A Million Ways to Die on the Web
This is a list of common ways websites shut down and user content gets permanently deleted. If you know of a website exhibiting any of these symptoms, please tell us on IRC.
- This list is very much not complete nor comprehensive.
- The best way to keep your data safe is to make proactive backups.
- The average timespan of warning-to-shutdown is 30 days. Sometimes, there's no warning whatsoever.
- Fortunes can change, websites can suddenly become profitable. Just don't count on it.
- Death can be sudden and happen overnight, or it can be drawn out over years.
- Combo death: A website can go bankrupt and be acquired.
Situation: Company A creates a service or buys out Company B and integrates them with their website. Years and years go by, with updates to the service slowing to a complete stop as employees quit or are re-assigned. One day, Company A decides managing it is too expensive and not worth the effort, so they shut it down.
Situation: Company A does "Facebook for cats". Company A grows a small community of loyal
cat soldiers users, but doesn't gain enough traction to keep things profitable. Company A can't find anyone who's interested in acquiring them, so they shut down.
Situation: Either Company A releases the new Singing and Dancing Version 2.0 website, which is supposed to succeed nasty old version 1.0, or Company A "pivots" and becomes The All New Shiny Company A. In either case, Company A removes their old website and deletes all of the user data.
Situation: Company A buys Company B, employees and all. Together, they will continue their incredible journey to make the world a better place. A few months/years/seconds later, Company B is dead and its employees are either laid off or re-assigned to Company A projects.
Situation: Same as Acquired/Acqui-hired, but the purchasing company is known for suddenly and randomly shutting down websites. Named after Yahoo!, which has a track record of doing this.
The prognosis here is critical. You should make local backups of all of your data ASAP (better yet, why wait until it's too late?)