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3,000 blogs lose their voice

Stefanie Olsen, Special to ZDNet
June 17, 2004

Software developer Dave Winer disabled roughly 3,000 Web logs from his former company this weekend, a move that drew sharp criticism from some people in the publishing community.

Winer, a champion of blogging and the publishing format Really Simple Syndication (RSS), said in an interview that he had to move the Web logs, or blogs, to his personal server from UserLand, a software company he founded in 1998 and left two years ago. But upon discovering the traffic load and time commitment involved in hosting the free sites, he chose to turn them off without notice.

"It drove my server to its knees. I couldn't afford to do it," said Winer, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

"I'm a person, not a company."

The blogging community was atwitter about the move. People wrote blogs and posted lengthy comments to sites like Slashdot that both came to the defense of Winer and lambasted him for the abrupt dismissal.

"Gratitude should be shown not just for the free hosting but also (Winer's) efforts in developing RSS and promoting blogging in general," wrote one blogger. "Having said that, this could have been handled better."

UserLand began hosting the free Weblogs.com sites in 2000. After a management change six months ago, UserLand set out to separate the commercial side of the business and noncommercial, including the RSS format and Weblogs.com. Last year, Winer transferred the RSS format to Harvard, where it is available for use under a "creative commons" license, which frees it from commercial copyright claims. Winer also agreed to migrate Weblogs.com, a hub for recently updated blogs, and the 3,000 free sites to his server.

Winer posted a brief explanation and audio comments to the old Weblogs site this weekend. He said that he would honor any requests for copies of Weblogs.com sites if they are made before July 1. He said so far, he's received 100 requests for copies. He estimated the number would double by July, considering a large number of inactive blogs in the pool.