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The website that was built for Google to destroy

Jeremy Kirk | March 11, 2015
When Matthew Rothenberg created a new website in early February, he let about two dozen people know about it through an unlikely medium: postcards.

Those who received Rothenberg's postcards were warned that sharing information about the site online would lead to its demise. But he didn't advise them against it.

Rothenberg posted a short essay on the site outlining his thoughts. Writing doesn't come easy to him, he said, and he often agonizes about what he posts online. But in this case, "I didn't feel the same degree of pressure because I knew it wasn't permanent. It felt like somewhat of a safer space for me to write," he said.

The site had a few hundred visitors and was apparently shared discreetly. While the site stayed under Google's radar for more than three weeks, it was quickly visited by spam bots that posted random sentences.

Unindexed was "completely out there in the dark," a random domain name among millions promoted only modestly through post cards, "yet there are these bots out there that are searching for somewhere they can shout into," he said.

He's unsure how Google eventually latched onto the site, though it was only a matter of time. Unindexed was coded to constantly search for itself on Google to see if it had been spotted it. Its disappearance was something of a relief.

"I feel very much the kind of pressure of maintaining things forever," he said. "Every time I build a project and put it on the web, it's kind of expected that people are going to be able to see it in a year or five years. The reality is that software is very, very brittle. It breaks all the time. It needs constant attention. It's a very needy child.

"The more and more projects that I do, the more and more time I have to spend in the past just maintaining things. For me, there was something a little cathartic about knowing it's going to be gone."

Anyone wanting to repeat the experiment can find Unindexed's code at Github, and Rothenberg's explanation of the experiment, and other projects, on his website.

 

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