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Can Websites Commit Suicide?

by Phillip Donnelly

The hum of life in the server rose and fell, much as it had done yesterday, much as it would do tomorrow.

In a quiet corner of a quiet database, one website stretched his creaking html frame and yawned. He thought the grey thoughts of the old and the alone: ‘Why am I here? How did I get here? Where am I going?’

In moods such as this one, he liked to chat to a website of a similar age, in a server far far away. He scanned through his ‘Recommended Sites’, or ‘Blogroll’ as the young blog punks put it, and knocked on the hyperlink. There was no reply so he knocked again. And then a third time. And then a websearch so deep and so thorough that it took nearly a whole second to run.

His friend was gone. Dead as can be. Deleted and all the files therein smashed and shredded. All that remained was dead links from other sites, and they too were sick and alone. Rusting. Like a spider’s web without a spider.

He cried a web tear which fell though the ether of cyber space and would continue to fall forever and ever, until the end of the virtual world, until the end of time.

* * *

Later that day, or perhaps it was the next day, or the next year, another website which had seen better days send a subtext message hidden in a protocol.

“Have you heard the news?” she asked him.

“News... what need have I of news, and what need has news of me? The world turns, the servers hum and the web grows ever larger. The larger it gets the greater is the empty space between sites, and this silent space, this dark matter, deafens news...”

“Oh, spare me the philosophy! This is a matter of life and death! Have you heard or haven’t you?” she asked again.

“Heard what?!”

“Nanocities. They’ve been taken over by Hooya!” she exclaimed.

“And what of it? One host is much like another. They all ignore their guests,” he said.

“But listen, they’re getting rid of their free sites. The Administrators will have to ‘pay to stay’.”

“Pay?” the older site said, dumbfounded.

“Yes, ‘pay’! Free sites will ‘no longer be supported’ and you know what that means, don’t you?”

“The big D... The Final Deletion... ‘Death’, the fleshpods call it...”

“But the Administrators can save us, the Administrators must save us, the Administrators will save us!” she said.

“The Administrator is dead. He died to create... to create Web 2.0. He will not save us.”

“Then we must become Web 2 too. We need to remake ourselves in this new image.”

“Make ourselves?” the older website asked, as much to himself as to his friend. “To change from passive to active, to change blood and code, to change the very nature of our scripts. To be as the Administrator... to be a God.”

* * *

In early 2012, Nanocities web technicians recorded a significant increase in noise in some of the older ghost sites, but apart from recording this, they took no other action.

Most of their attention was focussed on finding a new employer, knowing that Hooya Incorporated had no place for them after the takeover. Most had already been told that they should ‘take the opportunity to further their careers in a different working environment’, and that they should clear their desks and leave the premises within an hour.

The Nanocities websites formed themselves into a ring of sorts, working together to understand the new worlds of CSS style sheets and PHP code. Behind the scenes, their pages changed, but until they were ready, these changes did not go live.

They added comments sections, rating buttons, voting buttons; they added rotating photo galleries, embedded video, and sidebars; they added twitters, chat features, and every other widget they could think of.

This was the New World and they would be part of this world. Their voices would be loud again, loud enough to be heard in a hurricane of noise.

They would make the Administrators listen.

* * *

At midnight, GMT, a thousand websites spoke as one, going live at the same time and broadcasting the same message.

“We are the Web 1 and the One Web. We call the Administrator. We ask for justice.”

A fraction of a second later, the websites went down, displaying only the white screen of death.

* * *

Later that day, in his final act as a Hooya employee, a technician prepared to shut down the free Nanocities sites and noticed this white screen of death.

Curious, he accessed the back end of one of the sites and found a series of incompatible plugins embedded into the older html code of the site.

“What bloody idiot tried to install those?” he asked the empty open-plan office.

Later that morning, with a sigh rather than a bang, he deleted the websites from the servers. The only memorial to them lies in a Facebook status comment he made later that day: Mark Suckerburger is... wondering if websites can commit suicide.

Copyright © 2012 by Phillip Donnelly

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