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Frequently asked question:

Is [insert technology, service or website] Dead?

This question is common in technology forums, webmaster forums and the like. The question can relate to almost any type of technology, tech service, website or anything else. We will call the subject of the question a widget, meaning something that can represent a whole bunch of possible things.

In most cases the widget was once popular but is now perceived (at least by the poster) as threatened or in decline.

It usually goes like this...

The original poster (OP) has noticed a problem with the widget. For example: they see that a smaller percentage of programmers use Perl than was previously the case, or they hear that a lot of webmasters are anti-Flash. They jump to the rather premature conclusion that Perl or Flash might be dead.

Many people then respond by saying "Of course it's not dead".

The reason can be explained by analogy: If I see a cat about to pounce on a mouse, I think that the mouse is in deep trouble — I could even be pessimistic about the mouse's future and say that death is imminent. But the mouse is not dead so the answer is no.

This may seem pedantic but unless the manufacturer or producer of a widget has officially cancelled the widget, then the widget can usually be considered still alive. Betamax contracted a terminal illness in the 1980s, went into a coma in the early 1990s, but was still alive until 2002 when production ceased permanently.

Most people who read these threads understand that the question is not intended literally. But the point is that ensuing discussions may not be as useful as they could be, partly because many people get sidetracked with the semantics. Some people simply avoid these threads because they are bored by the "is it dead" question.

My advice is to be more accurate with the question. Is this widget dead, is it near death, or is it just facing a threat? You may find that people provide more useful answers if they are discussing the widget's future rather than responding to the "is it dead" question.

Author: ,  Published: 2007-06-05