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Nothing to See Here: Code 451

XML programmer Tim Bray is submitting a Ray Bradbury-themed proposal to the Internet Engineering Task Force (the governing body of new internet stuff) to create a new Hypertext Transfer Protocol status code. I’m sure you’ve all stumbled across a Code 404 (many of which are creative and funny) when you’ve clicked a link with an error in it, and gone nowhere. Code 404 = web server was unable to find what you are looking for. Not Found.

The new code, which would be displayed to a user who tries to access a web site to which is blocked for legal reasons would be Code 451 in Bray’s Internet-Draft, which sets out in exact specifications and requirements just what he hopes to see.

451 Unavailable For Legal Reasons

Bradbury, whose most famous novel, Fahrenheit 451 centered largely on themes of heavy censorship in a dystopian future, died on June 5th, and the internet community is rallying around this idea of the new code as a way to honor and remember him and his contribution to writing.

In an interview with The Guardian, Bray talked about his feelings behind the idea:

“We can never do away entirely with legal restrictions on freedom of speech. On the other hand, I feel that when such restrictions are imposed, they should be done so transparently; for example, most civilised people find Britain’s system of superinjunctions loathsome and terrifying,” Bray told the Guardian. “While we may agree on the existence of certain restrictions, we should be nervous whenever we do it; thus the reference to the dystopian vision of Fahrenheit 451 may be helpful. Also, since the internet exists in several of the many futures imagined by Bradbury, it would be nice for a tip of the hat in his direction from the net, in the year of his death.”

Would Ray Bradbury have loved this? I hope so. The author was rather famously not a fan of the internet, voicing opinions ranging from disinterested to hostile. But even if he saw our present as dystopian in its electronic immersion, I hope the nod to him and his writing and ideas, and the irony, would make him smile.

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