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YTMND disappeared, 15 years after changing the internet

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The gif-and-looped-sound site was one of the earliest homes of internet culture

By Bijan Stephen  May 15, 2019

One of the earliest and most influential meme culture websites, You’re The Man Now Dog, went dark over the weekend. It’s since returned with a maintenance page, but the near-death experience has been enough to bring visitors into a site-run Discord chat to briefly relive the internet as it was — a wild, overgrown garden of things that were entertaining and horrifying in just about equal measure.

The site’s apparent demise was inevitable, even if it’s not quite final. YTMND had been in decline for years, having slowly lost its place in the internet pantheon, just like the rest of its peers from the old internet. Many of them have struggled for years to monetize their large and often quite toxic user bases. The web, too, has changed; creators of internet culture can expect to make some money from their contributions now, and as the internet transitioned between web 1.0 and 2.0, social media centralized society’s experience of what going onlinewas.“IT’S THE BAR EVERYBODY REMEMBERS, BUT NOBODY GOES TO BECAUSE THEY ALL HAVE KIDS NOW.”

The site, named after a throwaway line in a Sean Connery movie, was founded in 2004. Developer Max Goldberg registered the domain name ytmnd.com and made it into a place to share gifs — which, at the time, were uncommon and difficult to make — paired with looping sound files. It became one of the first mainstream internet communities, something akin to 4chan or Something Awful, its peers. The site quickly became one of the dominant purveyors of internet culture; it was a place where memes flourished and spread, all before people called them that. The most popular YTMNDs passed into early meme culture — the Picard song and this Batman thing started there. (It also hosted a very popular copy of the original hamster dance.)

Before the apparent shutdown, the Internet Archive had preserved a copy of the site’s 787GB of data. (You can browse the site as it was through the Wayback Machine; although, as with most cultural products created by anonymous users, a lot of the offerings are at least somewhat offensive.) The site, however, started disappearing long before then — the last admin post was made in 2014, and the site had been bleeding users for years as its popularity waned and social media became the place where memes were created and spread. In 2016, Gizmodo published a story featuring an interview with Goldberg about the site’s impending death. “Besides being a time capsule I don’t really see a reason for it to continue to exist… It seems like the internet has moved on,” Golberg wrote in an email. “And I’ve moved on too. I don’t have much interest in the site beyond it being good memories.”

Those good memories are part of the web’s cultural history, but they’re not something people often need to revisit.“People are very strange with their cultural institutions,” says Jason Scott, an archivist at the Internet Archive, when I reach him by phone. “They’re happy to know it’s there, out there, but they don’t make it a part of their lives.”

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