When long-lived websites close down, they often give little notice, sending archivists scrambling to rescue its work for posterity. About.com, the venerable topic-mining hive abruptly put to death, seems to be a counter-example: a faceless mountain of bland, undifferentiated, half-plagiarized content that no-one seems sad to see vanish. Its own CEO—who once spoke contemptuously of it before being convinced to take the job—has a plan to make something new and interesting out of the remains.
"I got a phone call from Joey Levin, who is the CEO of IAC. He asked, 'What do you think of About.com?'" Vogel said during a recent interview with Business Insider. "My answer — in perfect arrogance — was 'I don't.' Who thinks of About.com? Nobody."
Levin persuaded him to come in for a job interview anyway, and Vogel walked out convinced he could help turn the company around. Now he is CEO of About.com, and to save it he's trying something that sounds crazy.
He’s shutting down the entire website in early May. In its place, he's launching a half-dozen new sites.
"This is either going to work and be a great success or we're going to crash the plane as we're flying it and this is going to be a horrible failure," Vogel says he told IAC.
About.com was one of the earliest big web successes to cash out: to Prime Media in 2000 for $690m, then to the New York Times in 2005 for $410m, IAC in 2012 for $300m, and now to the deep void—but also the hope that the staff and infrastructure can be used to make something better. Read the rest
The good news is it is funny. The bad news is it is a GoDaddy ad. Read the rest
Check out txt.fyi, a toy "publishing platform" I made. I put that phrase in quotes because it's designed to be as lightweight as possible: you type in text and hit publish, and your work is live on the internet. From the "about" page:
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But it is legible, no-nonsense static hypertext, good for short stories, not-short-enough tweets and adventures and all your numbers station or internet dead drop needs. Here you can scream into the void and know the form of your voice is out there forever.
Search engines are instructed not to index posts and I'll do my best to make sure this isn't used as a tool by spammers or other abusers. Nonetheless, posting will be turned off if anything bad grows out of it.
Use Dumbdown to format posts: #header, **bold**, *italic*, `code`, quote, and hyperlinks in the format [link](http://example.com). Try !hacker and !professor and !timestamp too. ...
Long live the independent web!
Twitter's wonderful, but it's also horrible a lot of the time &endash; especially for the people using it. And we all complain about it, too! Anil Dash weaves the obvious and not-so-obvious threads of criticism into a billion dollar gift for Twitter. It comes down to these five key points: Read the rest
Verizon yesterday bought Yahoo, which had earlier bought Flickr, a photo-sharing site, and Tumblr, a blogging platform. Both of these places have three key qualities that raise important questions about their survival: 1) they're both oldschool platforms locked in time because they were bought by Yahoo, 2) both still have vast, dedicated userbases, 3) both have unique cultures that will be invisible to Verizon's legendarily banal middle-management culture.
Flickr tried modernizing a few years ago to compete with Instagram and other fresh social-driven competitors, but had atrophied so much since the 2005 takeover by Yahoo that it couldn't recapture the lead.
Yahoo seemed to listen, at least fleetingly. The company finally released some functional mobile apps and started offering a terabyte of storage space to users for free, but it was too little too late.
For Ward, Yahoo was desperately trying to appeal to the Instagram generation, and in doing so started to alienate the site’s core users, many of whom were professional photographers. “We all had a lot of hope that Yahoo would be able to bring it back to life, but the changes that were introduced took away things we really loved,” she said.
“When we gave feedback it felt like no one was listening. It was a little bit insulting to people who had been using it so actively for so many years. We were clearly not the target audience any more.”
Tumblr, meanwhile, is neck-deep in smut and self-absorbed blather and other things likely to terrify suits—but its also one of the net's last safe redoubts for young women. Read the rest
Infernal Scoop is a crowdsourced storytelling site with a no-nonsense, functionalist vibe. Create a story, let readers wander through branching plot developments, and watch everything go weird and wild as they add their own. The format is geared to paragraph-length units posted anonymously—there doesn't seem to even be a way to set up an account—so it feels like a crazy experiment in "authorless" interactive fiction. [via r/internetisbeautiful]
There are other sites like it, but this one has the feel of a tool rather than an environment. The street is finding its own uses. Read the rest
The fine folks at Small Business Web Designs in Australia put together a very helpful list of 50 Top Rated Websites for Royalty Free Stock Images, like Path to the Sea by Paul Jarvis on Life of Pix. Read the rest
The Encrypted Page Maker lets you paste in a HTML document, pick a password, and then hosts the resulting page at its own site. Simple public publishing, with the source code available in the page source.
The contents of you page is compressed using LZString.js and optionally encrypted using mjsCrypt.js, and stored in the hash of a loader URL. The page loader reads the contents of the URL hash and decrypts and expands the page, setting the value of body.outerHTML. Scripts will work as they are compiled and executed after the page is loaded. Cookies and localStorage will not work between pages as they are both wiped clean when the page loads.
The encryption is unproven, and may only act as a deterent. This page and the loading pages are served over HTTP without SSL so do not trust it with actual confidential infomation. This is a toy. I hope you can have fun with it. All source code is freely avaliable in the page source.
Recode, the tech news site founded last year by former WSJ journalists Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, is being sold to Vox Media in an all-stock deal.
This is the next big step in our mission to bring you quality tech journalism, because our work will now be amplified and enhanced by Vox Media’s deep and broad skill set. … Re/code will benefit from joining Vox Media by integrating Vox Media’s various capabilities — including marketing, communications, audience development, sales and production. We will also eventually migrate to Vox Media’s beautiful, powerful and flexible proprietary publishing platform, which will give us new ways to present our stories to you.
Growth is the watchword, but it's startling that access to a different content management system is worthy of mention. WordPress just isn't working for publishers, it seems. The Verge, Vox's sprawling gadgets/tech/entertainment hub, will tighten its focus to make way.
Verge Editor Nilay Patel:
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…along the way, we made a big decision: The Verge is not a business site. The Verge is for people interested in understanding the exciting and bewildering everyday changes of the future. It's for all of us trying to figure out how we should live and act and behave in this enchanting new world of screens. It's for people wondering what to spend their money on — and for people thinking about how spending that money affects everyone else around them. It's for knowing about trends and ideas across technology and culture first. It's about art and science coming together to spark one of the fastest eras of change in history.
Acting is a crappy business, but the world needs actors, and since we live in a time when digital production and distribution has democratized filmmaking, anyone can be a casting director. Exhibit A is a new tumblr, Casting Call Woes, which has netted a foul-smelling collection of ripe ones from the sea of DIY casting calls. Read the rest