Just learning about hi.co right now, at Arbor Cafe, on reading about its archiving and closing. Impressed, but sad.

May 12th, 2016, 2pm

It was 18.3°C with few clouds. There was moderate breeze.

I’m sitting in the cafe, as I often do, drinking a coffee and reading the Internet instead of doing my proper work. There are dozens of others around me doing the same thing, munching on a sandwich, sipping a cup of tea, checking Facebook. And then I follow a link from Twitter or some such and find about Hi.co, specifically because of the announcement of its being shut down.

It’s a strange mix of feelings, because on the one hand, I’m reading about this project and getting excited, since it sounds similar to some things we tried to do with the Meaningful Location project, to capture our activities in places in a more interesting way, and I’m envious, because they’ve really gotten a lot of people to do this, and I’m sad, because the site is shutting down just as I learn about it. But most of all, I’m just taken aback at how serious the plan for archiving it is. In the startups or web projects I read about over coffee every morning, how many will have URLs still good in two years, much less ten years? I’ve never heard of a business arrangement where a domain name is sold with the condition that URLs are forwarded, but that’s a fantastic (fanatical) approach.

Keeping a URL re-directing properly for a decade is a fascinating organizational challenge, but this nickel plate etching is awe-inspiring in a whole different way. It reminds me of a different kind of jealousy, that of those people whose crafts and contributions live on in a physical product, something you can touch and feel and get a sense of, like these nice wooden tables at Arbor and entirely unlike the nice web pages we put together, made of raw information and extremely vulnerable to disappearing suddenly. It makes me want to record this story here, just to know that it might be on one of those nickel plate discs, stored in the Library of Congress, and reviewed by some bored archaeology student in a century or so. This is (part of) what the Web was like. We captured inchoate thoughts in hypertext and wondered if they would last.

The Meaningful Location project I mentioned earlier, I’m sad to find is 404 now, even though I had been certain I was dutifully paying Google the $10 every year to keep the domain name. The Internet Archive, heroes that they are, have a snapshot.

Porter and David Wade said thanks.

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Nick Doty

I study privacy and the Web.

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