Archiving sites for the deceased

Belldandy and Holy Bell from Aah! Megami-sama

22 is a bit early to be thinking of death (is it?), but I’ve recently been considering: what happens to our digital media footprint after death?

For some people, particularly if they worked up quite a following prior to their death, their family members may post tweets on their behalf - either memoirs, or other related content. However some accounts lie, forever dormant with no owner to update them and no one else who can access or no one who wishes to disturb it.

For social media accounts it’s more predictable, and corporations as well as organisations have been thinking of ways to tackle this unique issue. But for people’s personal sites, its fate lies in whether someone will continue to pay the bills to the webhost to continue running the webserver, even if no one continues to maintain it.

To be able to read someone’s thoughts and works before they died is a unique look into their life, and I for one don’t wish for the sites of deceased people to simply disappear. But what is the best solution for the preservation of these existing sites? How can we take the burden off families who have lost their loved ones? How can I create some sort of financially viable solution that would fund the continued payment of webhosts and domain registrars to continue to keep this person’s works alive? How would we determine which sites are ones that were held by now-deceased people?

There’s clearly a lot of room for improvement here, but a way in which we can archive this content for eternity would be one that I would be interested in. Although services like its WayBack Machine allow us to look back in time, they don’t keep the original URLs and we no longer get the sense of this ‘person’ in the moment. It’s now a piece of history.