. All of the golden knowledge of the game, the technical details, have vanished. All the forum posts, all the contributions, are forever gone. The hours upon hours of reverse-engineering efforts are down the drain. Not to mention all the social interactions within the community; the drama, the humour, the conversations. That is sad. I sure wish it was archived.
Historians want stuff from ordinary people, because that stuff, though sometimes lame and embarrassing, gives a glimpse into daily life that the papers of more prominent people might not reveal.
History has long since ceased to be merely the study of important kings, queens, writers, etc. Historians want documentation of what life was like for everyone else, and that is why they study old random finds like people’s diaries and correspondence. Now that humanity has moved into the digital era, obviously people’s old websites will become an object of study.
Ah, but the Rosetta Stone would be much less interesting if we'd already had a (more) complete record. Think of the careers that would have been rendered unnecessary!
"... near the Tannhäuser Gateway. All those hrefs will be 404, like tears in rain"
I think that hybris is what slows us down.
If we got the storage for the history of the everyday person and the compute to analyze it in masses, why not doing it?
Maybe, conservatives would finally keep their mouths shut about how everything was better yesterday and we can finally work with a clear view on what's really wrong with the world...
Things are more complicated than you think, and the conservatives are people too. It seems profoundly illiberal to discount their suffering (their lived experience) just because they seem wrong-headed.
It is nice to see that old monikers of mine aren't indexed and easy to find, and yet it's also sad because I realize that much of that content I perceive as reflections of my younger self and thoughts which I know I cannot imagine again today. When I recall those memories I only recall my perception of events: words that were said; actions taken by others; the consequences of my actions. Yet, I can't repeat those exact thoughts because my identity has changed since then.
I identify with the Zillenial term. I also grew up on Linux and Windows due to my dad's interests. That is one of the acts that I am so grateful of my dad for, because it led me to where I am today.
For me, the web has been an important pillar of my life as it's given me so many sources of information that have granted me knowledge, given opportunities to read deep thoughts and niche content, and improved my principles and views on life. I'm sure many people on HN can relate to that statement, young and old alike.
Maybe this is where a lot of us fall short. Free and easily available content is easy to take for granted since there is an abundance of it, like the discussions here on HN. So we ignore capturing it with an underlying assumption that it will be available again in the future.
Perhaps it's like the Bystander effect?
The funny part was that it was nostalgia about a defunct computing platform.
I agree with the overall point of this article and on balance, I think it's a net loss for the web and our shared web culture when content disappears like this. However, I do think there is something to be said for a web that "forgets" my angsty Livejournal posts, my poorly written and frankly obscene fanfiction, and other things of that nature.
Yup, we can close the accounts, but someone, somewhere, has a copy of my Livejournal Magnum Opus "Why didn't our shared love of Chemical Romance keep us together?" and it keeps me up at night.
But that archive I think will live longer than anything else.
Here's a product I would love to pay for: A service that sells domain names, but also makes it easy to use them. It should provide a tool like ngrok that I can run on my local machine like this:
not-ngrok host anderspitman.net 8080
This lets me host whatever I want from any machine I want, even my phone, without ever having to mess with or think about certs again.
CloudFlare does a lot of this, but you need a public server for them to proxy. They seem well positioned to add a CLI tool for the last mile ngrok-like part though.
It's funny that you mention this, because they actually do have a service for hosting static sites in conjunction with a CLI tool, wrangler, for publishing them: https://blog.cloudflare.com/extending-the-workers-platform/
* Complex. What if I don't need a CDN or kv store?
* Why just static sites? Why not just forward to a local port then you can run whatever you want, including a static server. One huge advantage of being able to run on your local machine is you have access to terabytes of storage at very low cost. You can host as much images, videos, music, etc as you want, especially if it's behind a simple login (like a NextCloud server).
* Not open source.
Basically it's still an imperative process. What I'm talking about would be more declarative. You run a command that says, "I want https://anderspitman.net to forward to localhost:9001" and the system figures out everything necessary to make it work.
I've still yet to find a registrar that promises to keep a domain renewed past the 10-year limit though. The closest service I found is Mark Monitor but that seems to cater for large companies / corporations who need to protect their intellectual property (and it's expensive!). Can't have someone registering apple.com when it expires!
How to: check your server logs, look for 404s. See if you can set up a redirect, or serve a HTTP 410 Gone.
I agree on the domain problem. It's a big problem.
...as for the site migrated to static pages, some posts are 15 years old, most of them are 10 and the most recent one is 5 so because the web is getting old I had to add a big disclaimer with a red background in every post stating things change, people change, the content and its form may change too so "please be gentle when interpreting it, the web is getting old" :-)
Right to be forgotten should be the default but I wish we also had the opt-in right to be remembered.
Link to static generators that can import WordPress. Link to `wget --mirror` tutorials to archive. Link to https://www.archiveteam.org/ so people could participate. Mention the Web Archive, point to IPFS, and to DAT.
SHOW SOLUTIONS. Lamenting won't fix it.
Personal story: yes, dynamic sites suck. My 2002 archives are static HTML; no problem getting them. 2004 is a PHP4 CMS, I needed a Debian Sarge to run it. 2007 is FUBAR character encoding mismatch between server, HTML, any DB, plus PHP < 5.3 with MySQL > 5.6. 2010 and up is WordPress, but if you don't save it all - MySQL same version, WordPress same version, all plugins the same version, etc - it's hard work to get it back.
The site is only marginally aimed at developers, it is mostly for people in communication or marketing fields. Some of the ones I know are not even aware of the problem of content decay (lets call it that for now).
It is also about the mistakes the web community made while building the sites we use daily. Not assigning any blame, the web will always be uncharted territory.
Most of all, I wanted to write down that we saw good things being built. There are a lot of good reasons to keep moving forward.
Regarding tools, and as side note, that blog is running on https://goHugo.io , a static site generator, and uses the self hosted version of https://commento.io to manage comments. It’s my way of trying to make it future-proof.