DPReview’s Shutdown is a Reminder That the Internet is Ephemeral
I'm the first to admit I'm not a camera buff. When my kids were born I splurged on a Canon T2i DSLR camera because I wanted to take the best photos possible. Those photos look amazing, but I (like most) still default to using my phone to snap 99% of what's around me. I couldn't tell you the last time I took my T2i out of its bag.
I am recounting my DSLR tale because when I was camera hunting I came across DPreview, a long-running and in-depth camera review website. For camera nerds (unlike me) it is THE place to find information on basically every camera ever built. Add in news and a thriving user forum and anyone can see why it's an important place for camera affectiantos.
Amazon quietly purchased DPreview in 2007 and let it run on its own all this time. That train looks to be rolling into its last stop because two months ago they announced they were shutting down. Even for me who is not in the camera world, I heard a lot of people upset by this move. This shutdown will wipe decades of information from the internet.
After nearly 25 years of operation, DPReview will be closing in the near future. This difficult decision is part of the annual operating plan review that our parent company shared earlier this year.
The site will remain active until April 10, and the editorial team is still working on reviews and looking forward to delivering some of our best-ever content.
Everyone on our staff was a reader and fan of DPReview before working here, and we’re grateful for the communities that formed around the site.
Thank you for your support over the years, and we hope you’ll join us in the coming weeks as we celebrate this journey.
General Manager - DPReview.com
This made me realize one simple fact about the internet we use for large chunks of our time on a daily basis: the internet was built to be robust but not permanent. Let me explain.
The internet's original idea was to connect a series of computers. By creating multiple pathways for information to flow, this network could withstand "nodes" going down. Because the internet was originally a US Government project, it made sense that it was built to be tough and usable in unforeseen environments. Decades later, that robustness has worked. The internet as a whole never goes down. Sites occasionally fail, DNS Servers fail, and connections fail. But it's isolated to you, your neighborhood, or simply a compartmentalized section that eventually returns. That return time is generally minutes these days.
Permanence is another story. For long-time "onliners" like myself, the web is nothing like it was. Most, if not all, destinations I used to frequent are long gone. And with them every piece of information they held. Lycos, Geocities, HampsterDance, Jeeves, and Yahoo Groups are jibberish to anyone under 30. But "back in the day" those were major repositories of information in which we visited a lot.
I was listening to a recent episode of John Gruber's The Talk Show podcast (I believe it is this one) and he brought up an interesting statistic. For his long-running website, he suspects stories he links to over 5 years old have a 99% chance of being broken. At first glance, that number sounds high. But think of how many websites come and go in a short time.
Many will read the above and say "Yes, but you have the Internet Archive" and they would be right. However, you then have distilled the internet into a single place. A single point of failure. This place without the robust architecture of the modern internet is all that is left of Geocities or Jeeves. And if you've ever been to the Internet Archive, you know that it is missing a lot when you go even a single page under the surface of archived sites.
The Internet Archive is one answer but not THE answer. The internet was designed to be robust and stable, but hardly permanent. The fact that we haven’t solved this problem yet will be a stain on its existence. And yet, nobody will know because most if not all that is put online will disappear before we even think to look for it. And by then it will be too late.