One of the earliest and most influential meme tradition web sites, You’re The Man Now Dog, went darkish over the weekend. It’s since returned with a upkeep web page, however the near-death expertise has been sufficient to carry guests right into a site-run Discord chat to briefly relive the web because it was — a wild, overgrown backyard of issues that had been entertaining and horrifying in nearly equal measure.
The website’s obvious demise was inevitable, even when it’s not fairly last. YTMND had been in decline for years, having slowly misplaced its place within the web pantheon, identical to the remainder of its friends from the outdated web. Many of them have struggled for years to monetize their massive and sometimes fairly poisonous consumer bases. The internet, too, has modified; creators of web tradition can anticipate to make some cash from their contributions now, and because the web transitioned between internet 1.0 and 2.0, social media centralized society’s expertise of what logging on was.
The website, named after a throwaway line in a Sean Connery film, was based in 2004. Developer Max Goldberg registered the area title ytmnd.com and made it into a spot to share gifs — which, on the time, had been unusual and tough to make — paired with looping sound recordsdata. It turned one of many first mainstream web communities, one thing akin to 4chan or Something Awful, its friends. The website rapidly turned one of many dominant purveyors of web tradition; it was a spot the place memes flourished and unfold, all earlier than individuals referred to as them that. The hottest YTMNDs handed into early meme tradition — the Picard song and this Batman thing began there. (It additionally hosted a very in style copy of the original hamster dance.)
Before the obvious shutdown, the Internet Archive had preserved a replica of the positioning’s 787GB of information. (You can browse the positioning because it was by way of the Wayback Machine; though, as with most cultural merchandise created by nameless customers, lots of the choices are no less than considerably offensive.) The website, nevertheless, began disappearing lengthy earlier than then — the final admin submit was made in 2014, and the positioning had been bleeding customers for years as its reputation waned and social media turned the place the place memes had been created and unfold. In 2016, Gizmodo published a story featuring an interview with Goldberg in regards to the website’s impending demise. “Besides being a time capsule I don’t really see a reason for it to continue to exist… It seems like the internet has moved on,” Golberg wrote in an e mail. “And I’ve moved on too. I don’t have much interest in the site beyond it being good memories.”
Those good reminiscences are a part of the net’s cultural historical past, however they’re not one thing individuals usually must revisit. “People are very strange with their cultural institutions,” says Jason Scott, an archivist on the Internet Archive, once I attain him by telephone. “They’re happy to know it’s there, out there, but they don’t make it a part of their lives.”
So can I delete it now?
— Max Goldberg (@YTMND) August 29, 2018
That’s partly as a result of the web itself has modified. As extra individuals got here on-line, and the net turned much less a spot for nerds and social misfits, and because the web turned extra centralized due to platforms like Facebook and Twitter, community-first websites like YTMND turned much less and fewer vital. The locus of on-line tradition had shifted to locations that had been predicated on large, unchecked progress and propped up by thousands and thousands in enterprise capital. “We’re so driven by websites that have to make a million dollars in their IPO, that people seem to have been surprised that there are websites that are literally just run, like sideline hobbies,” says Scott. Creators — the individuals who would have made YTMNDs again within the early 2000s — additionally now have extra locations than ever to submit what they make, and so they receives a commission for it, besides.
After a neighborhood drifts away, there’s some extent the place the work wanted to keep up one in every of these pastime websites turns into not definitely worth the effort. “So it just goes into this ghost ship approach where a few people still use it, a lot of people remember it, but it’s not doing anything. It’s the bar everybody remembers, but nobody goes to because they all have kids now.”
YTMND withered as a result of all of us moved on. The hosting costs had become burdensome; moderating the anarchic community had stopped being worth it after most of its users had left. “I don’t like to see sites go down,” says Scott. “But I’m happy that we could gather it.” YTMND’s efficient disappearance means one other period of the web has ended, the time the place an internet site didn’t need to be something however a bizarre, enjoyable diversion — the place a challenge didn’t need to develop at 10x speeds, or make sufficient cash for buyers after an IPO.
People appear to have a tough time with that concept now, says Scott; the concept, nicely, in fact it went down, YTMND didn’t make any cash is insidious as a result of it signifies that locations on the web ought to need to justify their existence materially, by way of capital. “And so, to me, I’m sad to see it go,” he finishes.
Of course, as a pastime, Goldberg might carry YTMND again any time he needs. “If [Goldberg] was to flip the switch back on again and be like, ‘fine, you bastards, I put up a GoFundMe or a Patreon,” he can simply do this, says Scott. After two days offline, that appears to be what he’s achieved.
Even so, I’m nonetheless unhappy. YTMND was my first expertise with what on-line tradition was, and it confirmed me what the web may very well be. Which is to say: anarchic, obtuse, wildly artistic, and simply plain bizarre. Nobody was in it for the cash, and other people got here there to be entertained — to have enjoyable, away from all of the chaos on the planet. I imply, are you able to think about? Better but: Can you keep in mind?
Correction: An earlier model of this piece said that the Hamster Dance began on YTMND; the truth is it predates the positioning. YTMND hosted a very talked-about copy of the unique. The article has been up to date to make clear that.