The internet lasts forever*

* Well, unless the Internet Archive and the mirror at the Library of Alexandria both melt down.

I’ve been crazy busy the last week, hence the lack of real updates. So, a quick observation and a couple of jumbled thoughts to keep things ticking over here (as you may tell from my archive, I fall more into the “post often” than “post well” category – my blog is a work in progress collection of unedited thoughts and observations, rather than the finished article (so to speak)).

My observation is thus:

In the month of July, according to Comscore, the 95th most popular domain in the UK – with almost 2m unique users and 10m page impressions – was… Geocities.

My first thought was – huh? Geocities is still going?

After visiting the site, I can see that it still functions. Barely. But it has seen better days.

Yet it is still there. And still collecting more traffic than asda.co.uk, travelsupermarket.com and hmv.co.uk – the 3 sites directly below it in the July rankings.

Site owners rarely pull the plug online – though hosting companies might. What we publish online lasts forever. From Google Cache to the Wayback Machine via tools I am not savvy enough to know about, we will always have a digital footprint.

And that footprint will soon become footprints. I must have created a hundred site profiles over the years using a variety of pseudonyms. Most of those are collecting dust in various corners of the Internet. Ghost-towns are alive and well. But only in terms of users – not necessarily visitors.

But one day. whether it is through Open ID, Friendfeed or whatever interoperability that Google decide to bless us with, we will eventually become joined up.

Do I want that link to the past? Things I publish under the curiouslypersistent name (or derivatives thereof) form part of a coherent persona. Do I want that to be linked to things I have forgotten about and things I would rather forget from my past that are completely contrary to who I am now?

I notice that some of the newer sites allow you to change your username. This can allow one to align their personal brand by porting over to a new name and removing certain content. But just because it no longer exists in the current doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. And if a prospective employer decided to carry out a thorough online sweep of an interviewee?

Can there truly be a separation from work and life? Business and pleasure? Church and state?

The Internet is always on. And there is no escape.

sk

NB: As a sidenote, I am planning to redesign this blog. When I finally get around to it, I will be incorporating feeds to my other online footprints.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/deia/

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3 Responses

  1. Interesting stuff. I’ve wondered about this recently because my very first website (http://www.angelfire.com/in/competence/frames.html) is still online, and I received an email from an old school colleague asking me to remove a page on that site that refers to him in quite an unpleasant manner (it was a joke between us at the time, but his current employer Googled him and the webpage in question appeared).

    Unfortunately, one of the big problems with leaving digital “footprints” is that over time, individuals lose the ability to go back and edit or remove those footprints. When I received this email from the school friend, I contacted Angelfire to ask them if they could remove the webpage in question. But because the email address I used to subscribe to Angelfire is no longer active, they would not allow me to log in and edit the site. There is nothing I can do to edit or remove that footprint and it will remain in perpetuity. This is one of the biggest negatives of leaving a personal mark on the web.

  2. Agree with the above poster. I looked around an old roleplay site a while ago and cringed over my teenaged writings. Thank god I didn’t use my real name.

  3. Ben – that’s really unfortunate. Guess the only hope is that Angelfire removes all websites where people aren’t paying their hosting fees. Hope you aren’t accidentally paying a subscription for this site as well as your other one…

    I do feel quite old when I consider how reckless and carefree the yoot’ can be, but it is true. Teenagers are aware of privacy, but seem to have little concept of the repercussions and implications.

    It will be interesting to see whether the relatively open private settings of many Facebook profiles lead to the same nostalgic regret that we are going through

    Catherinebray (if that is your real name) – I’m sure it will make great material for the Collected Works.

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