Black Wednesday: The day the Web went dark

Wednesday 18th January 2012: The day where the web went dark in protest of the SOPA, PROTECT-IP and OPEN bills, presently in Congress.
By Zack Whittaker, Contributor on
1 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

SOPA and PROTECT-IP (also known as "PIPA"), along with the OPEN Act are bills currently in Congress, which threaten the very existence of the web. It will enable rights holders to legitimately -- and even fradulantly -- shut down websites that allegedly infringe copyright. They are censorship bills. 

Today, the web has fallen silent, blacked out its pages, become dark, and effectively gone on strike. From Wikipedia to Google, even Firefox users are affected, as are other major online communities. 

Read more on SOPA here.

This gallery will show you some of the major websites that have gone dark or offline today.

2 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Google opposes SOPA and PIPA, but was late to the game in blacking out its search engine. While it was not clear whether the search giant would do anything, U.S. users of Google.com discovered this morning that its logo was entirely redacted, and a link at the bottom of the page explaining what SOPA is.

The search engine has over 65 percent U.S. marketshare, and is the most popular search engine in the world. 

You can read Google's comments here.

3 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Boing Boing, the popular technology website, has been one of the spearheads behind the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) blackout campaign, in which we see hundreds of millions, if not breaching the billion mark of users worldwide, all collectively protesting the draft bills.

The website posted a message over the weekend, saying: "If we failed to take this precaution, our finances could be frozen, our ad broker forced to pull ads from our site, and depending on which version of the bill goes to the vote, our domains confiscated, and, because our server is in Canada, our IP address would be added to a US-wide blacklist that every ISP in the country would be required to censor".

4 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Imgur (pronounced: "imager") is one of the most popular meme bases for popular online culture the web has ever seen. It is a photo sharing service used by millions, particularly by users of Reddit. 

Imgur will be "altering service by blacking out the gallery". While SOPA has been "shelved and won't return 'until a consensus is reached'", they highlight that SOPA is far from dead, and want its users to "understand the far-reaching and potentially disastrous repercussions that this legislation could have on the vibrancy and freedom of the Internet".

You can read Imgur's comments here.

5 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

The popular meme sites I Can Has Cheezburger is one of many sites under the Cheezburger brand. Featuring LOLcats and other memes, it receives over 1.5 million pageviews per day, making it one of the most popular sites on the web.

But the Cheezburger chief executive Ben Huh came out against SOPA on Twitter, and many others, including Tucows, followed suit. 

6 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Tens, if not hundreds of millions of Firefox users will see this screen when they first boot up the popular web browser. The entire page is blacked out and the Firefox logo is redacted.

Mozilla, the open-source company behind the Firefox web browser, has been one of the staunchest opponents to SOPA in recent months, and is using its vast user base to spread the message about Internet censorship.

You can read Mozilla's comments here

7 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Reddit has been one of the spearheads of the anti-SOPA and PIPA protesting movement. Through activism and lobbying pressure, the 35 million odd users on the site from all over the world have changed the political landscape, organised online boycotts and helped spread the word of the anti-piracy laws.

The user-curated news-sharing site will go dark from 8am--8pm in protest of the bills currently in Congress.

You can read Reddit's comments here.

8 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Tucows prides itself on providing simple, useful services to ordinary people to empower them into using the web effectively. 

Tucows followed suit shortly after the Cheezburger chief executive Ben Huh announced it on Twitter. They said in a statement: "With SOPA, or ProtectIP, that leadership will effectively end and Syria, China, Iran and others will not only use the US as a role model, they will also use these actions as further evidence of US control of the Internet".

You can read Tucows' comments here.

9 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Wikipedia was not sure whether it would go the way of others and blackout the entire site. But it did.

The entire English version of the online encyclopedia, which brings in over 400 million unique users monthly, went dark today. All pages were unavailable for viewing. The mobile site is not affected, however.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, announced the move on Twitter earlier this week. The English version has 3.8 million articles. Other languages will "make their own decisions", Wales said.

10 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

WordPress.org hosts more blogs and websites than any other service on the web. While individual WordPress pages were not blacked out, the main page is -- giving the hundreds of thousands of users who visit the site on a daily basis a glimpse into what a SOPA-like world would be.

Users can also blackout their own WordPress blogs or sites should they wish to, and WordPress handily explained how. In a note, the company said: "There’s a bill in the U.S. Senate that if passed would put publishing freedom severely at risk, and could shut down entire sites at the whim of media companies".

You can read WordPress' comments here.

11 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

PostSecret is one of the gems of the Internet. You anonymously write a secret on a postcard, and you can send it away for it to be published online.

But PostSecret is vehemently against SOPA and anti-piracy, and has also blocked out its site. It has made no comment on the matter, but did ask its users on Twitter whether it should. The consensus ruled in protests' favour. In a tweet, PostSecret announced the blackout.

12 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

O'Reilly Media is one of the largest publishers of technical writing and geekery on the market. It has not only been around since the birth of the Internet, but it is one of the most recognisable brands in the publishing market.

On the blackout page, Tim O'Reilly said: "We’re in one of the greatest periods of social and business transformation since the Industrial Revolution, a transformation driven by the open architecture of the Internet. New technologies, new companies, and new business models appear every day, creating benefits to society and the economy. But now, fundamental elements of that Internet architecture are under attack."

You can read O'Reilly's comments here.

13 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

The EFF has been a cornerstone to the online privacy battle, and it goes without saying, their campaigns have helped the web remain as free and open as it is. As a purveyor of online rights and justice, the organisation is urging everyone to join the battle against SOPA and PIPA.

But because the EFF is such an important figure in the SOPA fight, it has blacked out, but not restricted its site.

The EFF said: "On the 18th, EFF will censor our banner logo and black out the background of eff.org. We’ve also created a new activism platform at http://blacklist.eff.org. Sites are encouraged to direct traffic here so users can contact Congress to make their voices heard in opposition to this misguided censorship legislation."

You can read the EFF's comments here.

14 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Flickr is the largest photo-sharing site on the web, with over 6 billion images. Launched in 2004, the site has gone from strength to strength. But the entire site is threatened by copyright infringement claims under SOPA, should it go through. Flickr could crumble based on a rogue claim, or even a legitimate one.

Flickr will allow users to darken their photos, or opt-out altogether.

The company said: "Unfortunately, we and many others believe that these bills miss the mark. These bills have the potential to stifle innovation, require censorship of search results, impose monitoring obligations, and change the way information is distributed on the web. Government regulation of online activities is a slippery slope and these proposed bills fall down that slope without truly addressing the issues that ignited this debate".

You can read Flickr's comments here.

15 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Tor, an online anonymity network, allows people to technically circumvent SOPA should it become law. However, its existence is threatened by the bill should it become law.

"Now, while we hear that DNS-blocking is off the table, the bills remain threatening to the network of intermediaries who carry online speech. Most critically to Tor, SOPA contained a provision forbidding "circumvention" of court-ordered blocking that was written broadly enough that it could apply to Tor -- which helps its users to "circumvent" local-network censorship", read the blog post.

You can read Tor's comments here.

16 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

XDA-Developers, is a site of over 4 million users, allows others to hack and discuss Windows Phone, Android, and webOS phones. It is a fantastic online community where software is modified and edited to simply make it better. 

"Along with Reddit and many other sites, we have decided to go dark (beginning at 8AM ET) for a period of time today in protest of pending Internet-related legislation in the US. Our goal is not to raise awareness of this legislation. We assume most of you know all about it. Our goal is encourage users like you to get involved", the static page read. 

It also said that once 50,000 U.S. visitors have signed their pledge on the page, the site will return.

You can read XDA-Developer's comments here.

17 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Greenpeace, the environmental activist network, also opposes SOPA and PIPA, with a message on its website now saying that: "The U.S. Congress is about to censor the Internet".

It also said that SOPA could even extend to hindering instances of activism where brands were mimicked. 

18 of 18 Zack Whittaker/ZDNET

Craigslist is one of the world's greatest Internet phenomenons. But as a listing website, it opposes SOPA and feels that the freedom of the web is threatened.

Speaking about it, Craigslist said: "PIPA and SOPA authors and supporters insist they'd only go after foreign piracy sites, but Internet Engineers understand this is an attempt to impose "Big Brother" controls on our Internet, complete with DNS hijacking and censoring search results. Incredibly, many Congress Members favor this idea."

It added: "Try to imagine jack-booted thugs throttling free speech, poisoning the Internet (greatest of American inventions, the very pillar of modern democracy), and devastating one of the our most successful industries. Totalitarian, anti-American, massively-job-killing nonsense."

You can read Craiglist's comments here.

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