Almost a year ago, the popular early internet meme machine YTMND.com went down. According to Max Goldberg, the site's creator, one of the site’s databases was running on eight year old hardware. The database failed and wiped out much of the site with it.
Goldberg wasn’t sure if people still cared about the site, but they did. With the help of fans, the site has come roaring back to life Wednesday, resurrected for the modern age.
“The outpouring of support that I received after it closed was a great motivator for me,” he told Motherboard in an email. “No one was really using the site at the time, but when it shut down I was a bit shocked by how many people reached out. Then I started the Patreon, and when people really stuck with it, that further motivated me to work on restoring the site.”
Launched in 2001, YTMND was one of the early internet's first sources of viral content. Users could attach a gif, often animated but not always, to a piece of looping sound. Users could vote on these animations, share, or remix them. Its death was sad, a piece of early internet, gone forever.
But over the last year, Goldberg said fans helped him test the new site, find bugs, and pushed him for regular updates.
“I really can't thank them enough," he said. "Although I've received numerous offers of technical assistance, so far I've been able to handle this the way I like: alone in a dark room at 3AM.”
Goldberg said he rebuilt the site from the ground up, which is why it took the better part of a year. One of the biggest challenges was converting everything away from Flash, which Adobe is finally retiring this year. “That means YTMNDs play more reliably (and work on mobile phones!) and will also be future-compatible,” Goldberg said. “The new player was written in a way that makes archiving a YTMND significantly easier, which opens up a lot of possibilities. I've also removed all social media and advertising from the site.”
He also replaced all the hardware that was running the site.
“Some of the servers (including the one that died) dated back to 2006 and hadn't been consistently maintained since 2011,” Goldberg said. “Untangling all the mess, virtualizing the servers, and rebuilding everything while keeping the old sites online in parallel was a challenge. Despite the large effort required it was mostly behind-the-scenes work. The site is coming back online almost completely as it was last year, but outside of the previously mentioned stuff it doesn't look much different.”
Goldberg said he thinks this new incarnation of YTMND.com is built to last. “The site is set up far better than it ever was in the past, and if something goes wrong, it's not like I currently have anything better to do,” he said.