Trash or save? Dealing with your outdated Web pages

 The Internet is home to millions of pages of unwanted or abandoned debris.

Story highlights

  • Update a wedding website immediately after the event, then let it die in a year
  • Facebook has a memorialization feature, so take advantage of it
  • Website relics are just, well, embarrassing; make them private or delete them
At this very moment, 500 miles above your freckle-pocked head, a half-million pieces of junk are orbiting around the Earth.
Derelict spacecraft, chunks of machinery deliberately ejected from their vehicles, defunct satellites and even sad specks of paint from spaceships long gone all loop around the vacuity, a sad, eternal ballet of useless crap (according to an alarmingly cracker-barrel website from NASA).
But much closer to your fingers lies an equally vacuous void: the Internet, home to millions of pages of unwanted or abandoned debris, swirling slowly in the churn of search results and spider-combing.
But figuring out how to handle your own outdated Web content is tricky business. Instead of doing the online equivalent of littering -- sweeping yesteryear into a dustbin of 0s and 1s -- refer to our handy guide for dealing with the past.
Your wedding website -- two weeks after the big day
Informative wedding pages are ever-so-useful in the months leading up to the nuptials; they provide travel and lodging information, present the greedy wedding registries in a nonobnoxious way and give us lots of opportunities to laugh in private over those super awkward engagement pics where the woman's standing behind the dude and clutching his pectorals and the guy's wearing an expression of laughing-gas bliss.
But such sites lose much of their usefulness after the ceremony. And before long, they take on the gloating tone of a groom who's still using a wedding shot as his Facebook profile pic 11 months after the event.
Our two cents: Update the website shortly after you return from your sun-soaked honeymoon with pictures from the event and an earnest, grateful message to all who were there in flesh or spirit. Don't beg guests to contribute their memories to an online guest book -- they bought you a present; their obligation is done.
Let the domain registration or hosting die out in the year following your wedding, and get on with it already.
The Facebook profile of a loved one who's passed away
Recently, a reader wrote in to ask what she should do with her departed stepdaughter's Facebook page. It's a tough scenario, and it might seem like a silly thing to worry about in the tangle of grieving.
But Facebook actually has a memorialization feature, and there's good reason to take advantage of it: It freezes the account so no one else can log in as the user, and it allows only already-confirmed friends to write on the wall in remembrance. That person will no longer show up as a suggested photo tag or in "people you may know." In short, it allows the Facebook page to become an homage, an interactive equivalent of a memory book.
Check the Facebook help page for more information; family members also can shut down the account permanently, but in many cases the online memorial may be gentler on everybody.
Your embarrassing relics of Web 2.0
If you are of Generation Y, and you tapped away on a hulking desktop in your parents' den through your high school years, you probably have one or more of the following:
-- A Myspace page listing interests such as "purses!" and "vintage stores!" and featuring an image of you looking haughtily up at a webcam
-- An embarrassing tapestry of snaps in your public Photobucket account
-- An angsty LiveJournal, Xanga or Blogspot account peppered with complaints about your parents/teachers/The Man, as well as various and sundry Dashboard Confessional lyrics.
If you're older, the references might change: websites someone made for that overly involved professional football league, a derailed blog purporting to document your child's first year of life, whatever.
But the fact remains that these relics, when happened upon by bosses, new swains or those who have a vendetta against you, are just, well, embarrassing. Usually, making such exhibitionist accounts private will do the trick; if you can't remember your log-in information (and your e-mail address has changed, rendering the "forgot your password?" option useless), e-mail or call the company to ask it to log you in or take the page down.
Because like those hulking chunks of orbital debris, you never know when they'll jet onto a dangerous collision course.