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Columnists

Surfers' paradise

Dixe Wills

dixe.jpg

Like you, I imagine, I've always pitied the laws of thermodynamics that weren't the second law. All right, so the third one gets an airing from time to time (though to be honest I've forgotten the precise details of that one, which probably tells its own story) but nothing like on the scale of Law Numero Two.

I can barely leave my flat without hearing some drunkard bark across the road to his brother in the bottle, 'The entropy of any isolated system cannot decrease!'

'Well any fool knows that,' the latter retorts with some heat, 'for if it were not so the perpetual motion machine would be a possibility.'

And off they roll down the street until one of them gets into a fight with a passing metaphysician about the benefits of kale.

Since I were a nipper, I've found the knowledge that everything is fading and dying rather comforting. It was, therefore, with something akin to pleasure - if you're pushing me on this point I'd put the level of gratification somewhere between the feel of a brand new sock on the foot and being the unexpected recipient of a leek - that I learnt the other day that what was once one of the internet's iconic websites (its iconic status sealed when I deigned to write about it in these pages) is already a crumbling ruin. I speak, of course, of the Million Dollar Homepage (milliondollarhomepage.com).

For those of you who are struggling to recall the details of same, the MDH was a wizard ruse dreamed up by the then 21-year-old Wiltshire lad Alex Tew. Companies were invited to buy at least a hundred of the page's million pixels at a dollar a pop. Alex then set up a link from each pixel to the buyer's website. Yes, that really was it. All million pixels were soon sold off to a total of 3066 hit-hungry firms.

The resulting website, rather than looking like a million dollars, was about as horrible as you might imagine a website composed of nothing but tiny adverts to be, but it made Alex a dollar millionaire.

Nine years later, a web expert called David Yanofsky took the trouble to test the links and discovered that 22% of them are now dead (while many others merely lead to cyber-squatting pages). All those bright young thrusting things have, less than a decade on, gone to the elephants' graveyard. They join bigger beasts there. Do you remember Geocities, AltaVista and Bebo? All gone. And MySpace and Friends Reunited don't look long for this world either. And who's to say that in another nine years' time we won't be wondering what happened to Facebook and Twitter (or was it called chitter?).

The reason I find all this ephemera comforting is that while everything busily withers away, it puts the eternal verities into starker contrast. A day will come when the very last search is made on Google. The deeper things that make the universe something beyond the sum of its parts will, however, still be knocking around.