Have you ever noticed how many sites on the web look abandoned? Even though not all web pages have a date stamp on them, you can often spot the sites, that have not been updated in ages. They appear to be “frozen in time” – ugly design with flash intro pages, animated gifs, trailing cursors, and the press releases section with the last one issued in 1996, usually give them away.
How does that happen? Do people simply forget about their own web properties? Why not simply remove those pages, especially those, that contain personal photos and contact info?
I think there are three main reasons why this happens:
- Lost interest / No time for updates
My own website Tristarmedia.com is a good example. I quickly put it together in 2003 to showcase some of my work. Then my priorities have changed. I no longer had time to update my own site, as I was busy updating my clients’ sites.I had a spelling mistake on the homepage, which is still there. My contact information has changed, at least, 5 times since 2003, so nobody could reach me through my website. I was aware of all of the problems and felt guilty for neglecting the site, though I could never find the time to update it. I am working on a full site redesign now, though it’s already been over 8 months, since I started that project.
- Lost Login
I am sure it happens quite often that people simply forget where they’ve registered a blog or what email/password they’ve used. If they changed their email during that time, recovering password online won’t work, as system will email it to the email address that doesn’t exist anymore.
- Owner is gone, literally
I am referring to personal pages, that belong to those, who are no longer alive. A lot of those pages are hosted on free hosting sites and free platforms, like WordPress or social media sites like Facebook or My Space, so technically, they‚Äôll never expire. I am sure there are a few of those pages floating in the web space, like ghosts. Since there are no rules or processes in place for cleaning up the webspace, this “virtual graveyard” will probably keep growing at a fast rate.
This last point made me wonder if web properties now are mentioned in people’s wills. Think about it.If you have a very popular blog with a lot of traffic or a Facebook’s group with thousands of fans, that’s a valuable asset to pass onto someone. Tough your aunt might not know what to do with your super popular fashion blog, she might be able to sell it to someone who does.
However, in the example with Facebook, you don’t own your information, once you submit it to Facebook. This means your family can’t inherit it.
There was an interesting article about Facebook’s Policy on Deceased User Accounts.
Apparently, as per Facebook’s policy, they memorialize profiles of the deceased and never take them down completely. Kind of creepy. The page is then only becomes accessible to confirmed friends through search. In the case, described in the article, Stephanie Bermister, a sister of the deceased William Bemister, was not a confirmed member on her brother’s friends list. So she couldn’t even see any of his photos or posts on the Facebook. Stephanie sent in a request, along with a copy of William’s death certificate, to Facebook to remove his profile, but Facebook refused.
It’s not clear why she was so eager to take down her brother’s profile on Facebook. However, I find it interesting, that Facebook is holding onto those profiles, as much as family members do. As if they don’t have enough alive members to take care of?
There is another story that comes to mind, a story of Matthew Silliman, who was brutally murdered by a group of four teens. All four suspects were listed as his friends on Facebook. I am sure Matthew’s parents, at a minimum, would want to remove those “friends” from his profile page. Would they have to go through the same tedious process, as Stephanie Bermister went, trying to make changes to their son’s profile?
They were also saying in the article that it may be a good idea “to have a plan of action in place, outlining instructions to family members and loved ones in regard to what should be done with their accounts, once they’ve passed away. Yes, that might be a good idea, as most of our family members would have no clue where to start with social media sites, where we might be registered in.