During my early days of web design (when I basically didn’t have money or a job), I would get free domain names from companies like .co.nr and .tk and use them on my websites that were also hosted for free. Having a domain name gave me a sense of individuality and entitlement. When I helped my sister to design her portfolio website, I hosted the site on my server and got a free domain name from co.cc to shorten the url. Recently, I decided to check up on the site using the the co.cc domain and to my shock it was gone. So naturally, I visited the company website to make sure the domain name was re-directing properly. Guess what? It no longer exists too! I tried googling “co.cc” and no search results were found.
In fact, I stumbled across an article from 2011 that said Google banned websites hosted by co.cc to avoid “spammy websites” from showing up in search results. Make sense, I guess. Most people who purchase hosting and domain names tend to be more serious about their content (that is not say that people who use free hosting have shitty sites or people with purchased hosting are entitled to great sites). More recent search results led to Yahoo Answer pages where users were asking the interwebs where their co.cc websites had gone.
As confirmed by Slashdot and the lovely Wikipedia, co.cc has closed down. Many speculate the closing was due to bankruptcy and/or unpaid debts to other hosting companies. Millions of users have lost their information without any forewarning. The free domain hosting service also hosted email accounts and paid hosting. They probably won’t be getting any of their data back! Luckily, Jenny’s portfolio was hosted on my site and just using co.cc as an url shortener.
This incident reminds me, on a smaller scale, of the closing of GeoCities in 2009. GeoCities hosted, for free, millions of websites during the dot-com bubble. This was period during the late 90s and early 2000s where the Internet sector grew significantly. Millions of businesses and individuals were trying to make their mark on the Internet. As a result, sites like GeoCites and Startups.com became extremely popular. After the closing of GeoCities, the Internet Archive and many other archive sites made attempts to archive as many GeoCities websites as possible.
The Internet has become an integral device in documenting history. Nowadays, you will see people using social media websites like Facebook and Twitter to organize social revolts! From a more basic level, the Internet is a tool for self-expression. A website’s design and content is indicative of a particular culture and set of beliefs. When we lose a website from the Internet, we lose a piece of someone’s (whether it is an individual, group of people, or company) history. It’s like they never existed.
In that regard, the Internet is just like the “real world”. It’s a short-lived experience. The Internet of yesterday was never the same as the Internet of today. The Internet of tomorrow, of course, is unpredictable. Just like the “real world”, people love to indulge in nostalgia. Archives give us the opportunity to preserve what is important to us, and what is important to us, of course, isn’t everything. Therefore, we constantly have to pick and choose what we want to “preserve”. Like the Earth, the Internet only has so much room. Money can only get extend your life so far.
The closing down of co.cc is yet another reminder that nothing lasts forever. Even the Internet, a seemingly expanding and indestructible space, is prone to destruction. Is the first website ever still here today? Nope. Will my own website be here in 10 years? Probably not.