Nobody needs a 404

The joy and sadness of looking at the old web

A post for #WeblogPoMo2024.

Most of the posts in this series so far have been naval-gazing longform exercises in nostalgia. I’d planned for most blogposts this month to be reposts of old content, a rediscovery of joyful things.

For example: in late December 2011 I linked to this wonderful site. It contains nothing but a button which, when pressed, does a little processing animation and makes everything ok.

Go and visit it. It’ll take you under ten seconds and will put a smile on your face.

It’s remarkable that a silly one-page site like that is still online 13 years later. It’s obviously a little passion project by someone who made it because it sparked some sort of happiness in them rather than for clicks ‘n’ exposure ‘n’ metrics.

In fact, it’s remarkable that most of the things that bensinterests linked to still resolve to the original content, and almost all of those links are to tiny little one-person or small-team operations. All of the creators sharing something for fun.

There are some dead links now or things that don’t load properly, almost always from bigger companies or services that have been sold and resold many times over.

In May of 2011 I linked to this article on the well regarded International Business Times which had stunning HDR-like photographs of people from Depression-era America which made my heart soar. I posted one of those photos on bensinterests but, like a good writer, linked to the source where there was more. Clicking on that link now does take you to a page on the IBTimes website but shorn of the original photos. It’s just a short page of text. The whole point of the article is gone.

Business, or a quest for clicks and ad revenue, has resulted in ephemerality. The cream of the web that I found back then was made because making and sharing fun things for their own sake is fun. And it’s nice to keep that content alive.

I think, again, about my own online presence. bensinterests and my other Tumblr accounts are still online but my various stalled and intermittent projects on my own domains have been fleeting and are lost to time. Some are in the Internet Archive1 but most aren’t.

I should change that. At the very least, anything I publish I should be happy to be viewable and findable forever. My current setup - pages hosted on various services across the web with little-to-no transferability if they vanish - isn’t great. I definitely need a better solution.

  1. Truly the unsung hero of the modern internet ↩︎