David Boswell spoke at the Mozilla Summit in July, 2010 about the issues we faced with the growing collection of over 100 websites under the Mozilla umbrella. One of the issues he mentioned is that some of the websites no longer have product owners, while other sites no longer served the purpose for which they were originally intended. Some sites were created for campaigns that ran 2 to 3 years ago, and while we within the Mozilla organization know that those campaigns are no longer relevant, website visitors won’t necessarily be aware of that fact when they visit the website.
From the perspectives of the web development and security teams, we also faced security and privacy concerns from the fact that some of our website codebases were old and had not been updated for some time. While some of the websites required security updates, with the current list of priorities on the table (namely launching and supporting Firefox 4) we simply could not justify spending the time to patch any sites that were not immediately relevant to Mozilla’s current mission.
David organized a taskforce to handle the various website concerns that affected the organization, and I offered to spearhead an effort (with the help of Fred Wenzel) to wrangle abandoned websites. Our goals were to:
- Identify sites that had been abandoned, no longer fit the Mozilla mission, or had serious security or privacy concerns.
- Determine a way to retire each site or remedy the expressed concerns.
- Ensure that the site’s purpose within the history of the Mozilla mission was preserved.
The taskforce decided to create the Mozilla Website Archive. The Website Archive is primarily a blog that is used to document each website that has been identified as an abandoned / outdated site and nominated for retirement. Each blog post will contain a screenshot of the site, an explanation of its purpose and when it was retired. During this process we:
- Identified 10 websites that fit the criteria above.
- Retired 6 websites and redirected visitors to a blog post describing the website and when it was effectively retired.
- Created a process for archiving a website that had been deemed necessary to remain publicly available for the time being.
Looking back, one of the lessons that that the Taskforce has learned is the fact that after a website launches, it will require organizational support for the remainder of its existence. Far too often we launch websites without consideration of the resources necessary to support future development, security updates, privacy concerns and eventually retiring the website.
Moving forward we plan to include considerations for future support in each of our site specifications before launch. Additionally, we will outline the end-of-life plan for each site. The end-of-life process could be initiated upon the date which its campaign has been completed, or upon determination that the site no longer supports the Mozilla mission or has not achieved its intended goals.