Blogging pioneer Dave Winer has shut down the Weblogs of about 3,000 users on weblogs.com, one of the first blogging sites.
Winer is a respected figure in Web development circles and was a driving force in the emergence of blogging and Web syndication; last year he took up a fellowship at the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society, part of Harvard Law School, where he heads up the new Blogs at Harvard initiative. But such accolades meant little to the thousands of users who discovered that their blogs had summarily been taken offline, with some users comparing the act to murdering ones own child.
Weblogs.com was created about four years ago to offer free hosting for blogs created using technology such as Manila, a Web-publishing application that Winer was developing. The sites were hosted on the servers of Millbrae, Calif.-based UserLand Software, the company Winer founded and headed until two years ago.
The site continued to be hosted at UserLand, but after a recent change of management it became necessary to shift the site to Winers own server, a process he said turned out to be more difficult than expected. In the end, rather than face "months" of strenuous programming work to get the new server running properly, Winer opted to shut down a large portion of the Weblogs.com blogs, he said in an audio message.
"This is not a company here, this is a person," Winer said in the message. "To expect company-type service, well, thats just not going to happen." He said an imminent move and ongoing heart problems played a part in his decision to all but abandon the site. "There are other things on my mind, believe it or not," he wrote in a Wednesday post on Scripting News, one of the Internets longest-running blogs.
Winer has promised to export the affected blogs and return them to their users, so that they can be transferred to other Manila-compatible hosting sites.
Many users reacted with bewilderment to the blogs abrupt disappearance. "What a shock!" wrote blogger Ralf del Mar. "Never mind, as long as I get back my (blog) I will calm down. But why havent you put up an announcement in advance?"
Rex Hammock, another user, wrote, "While I appreciate the many years of free hosting, I would have appreciated a little notice." Others were more sanguine about the news, reflecting that four years of free blog hosting outweighed the sites sudden demise.
Some bloggers, however, were infuriated that the blogs— some the work of several years—had been removed at what appeared to be a whim. Several of the affected bloggers contacted for this story declined to comment for fear that theyd have a more difficult time getting their blogs back from Winer. Those with friends who had used the site werent necessarily so self-controlled: "Some things, I used to think, are even beneath Dave Winer. But no, I take that back," wrote blogger Jeneane Sessum.