I am not a news site. I don’t want to be a news site. In order to deliver news effectively, it must be done timely, giving people what they want as soon as they want it. With the posts on this site often taking weeks, months, and even sometimes years to complete, I simply cannot keep up with other news sites.
But today’s news that Amazon is shutting down the digital camera review site, DPReview.com got me thinking. If you’re reading this post, then you’ve likely already seen today’s announcement that effective April 10, 2023, DPReview will become locked, with no new content being posted and that the site content will be available for a “limited” amount of time afterwards. If you haven’t seen the press release, here it is:
The news that DPReview is being shut down is unfortunate, but is not the reason I am writing this. All sites will eventually shut down. The people who maintain them will eventually lose interest or pass away, topics will go out of vogue, changes in technology will render a once popular website obsolete and so on. Even my site, mikeeckman.com, will one day end. When I first wrote my first camera review in December 2014, I had no idea that it would be something I would be doing over 8 years later, and even now, it’s not something I want to do for the rest of my life.
Recent estimates peg that the entire Internet consists of 1,200 petabytes, or 1.2 million terabytes of information and that number grows by the second. In fact, every press of my keyboard increases that size by 1 byte, 2 bytes, 3 bytes, and so on.
But what happens when that information disappears or is taken offline? Sure, there are people like me who have copy and pasted snippets of it for safe keeping, and there are wonderful internet archives like web.archive.org, and archive.today, but these sources are limited in what they contain and how the information is accessed.
DPReview is one of the oldest, still running sources of photography information for online. If you have any interest in any digital camera, lens, or accessory made in the last quarter century, there is a good chance that DPReview has it. And chances are, if they have a review for it, it’s probably pretty good. I’ve personally used the site many times in the past, even way before I ever started writing about film cameras. Do you want to know the difference between a Nikon D40 and the D40x? DPReview has it. Do you want to know what people were saying about 3.5″ floppy disc cameras like the Sony Mavica MVC-FD88? DPReview has it.
The thought that this information could one day disappear is troubling to me.
In my time writing reviews for this site, people have often called me a “historian” or a “camera guru” or some other buzzword. I don’t consider myself a historian as I feel a historian has some kind of first hand account of something, or creates new information about old things. I don’t do that. I find information in books, old magazines, on old websites, or in some cases, even talk to some experts, and re-share it in what I hope is an easy to read, and understand article. I consider myself more of a “camera archaeologist” than a historian. The information I write about is already out there, I just help you find it.
In order for me to continue to be a “camera archaeologist” however, that information needs to still exist. Whenever a source goes offline, that information is lost forever. Digital data is not permanent, it can be erased as easily as it is created, and once a digital source is gone, there is (usually) no hard copy to restore it from, and that is something that we as a community need to do our best to avoid.
DPReview is owned by Amazon, which is THE biggest owner of data in the world. Amazon Web Services (who hosts mikeeckman.com by the way) is so big, that it has more storage than Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and Alibaba….COMBINED. With this amount of storage, there’s no reason that DPReview couldn’t be maintained.
Even if you’re not a fan of DPReview, or if you think their forums stink, or have no interest in digital camera reviews, the amount of information there needs to be saved. It is incumbent to anyone who relies on data, to keep that data available to everyone.
I don’t know the factors that went into the decision to end DPReview, or how long it’s owners plan to keep the site up, or what long term plans are for the data, but quite simply, this is not a resource that we should allow to disappear. I am certain Amazon has the resources to keep it up indefinitely so I hope they do the right thing.
Ever since I started this site, and the Camerosity Podcast, it has been very important to me to preserve as much information and share as many stories from those with first hand accounts as possible. Every day, we get one day closer to another Larry Gubas passing away, or Chris Sherlock no longer repairing cameras. While it is exciting to see some new people like Jess Ibarra and Brandon Monroe taking up the charge of camera repair, the amount of knowledge and experience we could lose each time we lose someone else is something we all need to work hard to preserve.
I’ll do my best to keep being an archaeologist, and at whatever time I decide it is time to move on from publishing content on this site, I will do my absolute best to keep it available to anyone who is interested. There is far too much knowledge that is being lost every day. Each time someone dies, information is lost. There’s not a whole lot we can do to preserve human memories, but there is something we can do to preserve human data. Store it. Archive it. Keep it alive, so that the next Mike Eckman who wants to write about “early 21st century digital cameras” has a resource they can dig through.