I just stumbled across this, which is happening as we speak.  It's an online community 16 years old being shut down - without an archive (via Scott Rosenberg).  It hurts a little, because I posted there from 1998 through the early 2000s before moving to Salon's other forum, The WELL.  I built friendships, met people face-to-face, and read a lot of great stories.  For example, this hilarious tale of two dogs finding an elk carcass and refusing to leave it.  What does the shutdown say about the permanence of content on the Internet?

The official announcement gives reasons for the shutdown and for the lack of an archive, but that's not why I'm posting this.  In this Metafilter discussion there's an interesting comment by user meehawl:
"I see my commenting history as more akin to conversation than anything else. It always suprises me that people might want to save what they've said online. This is not to snark at those who want to keep what they've said. It's just not my viewpoint. I'd happily see my ephemeral conversational metafilter history deleted."
Sounds like Facebook, doesn't it?  One of the first things I noticed about Facebook was that they make it a lot harder to find old content than pretty much any other site on the Web.  Facebook is not archival.  They don't make money off people looking up advice and interactions from years ago, so they don't let you.  It's not like it would be difficult for them to put in a search form, they purposely left it out so you'd concentrate on the here and now. So they can build an advertising profile on you.

Discussion forums like Table Talk are starting to look old-fashioned in comparison to Facebook, but people who got on the Internet before Web 2.0 developed an expectation that everything they ever said was in the cloud and would stay there forever, searchable by a simple Google query.  Not that you necessarily wanted it to be, it just was, because of the simplicity of the HTML that was used to build forums.

That age has ended.  Closed databases like Facebook--and The WELL--are not indexed, either for reasons of revenue or privacy.  Every byte on the Internet has a cost and a value, and business decisions are being made about your public history.  Who knows, maybe eventually it will be unnecessary to be careful what you put out there - the pictures of you drunk, the off-color jokes - and link rot will take away everything you don't pay to curate and archive.

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