Someone contacted me a while ago in order to get access to their old forum account in order to take a trip down memory lane. The forum has been dead for a long time but it's kept private and is mostly there as a digital archive of a different age of the internet. It was founded in 2005 and so at this stage it's going way back.

Today I had a message from them asking to delete the account and so I obliged. I vaguely wonder why but I also understand that everyone has different approaches to their digital past. They also commented that the forum should have been deleted long ago because it's a "ghost town". That's the bit that perplexes me.

It's an archive. Technically it can still be contributed to but I don't expect any further content to be added. I keep it around because it was something we created together and it doesn't feel right to wipe out other people's past without consulting them. Possibly most importantly it's a private archive. Search engines can't index it, new accounts can only be created with admin approval, and so it's just sort of a time capsule.

There's very few forums left online from the time period this one was active in and that's what makes it special to me. The notion that it being inactive is why it should be deleted confuses me. It takes up barely any resources on my webserver, and as it's private even if someone said something as an awkward teenager it's not visible to the wider world.

When these things happen I immediately delete their accounts, as requested. I'm not interested in arguing the toss with them. If they want to delete their content they can. It's theirs after all.

That said if the logic is "it's inactive and therefore should be deleted" then so many things would be lost to the ages. A whole load of podcasts I've enjoyed, webcomics, and other projects would just be gone.

Partly perhaps for me it's because there's something amazing about preserving the mundane. We know the history of great kings from human history but we're scrabbling in the dirt to try to figure out what the lives of the majority of people looked like during those eras. Our forum wasn't big or important to the wider world but it was somewhere many of us visited daily. Relationships were formed (and failed!), joy and sadness was shared, and it all happened during a formative era for the modern internet. The forum predates YouTube. It predates Reddit. It predates modern social media.

Teletext was a mundane part of everyday life in the '90s. These days we've got projects gathering old VHS tapes to try to salvage teletext data from them to try to preserve a small part of what was. Our forum has become part of that sort of thing and I think that's kinda magical.

I probably have a database backup somewhere should it one day be required but it mostly just irks me that people want to carve chunks out of it. It wasn't a hotbed of extremism or something like that - it was mostly chat about the pop culture of the day.

Then again lots of people don't preserve their photos long term. Once they get a new phone they abandon the old stuff. I don't understand that at all but it seems to be fairly normal. I love that I have photos of myself as an awkward teenager with too much neck!