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The Fall of Ars Technica

If the following sounds like a eulogy, I suppose it is.

I remember back when Ars Technica was one of the best technical sites on the Internet. Founded by a couple of classical history students (hence the Latin name) who went by the names Cæsar and Hannibal , Ars Technica provided the best multi-OS, PC hardware, and tech coverage possible while remembering what we're all about: having fun, being productive, and being as informative and as accurate as possible. And it was all done in readable white, orange and green on a black background, with non-intrusive ads relevant to the site.

I have loved Ars Technica, even though I found some of its changes (like the default white background) annoying. (At least it gave you the option to switch back to black.) And the addition of topics that have nothing to do with computers, like general science and law. The changes, I suppose, were analogous to me being the frog in the saucepan: The heat was annoying, but over time I got used to it.

Then the fire was cranked up hard when Ars Technica was sold to Condé Nast, the owners of the wannabe magazine Wired, in May 2008, nearly a year after its founding. Over the next two years, the site became more and more flashy and less and less interesting. I began to lose interest in the site, and even allowed my years-old subscription to lapse. Soon, I visited Ars only when I need news of Apple.

I was not the only one to notice how bad the situation had become: The Internet Archive had stopped archiving Ars Technica after June 2008. It only stops archiving Web sites when they become defunct or are sheathed in a copyright rubber.

Then, this comes up. This, and more recent problems at Ars, like the apparent flight of long-time forum users in the face of the uncivil apeling horde. The bang and the flash, that is what attracts the horde with their unwitting evidence of their greatest gift.

I wish that Ars was never sold to such a losing media concern. While I never expected Ars, or any other Web site, to retain the heady glow of the late-1990's economic tropical summer, I had not expected it to spoil so badly. I have had enough. I will drop my links to Ars Technica on my own Web sites, and just let it disappear from my consciousness entirely.


Written by Andy West on 21 April 2010.