Time to stop with The Virtual Bookcase / 2023-01-08

2023-01-08 Time to stop with The Virtual Bookcase
Recently I was looking at some reports of the affiliate income generated by The Virtual Bookcase and it hasn't generated a cent in a few years.

This is probably fully related to the fact I haven't paid any attention to the site both in code and content for years. The only commits in 2022 were due to a vulnerability found in the site. Most commits to the code for the site were before 2010. Time to admit to myself I need to stop doing this. There are other things that take my time and give me joy.

If someone else wants to take over: get in touch. I'm not sure which parts of the database are of any use to people and which parts I shouldn't transfer due to Dutch privacy laws but we'll figure it out. If nobody wants it, I will start giving 410 gone status from 1 september 2023 and end the domain registration in November 2023.

The original announcement of starting the site, dated 28 march 1999: I've created a virtual bookcase with an overview of books I like/read.. visit the site too! which is also the oldest newsitem in my archive.

The full story of The Virtual Bookcase

In march 1999 I started with a website about books. Reading books was something I enjoyed a lot and building a website around this subject seemed like a good idea.

And thus The Virtual Bookcase was born at http://www.virtualbookcase.com/ back when you could think of a fitting domain name for a project and register it because it was still available.

I directly discovered 'affiliate programs' which allowed hobby websites like this one and lots of others to make some money. And I also discovered methods of structuring a website in such a way that it looked somewhat professional and searchengines liked linking to it which made a nice number of visitors end up at the site and start their shopping trip at the linked sites with some money flowing back to me. Looking back I think I made the most money with amazon who paid me in amazon gift certificates so a number of books in my physical bookcase have been paid in this way.

The site was done in two languages because that's how I did multiple things back then: PHP for dynamic web pages and perl for maintenance scripts. Overview pages were generated once a day (perl) because I expected those to have more visitors and not change a lot. So I maintain two codebases for the same site and the resulting html has to be the same for both codebases.

The site had two serious rewrites for style: one to go from html 3.2 with lots of ugly nested tables to html 4.0 with divs and related and one to go from a 'tech' look and feel to something more related to books.

Book publishers also found the site and started sending e-mails about new books to mention or review. I have accepted some of those books and reviewed them.

I have done one review of a book in e-book format. I probably could have done lots more if I had the time.

And available time was the factor that made my maintenance of the site fall back.

In 2017 I had to fix a lot of the php code to allow for a move to a newer webserver. I noticed I hadn't done any serious updates to the code since before 2010.

In 2020 amazon.com told me that the site wasn't generating enough traffic to keep being in the affiliate program.

In august 2022 I received a report of a vulnerability in the site (cross-site scripting). This vulnerability must have been in there since may 2000. I checked the site with a vulnerability scanner and did a number of small updates. This made it quite clear to me things were hard to maintain.

In January 2023 I checked the amazon.co.uk affiliate program and found I hadn't earned anything in years and they would start to charge back money if that continued. I closed my account and hope a bit of the last affiliate income comes my way.

That was the time to make the decision. So I checked how long until the next domain name renewal: November 2023. That will be the end date. If someone wants to take over the domain name (and maybe parts of the database) that is an option. Otherwise the pages will start to return a 410 gone status after 1 september 2023.

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