Or more accurately when the people that create and maintain them die. I was thinking about this this morning when I read about of the sad death of Sheldon Brown. Sheldon Brown was what you might call a ‘bicycle evangelist’ from Massachusetts, and his site is a treasure trove of information for the cycle enthusiast or just for someone trying to carry out routine maintenance. I often find myself there when I need to work out how to, for instance, use a cone wrench correctly.
And this is the real point of this post, what now happens to this site which is a sizable and valuable body of work? Before the world wide web this content might have ended up in a book, the ultimate redundant data repository, thousands perhaps millions of extremely durable, geographically dispersed copies. Even when a book goes out of print there will be copies around in specialist libraries for hundreds perhaps thousands of years, but with a website if you switch of the server, or delete the files that’s it. Gone.
I hope this doesn’t happen to Sheldon Brown’s site, as it is an impressive and fitting legacy.