This Website Will Disappear One Day

Decay might be inescapable, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy the present

Posted June 21, 2020

The web. The internet. Call it what you want, it’s a funny thing. A feat of engineering that’s managed to create and connect the modern world as we know it.

It’s funny to think though about its fragility as well. Even in just loading this page, there’s so much that could go wrong. It’s almost certain that something will eventually break, and there won’t be someone around to make the necessary fix.

I heard “entropy” used as the term to describe this aspect of the web recently and it’s stuck with me since. When it comes to the web and everything it contains, it’s unavoidable that someday it will all come crumbling down.

It probably won’t be in one big explosion. Much like stars in the night sky, lights will slowly blip out one by one. My website certainly isn’t exempt. It sucks to deal with mortality, but sadly one day these pages won’t be around anymore.

Maybe my rickety setup will fall over. Maybe your request will get stuck at a server somewhere along the path. I might just forget to renew the domain registration. The end result is the same nonetheless, and you see a blank page.

Hardware can break and fail, and if nobody is around to repair and replace it then that’s the end of that. You can put redundancies and fallbacks in place, but there’s nothing to stop them from failing too.

Software can change too, with new protocols and standards replacing old ones. If some servers aren’t upgraded, the crack begin to appear. If you can’t (or won’t) rely on outdated technology, then older content will slowly become inaccessible to you.

If your content relies on a third party (social media, blogging platforms, hosting providers), their risks are your risks. When they disappear, so does everything you had with them.

At the end of the day, it might all collapse. That isn’t a reason not to treasure content on the web as it exists now. Enjoy it, learn from it, and share it while it’s still here.

If there’s something on the web that you love and really want to last, make your own copy. It won’t be up forever.

If you read a fascinating or inspiring blog post, save a PDF/HTML version. If a friend or family member shares a photo and you want the security of knowing it will be around decades from today, download it. If there isn’t a clear option, consider building a tool to fill your niche.

And for the love of all that is good, do keep backups. It’s not safe unless it exists in at least three different places.