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Tuesday, 11 September, 2001, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Dusting the world wide cobweb
Graphic BBC
A week is a long time in cyberspace. We've seen internet empires rise and fall in the blink of an eye. So why do some people neglect to update their websites for months, if not years?

Charles Kennedy, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, stood accused of allowing his party to descend into a "fallow period". His crime?

Not updating his personal website since 18 July.

When confronted with this charge on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, Mr Kennedy pointed out that he and his party had been far from politically inactive over the summer and that "if the website needs updating no doubt that will be done".

Mr Kennedy is not the first MP to find that a so-called "cobwebsite" can be an Achilles heel too tempting for journalists to resist.

Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy PA
"September?!? Already?
Last year, Shipley MP Christopher Leslie came under fire when the Daily Express noticed his website had not been updated in two years.

Mr Leslie's site was built by pupils at a local school, which has since closed down. "I'm waiting for another school to help create a new one. Honestly, you just can't get the staff these days."

However Mr Leslie has now closed down his homepage.

For MPs who are au fait with the intricacies of the House, but mystified by HTML, Epolitix will host politicians' websites for free and take the pain out of updating them.

It's not enough just to set up a website, they need to keep it looking fresh too

Michael Hepburn, Epolitix
The company's Michael Hepburn says the 240 MPs who have taken up the offer merely have to e-mail over their latest news as a text document.

"More and more MPs are realising that it's not enough just to set up a website, they need to keep it looking fresh too. We've found the MPs who use our service update their pages pretty regularly," says Mr Hepburn.

Of course, politicians are not the only offenders when it comes to cluttering the net with cobwebsites, says Michael Wignall of Supanet, a UK internet service provider (ISP).

"Lots of people build sites then forget about them. Some just build better versions and forget to delete the old one. It's a hazard of the web, but it's getting better."

Mr Wignall says that while search engines are becoming more adept at weeding out obsolete pages, it could also be that our website building skills are improving.

There are more and cheaper software tools available to allow homepage owners to keep their sites looking spick and span, and with the increase in net users tardy updaters know they stand more chance of being held up to ridicule.

Such fears seem not to have dogged one website building company based in Colorado. The company's pages displaying prices for website construction are best viewed with - wait for it - Netscape 3.0.

The site has not been modified since January 1996.

The site's owner says that he had intended to take the pages down, but was too busy with his other net ventures.

Seemingly irked that someone should consider his site a cobwebsite, he echoes the old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

"If there's nothing wrong with the site, why update it?" he asks.

But should anyone want a website built at 1996 prices...

Your comments:
Have you visited a website that hasn't been updated since John Major was prime minister? Do you own a cobwebsite? Send your comments using the form below, and we might get around to adding them to this page.

Design influences on the web change over time. More experienced designers, harnessing improving technology means that most cutting edge web sites are updated regularly. The old sites should be given a good home, so that web design history is not deleted forever.
William Cookson, UK

There's nothing wrong with cobwebsites. Having a personal page which isn't kept up-to-date is no big crime. Any commercial website which is not up-to-date enough for your needs should simply not be used. That is how the WWW works. If you don't like it, don't use it.
Lizz, UK

Just to put the opposite view, it is sometimes good to find an out of date site which includes information that would have long since disappeared when updated. For example, if you're stuck in a computer game that is in it's second sequel, you rely on cobwebsites for tips & tricks. The same is true of movie sites and movie fan sites.
Colin, UK

Too many websites insist on forcing users to have "up-to-date" technology which is irrelevant, cumbersome and irritating. If I look at an estate agent's site, I want to see a list of their properties quickly - not download Flash and then sit through a two-minute intro. Sadly, when it comes to updating, style still rules over content in too many websites.
Rob Ainsley, UK

There is nothing more annoying than a badly maintained website! It is pointless having such a useful business tool open to you, if you are not going to keep it up to date
Chris Churchill, UK

It seems to me that many politicians would find a weblog a useful thing. Tools such as Blogger and Greymatter can take most of the pain away from updating regularly.
Nick Jordan, UK

My dentist (a solo practitioner) died suddenly a year ago. Her website is still running. I wonder how many more "ghost" websites there are?
Michael King , UK

Website owners need to be clear about the choice between a more expensive but dynamically updateable site that non-experts can update and a cheaper static site that requires the developer to be called in every time you want to add another product page or news item.
Michael, Scotland

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12 Sep 00 | Sci/Tech
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