Will the internet become littered with millions of permanent monuments to misguided souls, like the little crosses on side of our highways?
I suspect this will happen to any namespace after long enough. Domain names, Twitter handles, Facebook URLs, whatever. Once enough real estate is taken up with immobile monuments to the dead, the living will have to move on to something else.
I also think this will happen well before 100% utilization. After some point, the number of collisions you hit when trying to get a memorable name becomes too much of a burden and you just go somewhere else, as previously described here: http://rachelbythebay.com/w/2012/11/28/namespace/
The decision to lock down a domain name in perpetuity potentially affects everyone on the internet and more to the point, negatively affects the people responsible for maintaining the DNS servers and the content servers, etc.
2 digits of base > 10?
3 digit numbers?
Hardly a tricky problem to solve...
And Sean is most definitely on the case. But please give him some time and space.
Even just a week or so before Aaron's death.
I am sure that I have read him write about this many other times, maybe going back over a decade.
It's turned out pretty well. The spec is still there and accessible, and now it's been almost ten years at that spot.
I'm also hosting my uncle's site and now my father's. I'm not happy with the job I'm doing on either of them, but I have my own work to move forward, and as I do that of course I'm creating MORE problems. But I'm also trying to be mindful of separating the content from the rendering. The actual content is stored pretty permanently, and the rendering is considered lose-able.
Eventually I hope to have ultimate editorial flexibility and have it also be very future-safe. CMSes can anticipate these problems, and I've tried to do that in my latest development.
The content can't be over a GB. Hosting that all static in S3 would be, what? ~$0.10/month+transfer costs?
There are two somewhat separate issues - maintaining a presence online, and deciding where in the namespace it should go.
Certainly it's easy to understand how a library could manage to keep a site online, especially if the site is simply and static. In time (over the next 20 years sort of timeframe) if we settle on a single way to run more complicated sites with frontends and backends (one PaaS to rule them all, if you will) then maybe a library would run an instance and host sites that way. It's within their mission and I'd welcome the use of my taxdollars to do that - in a sense they do, as they put many of their collections online.
Where in the namespace is a more interesting question. I host my own domain because I want to trust as few things as possible (I give up and trust the root servers) and I need to keep paying for it for the rest of my life (I'm OK with that - I've got about 50 years left, I can swing the $500+inflation.) If anyone ever got control of my domain, they'd be able to be me - by publishing as me, or accessing other services either through whatever OpenIDs I've got out there or just being able to use 'recover password' emails. That bothers me - there's nothing I can do but keep my domain active, but I want those parts of my domain to die with me. In that sense, it's not like real estate - no one thinks that the person who lives in my old house is me. If URLs had a temporal notation this would be less of an issue.
Remember the mantra - "Cool URLs don't change". If the root of the namespace relies on someone being alive and active, then URLs are going to change unless they're passed off to another institution designed to outlive its founders. This isn't impossible - there are plenty of endowments and family foundations, but I think it's asking too much for every person to start a foundation and endow it with enough money to last "forever" just to keep their webpages online.
Instead, we should solve this once. Here's one way, but there are certainly others: get a library to serve as a domain name registrar. I'd probably strike it as a deal that once you stop paying for it, it's done and it doesn't point to anything but their own servers. There'd be some window at the beginning where you can upload material, or you can add to a live "backup" while your domain is active, and once it ceases to be active, that's the site you're left with.
We'd make a policy change at the ICANN level to say this registrar can buy at a discounted wholesale for any domains it's holding in trust - basically, we just need to be sure that the registry is fairly compensated for the cost of answering queries at the root level to point back to the library, and for the initial bit flips to say "this domain is in trust" but that's not strictly necessary. We could fund it through taxes, or probably better a service fee associated with active registrations because this crosses too many governments.
(Another approach to solving a lot of this is with a content-addressable system and just scrap the central registry. It leaves out Aaron and everyone else who's already died, but if it was a better solution for everyone going forward, I don't think Aaron would mind)
Despite the giant asshole I must sound like in the other threads I have really enjoyed the aaronsw writings I've been pointed to in the fallout from all of this, and I think that Winer's proposal could make a fine start to a suitable online memorial for Aaron.
If we can deliver IP over pigeon there has to be a way to at least set aside a DNS entry and coordinate hosting amongst the many who would volunteer for it.
Even I have servers that I'd be willing to provide that could certainly handle the load his now-static mostly-text sites. I'd even be happy to hold the domains and pay the registration into the future. I think Aaron already had a post about who would be handling his assets if he "got hit by a bus".
You could envisage some sort of way have putting the domain in a trust fund. Where there would be funds to renew the domain, you could potential show how much is in the fund, on the trusts's page. And as long as there is money in the fund, the domain would be renewed. The domain technical contacts, and possibly the other contacts too would need to be put in the trusts name so that they can renew with the registrar, and possibly change the DNS if needed.
As for the hosting, you could probably run a script that would take a static snapshot, and save the files in plain HTML. This of course gets more complicated for sites that use things dynamically with database backends.
( cf: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5066250 )
There are several obituary sites, they're one step away from that. And in a sense portions of http://reocities.com/ are exactly that, for instance: http://reocities.com/SunsetStrip/1838/ I'm committed to keeping that alive as long as I can afford it. So far so good.
wait, what ?