September 25, 2001 10:58 PM   Subscribe closes its doors... temporarily or otherwise. A similar traffic-induced fate befell our own James Lileks, resulting in a sorrowful, pared down site. Is this developing a trend? Could the Internet be getting too big for its ad-free, humorous britches?
posted by Dane (21 comments total)
Of course this is a developing trend. Have you been in a cave for the last year?

While the Internet is technically "free", the bandwidth is not.
posted by canoeguide at 11:01 PM on September 25, 2001

I don't think I have any worries about this myself, personally, but it does seem to be happening quite a lot lately.
posted by philulrich at 11:03 PM on September 25, 2001

I've been in a cave with a hairy jungle man. There is a hissing in my ear. I think it is a fly... a strange one.
posted by Dane at 11:04 PM on September 25, 2001

Thats sad =( Hmm.. Does anyone else see a future in which instead of becoming more 'interactive' with bells and whistles and lotsa movies, the majority of the net adopts the 5K philosophy?

I liked lowtax's PPPS though =)
posted by Mossy at 11:09 PM on September 25, 2001

A lot of Something Awful seems to still be there, if you know where to look. Cliff Yablonski is still live, thank God.
posted by aaron at 11:26 PM on September 25, 2001

lowtax kicks major ass. he has a great sense of wit and humor and he tells it like it is. he's been screwed over so many times by advertisers it's sad. i feel bad for the guy but bandwidth isn't free and i fear that the only websites left will be those that you pay for or those that spam the shit out of you w/ads and e-mail(or are hosted at an ISP/colo where a friend works in the NOC and nobody other than a few select people know your server is hosted there =]).

ps JeffK ru|3z!!1!11!1!111!!!
posted by suprfli at 11:26 PM on September 25, 2001

heavy text/image websites definitely need to rethink their design strategy. the low-tech no image sites work well, but paring down a site's index page even by a little bit can go a long way, i think. that really needs to be a consideration for today's designer.
posted by moz at 11:28 PM on September 25, 2001

PPS yay! jeffk is still there too.
posted by suprfli at 11:31 PM on September 25, 2001

Hey! No hax0ring sSOMETHING AWFEUL, cakeass!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:37 PM on September 25, 2001

Dane - okay, pardon my hasty snarkyness.

Here's my take on the dilly:

The Internet, and more specifically, web sites, are best when free. Free = freedom... freedom to chose where to go and what to do on the web...freedom to get all viewpoints...freedom to experience new things. A decent euphemism for the Internet as a whole, albeit a little cheesy, is one large collective brain of humanity. You can learn anything, connect with anyone, and more importantly share with anyone and make the collective brain a little larger and hopefully better.

We reject most of the business-model/corporate web because it is as if a portion of this collective brain is being guided and/or restricted by money. I'm not saying that or ebay distract from the ideal...they kind of peacefully co-exist with the collective brain theory, and make it damn easy to access a lot of stuff. But what does an X10 add, or one of those ones touting "increase your penis size in 2 weeks" really contribute to the ideal? They're just hoping to make a quick buck in a new medium...and as we've seen, in most cases this doesn't fly.

Corporate sites per se don't really distract many ways they are no different than your mom posting pictures of her grandchildren on a geocities page: they're just showing who/where they are and what they are proud of.

This brings us to those sites that we really love, mefi for example. No ads, no business model, just a forum...a place to share and see what others are sharing. The problem, of course is that servers and bandwidth aren't free. This is okay if you're running a niche site with a small core group of visitors...but when the site becomes popular, you are left with four painful options:

1. Sell out. Open the Pandora's box of click throughs, shoskeles, talking flash ads, and what is usually a failing effort to keep up with rising costs.

2. Charge for use of the site. Restrict access to only paid membership. While reducing the number of visits, and generating cash to cover expenses, you've just pulled your content out of the collective brain and put it into restricted storage.

3. Hope that generous individuals will bail you out. Sometimes this works beautifully, someone has a server and a T1 they're not using all of, they offer to host you or mirror content, or donations are enough to cover expenses. Example: radioparadise. One can never count on this this though.

4. Remove the site from the Internet, or scale down bandwidth intensive content. Bleh, no one likes to see a good part of the ideal disappear, and scaling down content often destroys the beauty, purpose, or attraction of a site. See nosepilot.

So this leaves us and the Internet where we are today. Personally, I just wonder if the Infrastructure is on pace to keep ahead of demand...let alone if individual sites have a way to remain a functioning part of the free collective brain.
posted by canoeguide at 11:54 PM on September 25, 2001

What a terrible thing. Lucky for me, my project received free bandwidth from a nice guy with good connections. My own ISP (friends for 10 years) told me they'd have to charge me almost 2k a month to keep it going.

I have yet to see someone get hit with high bandwidth fees and then switch to a pay-for-play service successfully.

As for donations... good luck. Only the most hardcore users are going to cough up money, and even then...not so much.

It's a sad state of affairs and I have only seen one answer that remotely comes close to fixing the problem. And even then it's a long shot.

Decentralize the content, use email, re-organize your site to archive things onto different machines when it's out of date, and for god's sake, don't offer 10 meg downloads...
posted by perplexed at 12:08 AM on September 26, 2001

and for god's sake, don't offer 10 meg downloads...
Now, just what kind of fool does that? ;)
posted by canoeguide at 12:11 AM on September 26, 2001

canoe: great reply. i couldn't agree w/your points more. i really think in a couple of years we're all going to be paying for the websites we love unless those sites stay small and the community around them doesn't grow. i hate to admit it but i'm already starting to give in to the fact that $5/month for a handful of sites that you read religiously is more than worth it so the site can pay for the bandwidth, hardware costs and maintenance w/o going to advertising. hell, i pay more than $5/month already for shit i don't even want(like way too many cable channels).
posted by suprfli at 12:31 AM on September 26, 2001

This would appear to be about the only thing Lileks and Something Awful have in common. Lileks, for instance, is funny.
posted by jjg at 12:57 AM on September 26, 2001

well, lowtax never really had any luck in the ad industry considering what he wen through with efront and the other ad companies he worked with before that. It was always clear to me that he didn't really have any knowledge of the online advertising industry. He just decided after his experiences that there was no way to make money or even put a dent in the bills without bombarding visitors with porn ads etc. One simple small popup would have provided him $2-3000 a month without overly annoying visitors. His site just ate too much bandwidth with the forums. Its a shame someone who was so talented couldn't manage the other aspects of his site more effectively.

You can either:
1. show no ads or just banner ads, and go out of business
2. you can have no content, and all ads popups etc and go down in a blaze of glory
3. have a delicate balance of everything and survive

just getting rid of those forums would have helped immensely
posted by rabbit at 1:26 AM on September 26, 2001

I read it, and the reason the server is having problems is because of too much bandwidth. It can't handle all of the traffic and usage. He's saying he'd have to upgrade to another server to handle all the bandwidth
posted by rabbit at 1:29 AM on September 26, 2001

I want to point out a bandwith-saving tactic that I use. I've pointed it out before, but it bears repeating: Use free webhosting services for your images. I use Apple's iDisk (which is available to users of the new Windows versions, as well, because they handle WebDAV). All my images but my logo load from there, from multiple iDisks, and I keep all my images on my own server, as well, so with a few simple changes I can change back to my own server should iDisk go out down.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:45 AM on September 26, 2001

My site will actually be up intact by the end of the year, once I find some other hosts. I have compressed every image until it consists of two colors and has the complexity and detail of a checkerboard, and that should help, too. Sigh.
posted by lileks at 7:05 AM on September 26, 2001

Been there. Did that. Took down the site. Saved the money.

My husband had this great little "desktop patterns" site that he had up for about two-three years -- we finally had to take it down this year after the bandwidth got too much to deal with. We were going to get hit with a $300+ bill -- per month -- if we didn't cut down. <:/ He's since moved it to Geocities, which shut him down after about two months or so for the same reason.

I've bailed on some site ideas I've come up with because I'm actually afraid they'll catch on. And this isn't hubris, mind you -- I'm not all "I love myself sooo much" -- but I'd love to do some graphics-intensive stuff, artsy stuff, and if too many people find me and happen to enjoy what I'd do, I'd have to take it down. The only thing I could do is make it a password-protected site, so I could keep my audience (should I ever find one) low, maybe keep my traffic low too. Actualy, that's something no one in this thread has mentioned yet. It's not something I really want to do, but it might be an option for me.

posted by metrocake at 10:02 AM on September 26, 2001

If you're willing to deal with the technical headache of being your own webhost, renting a dedicated server is a reasonable way to go. There's a definite learning curve involved in getting all the various services up and running, but you get an awful lot of bandwidth for your money - 100's of gigabytes of transfer for about $100/month, in some cases. And the dedicated server can host multiple domains, easily allowing you to "go halfsies" with other webmasters if $100/month is a budget breaker or you just have bandwidth to spare.

It's not a reasonable option for everybody, to be certain. But if you can stomach the tech issues, it's a fairly economical solution.
posted by youhas at 2:12 PM on September 26, 2001

So a few conclusion/ideas gleaned from the above:

1) Try to minimize the bandwidth needs of your pages, especially the index and/or popular content. Do this by using simpler code and using smaller or fewer images. This will also cut load time, which is never a bad thing =)

2) Consider putting putting single pop-ups or pop-behinds on very popular or high bandwidth pages (except your index, which probably shouldn't have advertising).

3) Try moving discussion areas to Delphi, Quick Topic, or other free/cheap discussion hosting.

4) Mirror your content on free web space hosts, then use javascript to send people to a random host (so no one site gets bogged down).

5) Require registration to view your pages. Allow anyone to register for free, but only offer your site to the people who take the time to register.
posted by klint at 7:08 PM on September 26, 2001

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