Shutdown September: Tales from Websites Shutting Down Across the Interwebs

Shutdown September

At the turn of the decade we find ourselves on the verge of a new era, albeit a precarious one. Waning is the age of websites, where there once was a page for everything on the internet. As we shift into an era of an oligopoly of so-called platforms, many older websites find themselves fading into obscurity.

This last September stands as a testament to that fact as many websites, which might have been stars in their days, have silently shut down. To digital archivists seeking to preserve internet history, this has been quite the field day. A lot of these archiving projects were led by the Archive Team. What follows is a sample of those stories…

Tencent Weibo English Version, profile page of loveshuqiforever

Tencent Weibo (腾讯微博) was a microblogging social media similar to Twitter. It launched about a decade ago, and for a time Tencent and Sina competed for social media domination throughout the Sinosphere. At their peak, both Tencent and Sina’s Weibo had over 200 million users. But Tencent really struck gold with their mobile app WeChat, which originally started as an instant-messenger but later received social media features such as groups, subscriptions and payments. And today they’ve become one of the biggest tech companies in China.

In the end, seeing as WeChat had both outclassed Sina’s and their own Weibo, Tencent decided to put it to rest in hopes of “reorganizing their company” to presumably focus on WeChat and other products. The shutdown announcement, which came in early September, gave users about three weeks to back up their data before the website would close down for good. Archive Team rushed to archive whatever they could, seeing as this was once a massively active website it’s no surprise that their collection is massive!

Archiving Stats (248.36TB), Collection on the Internet Archive

An example of user-curation on Naver Matome:
A news story on the rise of proxy-gaming in China, essentially playing a game for another account for grinding or earning items in exchange for money.

Naver Matome (まとめ) was a “curation platform”, akin to a tumblelog. Matome is short for Matomeru, which can be translated as “compiling” or “curating”. Launched in 2009 by Naver’s Japanese subsidiary LINE, Naver Matome allowed users to curate information into news stories or mini-articles. After peeking in popularity around 2013, it slowly faded into obscurity.

The company’s vision was to be able to tie these curations into Naver’s search engine, so that instead of just a website and its title, people searching would be able to view a summary of information, a similar function to how Wikipedia and Medium, to a certain extent, complement other search engines today. Alas, finding it difficult to grow in the current service and market environments they have decided to close their website down. With LINE’s recent merger with Yahoo Japan, it’s predicable that much corporate restructuring is to follow. The shutdown announcement came in July, giving users time until late September to say goodbye.

Archive Team was a bit late in initiating their archiving project, but they were able to salvage quite a bit of the website.

Archiving Stats (2.29 TB), Collection on the Internet Archive

Ever (or Ever album) was an online photo hosting service, which allowed users to store and organize their photos privately. In an age where smartphones were all the rage, and people had more photos on their hands than they could handle it enjoyed a small following.

Ironically, Ever wasn’t meant to last forever.

It is with heavy hearts that we plan to shut down the Ever service on August 31, 2020.  The service has been around for over seven years, but with increasing competition over the last several years from Apple and Google’s photo storage products (excellent products in their own right, and worth checking out as an alternative), the Ever service is no longer sustainable.  

Shutdown announcement

Since the storage of these photos was private, we don’t have anything to share here, users were given until 30 September to export their data. Now all that remains of Ever survives in WayBackMachine snapshots.

Speaking of photos, the 14 year-old Estonian photo/video hosting service Nagi and its other websites closed on October 1. Similar to Ever, they cited that the world of photography had moved to other services, as well as social media. At this point they were only an historical archive of photos, and no longer able to pay the bills. Archive Team archived their extensive Foto Album service.

Archiving Stats(207.7 Gb), Collection on the Internet Archive

Although it’s not its own website, YouTube’s community subtitling and captioning feature also went away in late September. New submissions are currently blocked off, and only previous ones may be accepted or downloaded for a limited time. Data Horde is currently working to retrieve unpublished submissions and you can read more about our project down below.

Even as September ends, there are still ongoing projects such as archiving classic Google Sites and Flash media.

At the end of the day we have to wonder, are all these websites fading away because they have been obsoleted? Or are they silently dying just because they don’t match the current trends? Only time will tell. If the world just forgot about some of these ideas, those who might see underutilized potential in them will know where to look for inspiration…


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