Last month as the innovative MMO called Glitch was coming to an end, the players of the virtual world founded by Stewart Butterfield did an amazing thing: They began leaving farewell notes -- tens of thousands of them, in fact -- to its creators within the world itself. This is possible because in the game of Glitch, players can make and give notes to each other. But now they were leaving notes to Butterfield and his team, who had reluctantly decided to pull the world's plug. So as they prepared to do so, they watched these digital tributes wink out at them on the screen:
"Reading the notes I feel a giant swirling mix of sadness for the fact that it's gone," Butterfield told me last month, "pride for all the people it touched and happiness for all the joy there was... I can only read them in small doses."
However, he and his team did collect them: "[W]e just made an archive of tens of thousands of notes that were left on the ground around the world and will make them available on the website sometime in the New Year," he says. Until then, however, users have been uploading them to Flickr, on this page.
That Glitch has closed is a sad turn, because the world was ambitious and innovative, and starting to fill up with fascinating stories. That its players posted their memorials on Flickr is a sad irony, because here's the thing:
Years before Stewart Butterfield founded the MMO Glitch, Stewart Butterfield co-founded Flickr. And the reason Stewart Butterfield co-founded Flickr was because he intended it to be a tool... for another MMO he was co-developing then:
Flickr was launched in February 2004 by Ludicorp, a Vancouver-based company founded by Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake. The service emerged out of tools originally created for Ludicorp's Game Neverending, a web-based massively multiplayer online game. Flickr proved a more feasible project, and ultimately Game Neverending was shelved; however, Butterfield has since launched an online game of similar intent, but it is being closed as well.
The game that Wikipedia mentions is Glitch. So while Glitch has gone and Game Neverending never came to be, Flickr lives on, and continues to be one of the best and most important platforms for user-generated content the Internet has even seen. So it's fitting (if, as I said, sadly ironic), that it's also a memorial site to other worlds that were. Virtual worlds change and evolve, and their users grow with them or go in search of other places to take their imagination, but the desire to permanently record their experiences (inasmuch as digital permanence is possible) remains constant, I think, and will never go away.
Hat tip: Iris Ophelia.Tweet