Deletetheweb.com started out as a jolly gag. Back in November 2001, while working on the first series of Science Shack – and, indeed, whilst sitting in the Cardigan Arms – Damien and I thought it might be an amusing jape to build a website which offered to ‘delete the entire world-wide web’, presented you with ‘OK’ and ‘Cancel’ buttons, then if you were foolish enough to pick the former it would proffer up a progress bar for 14 trillion files. We bought the domain that afternoon, and I slapped it on my shiny new Dreamhost service plan.
Of course we never got around to writing the site and Deletetheweb sat idle, waiting for me to work out what to do with it. Until March, 2003, when Jules was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
300 miles away and feeling somewhat helpless, I had some bizarre inkling that maybe, just maybe, it might be easier for Alan and Jules to relate their experiences in public, once, rather than to individuals, many times. So I installed Movable Type at deletetheweb.com/jules, threw Alan the keys, and left it at that.
What developed over the next 14 months was a moving tribute to Jules and her astonishing stubbornness, to Alan’s dedication, and to their joint bravery. It’s an everyday tale of struggling against the odds and, ultimately, losing. Alan’s writings, however, stand as a defiant testimony, eulogy, and inspiration. I never, for a moment, thought a weblog would have such an impact, and I feel honoured to have played a small part in the story, however much I wish it had turned out differently.
Along the way, Deletetheweb picked up other residents, more people with stories to tell or simply an urge to experiment. Some have persevered and blog almost daily, some post sporadically, some have drifted off – it’s been a pleasure to read them all. Worth singling out are the original Damien, who turned an initially-dodgy photoblog into a plaudit-winning exhibition of mobile phone photographic art, and John, whose Unstuck Diaries I’ve never understood but in which I’ve continuously found amusement, inspiration, and beauty.
Today, a reminder arrived exhorting me to renew deletetheweb.com’s registration, which was due to expire in a few weeks’ time. Did I bother? Of course I did, and without hesitation. Hosting the site has brought me much pleasure over the last four years. I think it’s worth a modest gamble on the next.