The 3 Kinds of Dead Websites


The first domain I ever owned, many years ago, was cleverchip.com. I let it lapse around 2003, but the historical whois records only go back to 2004. Nowadays it’s one of those ad-ridden placeholder pages with generic stock-art ladies doing businessy things, and it’s apparently worth upwards of $2000.

Oops.

There are three kinds of dead site on the internet. My old site has become the first kind:

The Invisible Corpse

I don’t remember much of what I put on cleverchip.com (and even The Wayback Machine doesn’t seem to be able to come up with anything) but I do remember that it had a splash screen in Flash. The splash screen consisted of the site mascot (a manically grinning little chip, what else?) doing an improbable pirouette across the screen.

Until someone buys the domain and changes the robots.txt, it’s as if the site never existed. Maybe it didn’t — I don’t have any of the original files. Who knows? The only real proof exists in a few small pathways in my brain that degrade year by year.

The Drifting Corpse

There’s another kind of lapsed site which I find tragically fascinating: the ones that are — through some fluke — still hanging on. They’re like crusty old space-hulks spiraling out into deep space with just enough power left to keep half of the lights on. Nobody home but a decaying skeleton slouched in the cockpit, with its bony fingers still gripping the throttle.

It’s hard to find these sites, because the lifeline of the internet is links, and no one’s linked to them since before the turn of the century. But they’re still there.

The Infected Corpse

I’ve owned a few of these. They usually result from old Wordpress installations gone bad: putrid, covered in ugly internet nastiness. They’re full of a feverish, virulent life. When I deleted one and redirected the domain to this site I saw a bizarre spike in traffic for a few days. I have no idea what was going on there but it felt like a last gasp from the parasites scrambling to find a new host.

Wordpress is particularly plagued by attacks because, in a similar way to Microsoft, their giant market share makes them the most cost-effective target. If you’ve ever looked at the 404 logs of a non-Wordpress site you’ll see a lot of attempts to reach yourdomain.com/wp-admin and similar. That’s an attack. One of the reasons I’ve moved away from Wordpress is I grew tired of constantly having to update my installation in order to keep it secure.

Sometimes you can save a site that’s gone bad, but frequently a total wipe (removing the head or destroying the brain) is the only thing for it.

Right now, the ratio of live sites to dead ones is probably fairly close. Imagine what it’s going to look like in 100 years, or 1000. Party in a graveyard!