Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The ‘Million Dollar Homepage’ as a Decaying Digital Artifact

John Bowers, writing for Harvard’s Library Innovation Lab blog:

Over the decade or so since the Million Dollar Homepage sold its last pixel, link rot has ravaged the site’s embedded links. Of the 2,816 links that embedded on the page (accounting for a total of 999,400 pixels), 547 are entirely unreachable at this time. A further 489 redirect to a different domain or to a domain resale portal, leaving 1,780 reachable links. Most of the domains to which these links correspond are for sale or devoid of content.

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What, then, is to be done about the Million Dollar Homepage? While it has clear value as an example of the internet’s ever-evolving culture, emergent potential, and sheer bizarreness, the site reveals itself to be little more than an empty directory upon closer inspection. For the full potential of the Million Dollar Homepage as an artifact to be realized, the web of sites which it catalogues would optimally need to be restored as it existed when the pixels were sold. Given the existence of powerful and widely accessible tools such as the Wayback machine, this kind of restorative curation may well be within reach.

The Million Dollar Homepage is not a beautiful object to be restored to a non-decayed state; its beauty comes from the decay. As Bowers points out, the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine already provides a glimpse of its fully-functional state, but its slow death over time is what makes it a unique slice of the web. I would hate to see it changed at all; in fact, the one significant change made to the site since it was fully sold — the addition of a prompt to follow its creator on Twitter — is a scar. Alas, it’s now part of the site’s history; it, too, should not be removed, even if Twitter dies before the Million Dollar Homepage.