Dave Winer, inventor of the
syndication format known as RSS
and former-proprietor of Userland
software, shut down close to 3000 weblogs this week after releasing
a statement noting that the financial burden of hosting these free
weblogs was finally too much to bear.
Moments after the shutdown, the user outcry reverberated around the web
community (as well as Blogdex,
where at one point, the top 10 most blog-linked websites were under the
weblogs.com domain name) and the
response was overwhelmingly negative.
What I take issue with is Winer’s total disregard for the bloggers he shut out. For a man who claimed for years to be the best friend of the user, this sure is an [expletive] move. I suppose I shouldn’t be suprised, though.
Winer has been hosting “Manilla-powered” weblogs without cost to the
owners for years, and
although he attempted to give owners fair warning, did not give them any warning before deleting them all. [Ed. Updated on June 17]
people say it wasn’t enough.
…it would have been decent of him to give notice ahead of time to allow people to back up their sites and restart them elsewhere.
In response to the backlash, Winer released a personally-recorded MP3 transcript where he tried to mend ties with fellow bloggers who felt
betrayed by the situation.
Without going into too much detail, the stress of keeping servers running for users that expect free service, it’s just a deadly combination for me. It’s no fun, it’s highly stressful, and it literally is dangerous given my health situation.
— Dave Winer
Many users felt as though Winer selectively deleted weblogs, only
keeping the most important and popular ones alive. After bloggers
noticed that Doc Searls’ and Robert Scoble’s sites weren’t deleted, many
loyal Manilla users cried foul play.
What I’m most interested to find out about is that the sites at radio.weblogs.com and some other blogs like that of Doc Searls are still functioning.
Hosting costs money, money doesn’t grow on trees. It was gracious of
Dave to let users host their weblogs for free but it was obvious he
couldn’t maintain that state forever.
What was extremely unfortunate was that a great deal of the people who
lost their weblogs had no idea this deletion was coming. Winer may have
sent out an email to his users, but somewhere along the way,
communication was extremely botched up. Most of the people using
weblogs.com as their “blogging place” probably do not understand about
the technical issues associated with hosting so many free weblogs, and
needed assistance in order to transition themselves over to another
What this all boils down to is a breakdown in communication, and the
public relations nightmare which followed. The situation could have
been handled better on both sides, but at least this shows how important
communicating with your users/customers is.
Dave mentions that he couldn’t have given people 2 weeks notice
because the server was not meant for that and he was unsure of what
would happen. The beauty of the blogosphere and being as popular as Dave
is that he could have asked the question openly of how to go about the
situation (maybe not explain it in detail so the server gets overloaded)
and I have no doubt he would have received plenty of help. Shelley has been trying to get to the root of the matter so that she could offer
her solutions. However, the lack of information seems to be preventing
her from doing so.
Even though Dave is an individual and not a company this does provide
an important lesson for all of us as did the whole SixApart-MT licensing
situation that happened not too long ago. In both cases, users aren’t
upset over the technicalities of what happened (nobody expected both
weblogs.com and MT to be free forever), but no one was pleased with the
lack of communication on the parts of Dave and SixApart. Anil
stood up and took the blame for SixApart, and tried to help rectify part of what
went wrong, and his apology was very well-received. It will be interesting to see if Dave does the same.
Update: Wired article regarding the shutdown.