Today, at work, I cast around for a web-based form to point a computer program at, for testing purposes. I recalled my own feedback form, at Tertullian.org, and decided to use that. I was having one of those days, you know, when everything goes wrong. But at least my own website wouldn’t let me down, right?
Wrong. The form didn’t work.
Clearly it hadn’t worked, for quite some time. Yet I couldn’t see why. It was a very simple piece of software, and hadn’t changed in, well, probably a decade.
But of course it wasn’t running on the hardware-software platform of 2004 any more. Somewhere, sometime, my website provider had upgraded. It happens all the time.
Some software upgrade had broken it, silently. The form is written in PHP, and clearly one or the other of the PHP upgrades had silently removed features on which it depends. It emails me in a distinctive format, and, now I come to think of it, I haven’t seen one in quite some time. A year? Two? How time flies…
I spent a less than pleasant hour this evening, rewriting the way it captures variables. The new version is considerably more baroque than the old. It’s longer. It might be more secure, I don’t know. But it’s not the same form any more.
Of course this makes me wonder what other PHP scripts are lying around on my website, long forgotten. I can’t even face looking.
This is how the internet dies. We all know that it is less than permanent. What we forget is that software less than a decade old, designed to run and be accessible by the world, is probably only sporadically working.
All those eager-beavers, upgrading and improving constantly, are … leaving a trail of wrecked websites behind them.
I wonder how many of us are actually hosting deadware – scripts that once worked and no longer do?