A Million Ways to Die on the Web

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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.

Disclaimer(s)

  • 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.

Abandoned

Examples: GeoCities, Swipnet, Verizon Personal Web Space, My Opera, Quizilla

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.

Bleeding money

Examples: FortuneCity, Inkblazers, Vstreamers

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.

teh futurez!1!

Examples: Myspace, MobileMe, Bebo, Nokia Memories, GameMaker Sandbox, Blip.tv, Hyves

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.

Acquired/Acqui-hired

Examples: GeoCities, Posterous, Brace.io, Roon, Viddy, Qwiki, Yahoo! Voices, Blip.tv

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.

Yahoo-ed

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?)

See also


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