On the Death of Websites

When most people think of a website dying they think of sites that are temporarily pushed off the face of the internet by denial of service attacks or sites that are maimed and manipulated by hackers. Though these two things certainly do cause websites to “die” temporarily, there are so many other ways websites can go to the other side for a little bit… or for good. And however they go, there are always so many feelings.

There is that “oh shit, I killed it!” moment that happens to developers everywhere. Maybe you forgot a semicolon in your PHP and got a white screen of death in return. Maybe you updated your plugins and were inexplicably gifted the same result. Maybe you just did something ridiculous in a moment of temporary insanity like drag one folder into another folder on your server. In most of these cases revival is pretty quick and the dominant emotion is probably fleeting panic followed by the thought that no one probably noticed anyway. After all, you only killed it for thirty seconds, right?

Then there is the surprise takeover. Have you ever gone to a website that you built and maybe even thought you maintained only to find that your website is gone and an imposter has taken it’s place? Did the powers that be really rebuild and repoint their domain on their own?!

Most takeovers are deliberate and mutually agreed upon transfers of power though. Sometimes downloading your files, exporting your database, and packaging it all up to send into the ether is enough to make you feel ill. What will the new keepers do with your files? Will they even use them or are they going to go into a deep dark archive only to be forgotten forever? If you’re the receiver of the package, then what will you find? Will the code be clean? Is this going to be a nightmare to maintain? Maybe it will be easier to just rebuild it…

Then there is the launch surprise. You are responsible for pointing the domain away from the website you’ve maintained and into the unknown. What will be there? Sometimes what is there is beautiful and makes you feel awful inside. Why didn’t you build something as awesome before? Could you, if you wanted to? Self doubt will win every time. Other times what is there is arguably a step back from what you’d built. Why would anyone want this new monstrosity instead?

Sometimes you are replacing your own work. Most of the time this results in genuine relief – thank goodness this old, horrific code of mine is leaving the internet forever. I know it was cutting edge at the time it was built, but it is positively embarrassing today. And doesn’t it look so much better now anyway?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *