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The (safe) future of Radio and Manila
By Dave Winer on Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 7:55 AM.

A picture named frontierBox2.gifIf you've been reading this site you know I'm interested in future-safe archives. permalink

In a comment on a recent piece, some guy named Mike offers that in the good old days when someone died, their relatives picked up a photo album or scrapbook, which then was left in a leaky garage or left outside, or left behind in a move. I certainly know what that's like. We've lost a lot of loved ones in my family over the years, and I've ended up with a fair amount of their stuff.  permalink

But... There's a difference between a photo album and a collection of some of the first weblogs on the Internet. Someday a historian may want to know how blogging got started. For that reason I care whether this stuff survives. permalink

When I saw that UserLand was shutting down at the end of the 2009, I sent a private email to the company and asked if they would mind if I found a place to archive it permanently, and they said it was okay. So I contacted Matt Mullenweg at Automattic, and asked if he would be interested in helping preserve the archive of the Radio weblogs. He said yes.  permalink

But then late last year went off the air. Like a lot of other people, I was pretty concerned that a big chunk of history had gone. As we approached the end of the year, and the theoretical shutoff date of the Radio weblogs, there didn't seem to be anyone there. My emails to the company went unanswered. permalink

Then came an incredible email to UserLand customers from Jake Savin, who used to be part of our small dev team. Jake left to go to Microsoft a few years ago, where he's now a program manager. He's also a husband and a daddy. Even though every minute of his life is spoken for, he gave a huge amount of his time, unknown to most people, to keep the archive alive.  permalink

And he did a good job. The sites have been back on the air, temporarily, while we figure out how to make them safe for the future. In the rest of this piece, I'll outline what we plan to do. permalink

1. Sometime before the end of this week, we'll switch over the DNS for to the copy of the archive that's already stored on Automattic's servers. However we will permanently redirect to a new domain,, so we don't depend on VeriSign to keep pointing to the site. At some point that seems likely to break. They've been very good at preserving the link, but we don't want to be dependent on them indefinitely. So, if you created a Radio weblog, as I did, it will now be stored, for the forseeable future, on Automattic's server. For example, here's my old Radio site in its new location. Since the URLs will be redirected, search engines will pick up the change and re-index the sites in their new location.  permalink

Important point: The sites are only being archived. They cannot be edited or updated. permalink

2. Jake and I and anyone else who wants to help will statically render the sites at that document the functionality and history of Frontier, Radio, Manila and related projects. In that archive, which goes back to the early-mid 90s, is a fair amount of the history of the early blogging world. We will make this content available for free download. I will host a version of the content on my servers. Anyone else will be free to do so.  permalink

3. The remaining UserLand technology that hasn't already been released under the GPL as open source, will be released. The biggest piece of this is manila.root. I've been spending time in the last few days verifying that it works inside the OPML Editor. I have a dynamic site running,, and a static rendering of that site. It all looks good. We're using a snapshot of manila.root taken in June 2005.  permalink

At some point the servers will shut down. I don't know what will be done with the domain. What I care about are the items above. If anyone has an opinion about the other stuff, I don't know who you would call. I expect to refer to this paragraph many times in the coming weeks and months. <img src="> permalink

It's been a very long ride, but I think finally it's coming to an end. UserLand Software was founded 22 years ago, with the goal of opening up applications to be programmed by users. We didn't fully achieve that goal, but like many other things in life, the goal we did achieve was even more interesting. UserLand was where a lot of things happened for the first time. I'm glad we will finally able to close the book. At some point soon the motto of UserLand will no longer be "still diggin." permalink

However, of course -- the open source project is a totally other story! <img src="> permalink

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