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Tech by VICE

Create Self-Destructing Websites With This Simple Tool

What if you could create your own easily destructible website by just visiting a URL?

by Caroline Haskins
Sep 24 2019, 3:10pm

Image: The Gender Spectrum Collection by Broadly.

Websites… there are a lot of them, and not all of them are good. It’s really a mixed bag.

Feeling frustrated with the privacy trade-offs that accompany modern internet use, web developer “Yahoo 99 (Eric)” built a tool that allows users to instantly create websites in a manner that challenges the traditional idea of what a website is.

Yahoo 99 (Eric) explained in a Medium post that their website-making tool offers easy access, optional passwords, and self-destruction after 30 days of inactivity.

Here’s how it works:

  • Step 1: You type “sdnotes.com/” into your browser bar. (“sdnotes” is shorthand for “standard definition notes.”)
  • Step 2: Type any string of characters or words after the “/”
  • Step 3: Congratulations! You have created a website.

Your new website will greet you by saying “Your site is ready. Hi [insert character string that appears after sdnotes.com] :)” (The demo app assumes that the character string that you use to name your website is your name. So if you name your website something like, say, “poo,” that is how the app will greet you.)

Screenshot from sdnotes.com/motherboarddotvicedotcom
Image: Screenshot from sdnotes.com/motherboarddotvicedotcom

The default interface is simple, clean, and mostly white. Since there’s not an option to add pictures, or change the design or layout, the demo app seems to encourage the user to post if they want, but have an unattached relationship with the website.

If you want to “own” this URL, you can add a password. All you have to do is make a post by typing a seemingly unlimited string of characters into the type box in the upper left hand corner of the page.

I tested the tool by creating a website called “sdnotes.com/caroline” and copy-pasting the text of this article. It worked! I also have the option of deleting the post by clicking the “X” in the upper right hand corner of the post. In essence, this felt like posting a tweet to an audience of me.

Image: Screenshot from sdnotes.com/caroline
Image: Screenshot from sdnotes.com/caroline

After I posted, I chose to create a password. I clicked the “i” button in the lower left hand corner, which opened a small password-creation window. Now, I effectively own “sdnotes.com/caroline,” at least for now. Creating a password prevents people without a password from posting, but doesn't prevent them from viewing the site.

“If 30 days pass without a new post, your site is deleted from the record,” Yahoo 99 (Eric)’s Medium post says. “Anyone can now claim it.”

Yahoo 99 (Eric) wrote that they created this demo app because they were frustrated with the trade-offs that are built in to practically every website, and every social media network. You give a webpage your personal information, you give it to the webpage every time you return, and you wait for your data to be sold or hacked.

Motherboard has previously argued that we should replace all social media networks, including Facebook and Twitter, with personal websites. The purpose of “Sdnotes.com” seems to align, in some ways, with the purpose of having a personal website: you use it for a specific purpose, and share the website with only the people who need or really want to see it. With sdnotes.com, you can post a yard sale notice, party invitation, or a to-do list with very low stakes. You can shit post, or not.

But the goal of sdnotes.com isn’t to make posts personal, or even to give you ownership over what you post. After all, you don’t really own your website on sdnotes.com in the same way that you don’t really own your tweets or anything you share with Facebook.

The real goal of sdnotes.com seems to be to challenge the way that we attach personal ownership and sentiment to everything we post online. Deleting tweets, for instance, is an emotional experience for many people. There’s a sense that since you post what you think, your posts are an extension of your brain and therefore an extension of yourself. This sentiment is especially true for people that have grown up using the internet, and understand their identity as one that exists, in tandem, both online and offline.

It’s reasonable to be emotional about the thoughts that were important to you at one moment in time. But if the premise of the modern internet as we know it is to trade-off our personal information and not completely trust any website we visit, maybe it’s worth trying to be less sentimental about posting.