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Eccentric software developer Dave Winer has removed access to 3,000 weblogs hosted by the company he founded Userland at weblogs.com, without giving any prior notice. Bloggers have been told that if they ask nicely, they may have their data back next month. Winer blamed a computer for his decision.

This strange story grows stranger, however. Winer made the announcement after the fact, in a rare audio mumble: third parties had to provide their own transcriptions. The change didn't affect friends and paid subscribers, and Winer has admitted he's continuing in the hosting business - he's simply moving locations.

"The DNS service provider just can't handle the number of different domains under weblogs.com," said Winer. "We had to put them all in one place, and they had to be on one of my servers. Lawrence and I moved the sites over, and when we put the sites on the machine the performance of the machine became incredibly bad."

Network administrators tell us his excuse holds little water. Netcraft reports that Weblogs.com is running Windows 2000 - not many people's first choice for BIND - but even so, it should be able to cope with what is a trivial load. "Either his hardware can't cope with the traffic, or his Win2K has some kind of resource limitation issue, or he's got something mis-configured," a sysadmin told us.

In fact, it's none of the three. Winer has admitted that the real reason is that he couldn't afford the bandwidth.

It's not the first time Winer has earned a ticking off from webloggers. One of Harvard's strangest-ever appointments, Winer sent a spam to hundreds of authors inviting them to a $500 gabfest last year. Webloggers weren't impressed.

"The only way I would attend such a conference is with 'a bottle in front of me or a frontal lobotomy'," wrote one weblogger. "A convention for blogging is like a convention for... I dunno, handwriting. Or cassette tape recording," wrote another.

Winer popularized Netscape's RDF syndication format, which has since splintered into nine incompatible formats. A community-driven effort to standardize around one called Atom was launched last year. ®

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