I’ve been struggling with this problem for two months now and gotten nowhere, so I guess I’ll rant about it here. Who knows, maybe someone will read it who can help, but mostly, I’ll just get it off my chest.
I run a web site for our local ski club at the Buffalo Freenet. It’s been there for a couple years now. For those of you not familiar with the BFN, it’s a non-profit, public service sponsored by the Department of Library and Information Services at the University of Buffalo. It began years ago as a service to the community to let people get online back before internet service was commonplace as it is now.
It started out in the days of phone modems and text-based services. I had an account there years ago and used to wait my turn to log in on one of the two phone numbers they had. My first (I mean very first!) web page was hosted there. I remember getting an account at Delphi (The ISP, not the auto parts company I worked for. It was before Delphi Automotive even existed.) because they offered PPP service that you needed to use a web browser before Compuserve or others did. AOL didn’t exist or may have just started up out of the remains of the Commodore-centric Quantum-Link service.
The BFN was pretty active then. It provided email and text-based web browsing and a bunch of quaint services with names like Gopher and Archie to the public. It was pretty educational, letting you learn as much as you wanted to. Their portal to the internet was organized on a city-model: Post office for email, City Hall for administrative things, etc.
But as the internet became web-based and most people signed on with their personal ISPs, they dropped the dial-up lines and became mostly a community web host.
The university was just one sponsor. They had a couple web design and information consulting companies donate services. At some point, the URLs changed from a freenet.buffalo.edu base to the bfn.org and I had heard that another company was donating the hosting and DNS part of it.
But enough history. When I started the ski club’s web page, the BFN seemed like a logical choice for the site. We were a community organization and they offered sites to community groups. For a couple years it was pretty routine. I kept the site updated and it was a valuable tool for the club. We even had a few new members join because of it.
Until recently when the site just disappeared. In fact anything bfn.org vanished without any explanation. It couldn’t happen at a worse time for a ski club. It was fall and our meetings and trip planning was kicking into high gear. We really needed the site we had come to rely on for getting the word out.
So, I did the logical thing, find a new host. The board of the club authorized getting our own domain name ad we did: skicluboflockport.com and we were back in business. In just a matter of time, the search engines would find it and everyone would be led to the new site.
Then the old site came back up.
I had anticipated that. Actually, I wanted that to happen so that I could put a redirection to the new URL up and send people from the old URL to the brand new domain.
But there was a hitch. The site came back up, but I couldn’t access it to change anything. The FTP account works. It signs on and takes the password, but no files show up. You can’t even get a file listing, it just times out. So we have Google and other search engines pointing to the old web site with old information on it. Whether they find the new site or not, the old site still shows up and won’t die off!
I had the same problem once before with a site I ran for a Ham Radio group. We had a site through a hosting provider in Florida. It was great for a couple years, then one day I lost FTP access. No way to change the site. The host company was so shoddy, they hadn’t billed me for the site in ages, yet wouldn’t take the page down. We put up a new site, but couldn’t get rid of the old one for several years!
So we’re stuck with the website locked in time where it was. I’ve tried to contact someone connected with the BFN, but half of the pages on their website don’t work and the other half are so old, I don’t trust them. I contacted the company who donated the servers and got an automated response, but nothing else, not even a response to say they couldn’t help me. I’ve searched in vain for anyone at UB to contact and finally have asked a friend of a friend to look into it. Hopefully I can at least get the old site taken down or redirected.
It looks to me like the old venerable Freenet is dying a death of neglect. In this day of ubiquitous internet, cheap hosting, and a wi-fi equipped laptop in everyone’s backpack, it’s role has changed, maybe even become obsolete. Unfortunately, our site is tangled up in it’s death throes.