One of the earliest and most influential meme culture websites, "You Are The Man Now Dog," went dark at the weekend. It has since returned with a maintenance page, but the near-death experience was enough to lure visitors into a field-based discord chat in which the Internet was as it was – a wild, overgrown garden of things that were entertaining and horrible to about the same extent.
The obvious demise of the site was inevitable, even if it is not quite final. YTMND had been in decline for years, slowly losing its place in the Internet pantheon, just like the rest of its old-fashioned counterparts. Many of them have struggled for years to monetize their large and often quite toxic user base. The web has changed, too. Creators of the Internet culture can now expect to earn some money with their contributions, and as the Internet passed between Web 1
The site, named after a disposable line in a Sean Connery movie, was founded in 2004. Developer Max Goldberg registered the domain name ytmnd.com and created a place to share gifs – which were unusual and difficult to create at that time – coupled with repetitive sound files. It became one of the first mainstream Internet communities, like 4chan or Something Awful. The site quickly became one of the dominant providers of Internet culture; It was a place where memes flourished and spread before people called them that. The most popular YTMNDs went into the early meme culture – the Picard song and this Batman thing started there. (It was also the scene of a very popular copy of the original hamster dance.)
Prior to the obvious shutdown, the Internet Archive kept a copy of the site's 787 GB of data. (You can browse the site as usual using the Wayback Machine, but as with most cultural products created by anonymous users, many offers are at least somewhat offensive.) The site disappeared long before The last admin contribution was in 2014 The site has been bleeding for years as popularity waned and social media became the place where memes were created and distributed. In 2016 Gizmodo published a story with an interview with Goldberg about the imminent death of the site. "Apart from the fact that it is a time capsule, I see no real reason that it continues to exist … The Internet seems to have evolved," Golberg wrote in an e-mail. "And I've moved on too, I do not care much about the site being a good memory."
These good memories are part of the cultural history of the Web, but they're not something that people often rethink "People are very strange with their cultural institutions," says Jason Scott, an archivist in the Internet Archive, when I reach him by phone. "They're glad to know it's out there, but they do not part of their lives. "
This is partly because the Internet itself has changed as more and more people went online and the Web became less a place for nerds and social outsiders and the Internet because of platforms like Facebook As Twitter became more centralized, community-first sites such as YTMND became less and less important, with the site of online culture shifting to places based on massive, uncontrolled growth on millions of venture capital. "We are so driven by websites that have to make a million dollars on their IPO that people seem surprised that there are websites that literally just walk, like sideline jobs," says Scott. Creators – the people who made YTMNDs in the early 2000s – now have more places than ever to post what they do, and they're paid to boot.
After a community migrates, it's no longer worth working on one of these hobby sites at a certain point. "So it's all about this ghost ship approach, where a few people are still using it, many people remember it, but it does not do anything, it's the bar everyone remembers, but nobody visits them because they're now all children have. "
YTMND has withered because we have all moved on. The hosting costs had become burdensome; Moderating the anarchic community had stopped paying off after most users left. "I do not want websites failing," says Scott. "But I'm glad we could collect it." The effective disappearance of YTMND means that another era of the Internet has come to an end, the time in which a website had to be nothing but a strange, entertaining change – where a project did not have to grow at 10x speed or after Make enough money for an IPO to attract investors.
People now seem to have a hard time with this idea, says Scott; The thought that YTMND, of course, did not make any money is treacherous because places on the Internet have to justify their existence materially and financially. "And for me it is sad that things continue," he ends.
Of course Goldberg could bring YTMND back as a hobby whenever he wants. "If [Goldberg] would turn the switch again and say, 'Well, you bastards, I've set up a GoFundMe or a Patreon. "He can just do that, says Scott. After two days off-line it seems to be how he did it.
Still, I'm still sad. YTMND was my first experience with the online culture and showed me what the internet can be. That is: anarchic, dull, wildly creative and simple funny . No one was there for the money, and people came there to talk – to have some fun away from all the chaos in the world. I mean, can you imagine? Better yet: Can you remember?
Correction: In an earlier version of this piece, it was stated that the hamster dance began at the YTMND. in fact, it's ahead of the site. YTMND hosted a very popular copy of the original. The article has been updated to clarify this.