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When I started developing websites back in the day, I was lucky to have hundreds of valuable, practical articles that would help me become better at what I did. I could learn day and night, and whenever I discovered a new tool or technique, I would bookmark it on Delicious for future reference. I knew the value of each article and of each bookmark, and I kept revisiting and carefully tagging them for months and months — almost every day.
Years have passed. The landscape has changed. Blogs have emerged and new publications have appeared. Some magazines were discontinued yet remained fully available online (Pingmag and good ol’ Digital-Web, for example). At that point, maintaining a backup of online articles obviously didn’t even cross my mind. For a year or so, I even stopped bookmarking articles since I could always find them via Google, of course. I was naive and stupid.
As the time was progressing, every now and again I kept revisiting my bookmarks just to realize that all this fantastic, valuable content was slowly fading away from me, leaving nothing but a breath of disappointment and sadness every time I wanted to quickly look something up and had to consult the fantastic Web.archive.org first to drag the living parts of the article from the incomplete cached version.
Good Content Is Too Valuable To Die
Yesterday over 9,500 articles published throughout the years on .net magazine disappeared over night. Sadly, only the top 500 articles were moved to a new home while others just vanished from the Web within a couple of seconds. And so, anotherportion of my bookmarks died silently and abruptly.
Over 9,500 .net mag articles disappeared over night; users are redirected to the “Welcome”-post on Creative Bloq.
I loved how detailed and practical articles published on .net magazine used to be. I loved Dan Oliver’s and Oliver Lindberg’s fantastic editorial work on hundreds of articles I’ve bookmarked over the years — many of them now gone due to the simple fact that they didn’t get enough attention over the years. Those articles were good, very good in fact; valuable, helpful, worth reading and rereading, worth tweeting and sharing, worth keeping as PDFs in a special local folder.
The remainders of those articles still exist out there, in Google Cache or Web Archive cache. They are accessible and can be found if you know what you are looking for and know where to look for them. But what if you don’t? A couple of months from now, they will disappear from the Google index for good. The content that was thoroughly edited and skillfully prepared over years will not be there anymore. If I started developing websites today, I wouldn’t be able to find them anymore. That’s bad — very, very bad.
We know it because we’ve been there: Good content is time-consuming. It’s expensive, requires patience and damn hard work. Good content is very difficult to produce and hard to maintain, and it’s way too valuable to die like this. One thought keeps crossing my mind and that is: “This should not be happening.”
.net magazine has been working on fixing bugs in regard to their server move, and while they’ve been very responsive on Twitter, it looks like those articles aren’t going to be published again soon:
@taupecat A legacy site still requires support. And to move more than 10,000 articles and style them all up wasn't an option.
— netmag (@netmag) September 19, 2013
Unfortunately, Smashing Magazine has experienced this, too. We recently had to move thousands of articles to a new install and know how expensive and time consuming this challenge can be. I sincerely applaud .net magazine‘s developers for moving 500 articles to the new site, but why was removing the articles from the Web necessary in the first place? Why not provide an online backup with advertising and everything necessary to keep these articles online?
Today I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to me if I had started off in the Web design industry a couple of years later and those fantastic articles spread across CSS blogs and online magazines just didn’t exist any longer.
Today is the day when I start keeping PDF backups of valuable online articles because at the end of the day, the Web does forget. And way too often what it forgets is the quality content that is so difficult to create in the first place.
I hope from the very bottom of my heart that .net magazine articles will be brought back to life and will be available online; perhaps with pop-ups, numerous ads and blinking GIFs. That content is just too valuable to die. It should stay online.
© Vitaly Friedman for Smashing Magazine, 2013.
Published on: Mar 03, 2021