The (im)permanence of the Internet

The (im)permanence of the Internet

“Be careful what you post on the Internet about yourself. Once you post it, it’s forever.”

Something akin to this statement is a warning handed down from parent to child since about the early aughts, when “Web 2.0,” and the proliferation of user-generated content, became a thing.

But it’s not always true, is it? I mean, sure, I can use the Wayback machine and see the very first website I ever built in 1997. But a few weeks ago, I wanted to find a blog post I had written a few years ago* while at the agency I used to work for. It was no longer online. So I tried the Wayback Machine. But I had no luck.

As the Internet gets bigger and has more of our stuff, it is harder to find the old stuff.

But the old stuff is still out there.

Screenshot of the Clarinet Archives
They don’t make websites like they used to.

I’m a band-geeking clarinet player, and my 13-year-old is following in my footsteps. While Googling something for her, I was sent to “” I remembered this site. It hosted one of the first listservs (yes, an actual Listserv, using L-Soft) I joined.

Although the Listserv stopped running in 2012, the entire archive, starting in 1992, is searchable. I could find ALL my posts, beginning in 1996. I was bold and confident for an 18-year-old. Maybe too much so. I also had way more fun with my sig files and apparently changed them every week. Some favorites:

  • Once you start compromising your thoughts, you’re a candidate for mediocrity, —Epstein, Biloxi Blues
  • “Diane, Last night I dreamed I was eating a large, tasteless gumdrop, and awoke to discover I was chewing on one of my foam disposable earplugs. Perhaps I should consider moderating my nighttime coffee consumption.”-Special Agent Dale Cooper
  • “Outside of a dog, Books are a man’s best friend; Inside of a Dog, it’s too dark to read.” —Groucho Marx

While nostalgic in thinking back to when I desperately wanted to harvest Dutch rush for reeds, it was more unusual that this very small, remote, niche part of myself was on the Internet for all to see. At the same time, something I had meant for open, public consumption was nowhere to be found. It reminds me that the Internet is never really all one way or another. 

*It was on tracking analytics on homepage hero space slideshows. Over ten years ago, we determined they sucked. I still can’t believe I have to keep arguing this.