Insomnia | Commentary

Death Comes To Us All

By Alex Kierkegaard / January 20, 2009

Every day thousands of sites die out on the Internet. What applied in the case of living beings over the course of evolution is continuing now in that of digital, genetic, cybernetic artefacts, doomed to disappear in droves to leave only a few of them, or their distant descendants along the digital chain. And we are only at the dawn of this ruthless selection process. In the order of artificial beings, we are at the stage occupied by bacteria in the order of life.
--Jean Baudrillard

In the last couple of years I have come to feel very acutely the extremely ephemeral nature of amateur websites. Putting aside Postback for the moment, which only just recently went offline, and which Recap tells me he intends to sooner or later resurrect (and hopefully sooner), here are some of the most notable examples of certifiably dead* websites currently to be found in Insomnia's Links section: (although this was kinda dead from the beginning -- in fact I think it was intended as a dead site all along) (this still gets updated now and then, but is basically dead for all practical purposes -- especially if one compares the current level of activity with what it used to be when the site was in its prime)

(*Note that by "dead" I mean either "offline" or "no longer updated", though obviously the first condition presupposes the second, seeing as it's kinda hard to update a site that's offline.)

For smaller sites, like the personal sites of many of Insomnia's contributors, linked to from the Contact section, things looks even more dismal, with hardly a single one of them still alive at this point. It seems the only kinds of sites immune to death are forums, due to the greater number of contributors and the simplicity and ease of updating -- but if you are looking there for consolation you won't find much, since most of these manage to avoid death only by striking a deal with the Devil: once the driving force that led to their creation is spent, they become undead, passing over into a second, interminable existence, fueled by the incoherent cries and mumblings of a never-ending stream of fresh zombies stumbling into them from random Google searches.

Now a look at the above list may arouse dismay in some of the older, more passionate readers, since those sites, whatever their faults (and they all had many, as I would be the first to point out) were some of the most original, enthusiastic and all-around worthwhile gaming sites ever -- and now they are dead, over and done with, and there's little to no chance of them ever coming back, let alone recapturing the spirit of their respective heydays. -- Yes, I must confess, if it is not by now quite clear, that the outlook for enthusiast gaming sites (and they are the only ones that matter) does seem increasingly bleak to me as time goes by...

Having said that, let us try to embrace this bleakness by attempting to see things from a loftier perspective; let us try to survey the situation from a higher vantage point. So let us, first of all, agree that there's nothing wrong with websites "dying" (or for anything else really: including consoles, companies, genres, and yes, even people). If something dies there's always a very good reason for that (even though it may be hard to discern exactly what it is in every single case: a good reason nonetheless always exists), and the world is always better off being relieved of the sight (not to mention the smell!) of what is weak, sick, half-dead and rotting. Sometimes the view of a dead thing that we formerly treasured may arouse a sense of nostalgia in us... but we should never forget that when we become nostalgic of something, we are nostalgic of it in the state it was before it died -- a state which is now over and done with and can never be brought back; for if it could, we would not be nostalgic of it in the first place. Nostalgia, too, like all else, is something to be savored at the time in which it happens: which is to say always the present time. It even sometimes happens that we become nostalgic of nostalgia itself, and no longer of that dead thing whose memory had originally awakened our nostalgia.

Besides, nothing that is good in this world ever really and truly dies. Whatever was of value in those sites that end up going offline -- if they contained anything of value in the first place -- will always be preserved somewhere, or reconstructed somewhere else, in one form or another, or inspire something new and therefore carry on living somewhere within it. In the case of dead sites which remain online: whatever was of value in them is of course still there for the world to see and appreciate, whilst the lack of updates constitutes no loss, for it is quite proper that a man should stop talking if he has nothing more to say, whilst we should fiercely resist any desire to attempt to goad him into speaking again as nothing but a symptom of stupidity on our part. Too many people keep on chattering merely for the sake of hearing themselves speak (and certainly all the professionals; though those have an even nobler and more effective motive -- money), so let us not berate those who are honest and know when to keep their peace -- for a man is never more honest than when he is silent.

There will doubtless come a time when there'll be nothing new and interesting to read, or even to merely look at, on the internet. Perhaps that time is not even too far off. But what of that? When all that can be said has been said the purpose of the internet will have been achieved -- and wouldn't that be more a cause for celebration than dismay?

And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.