i once had plans to make my domain (randomchaos.com) into a public resource. except for administrative tasks, i designed every tool i wanted as a tool that anyone could use. with the latest redesign i gave up on that idea; now i'm just designing tools for myself. on the other hand, the source is more easily available now, so if anyone wants to use these tools, they can make their own local copies of them. it wasn't any shift in ideology that prompted this shift in audience. i just realized that no one else wants the tools i'm making. as an unexpected benefit, narrowing my audience has proved to significantly speed development.
so now my domain is becoming increasingly a reflection of myself. a lot of domain owners, and especially webloggers, have very "personal" domains -- not in the sense that they necessarily share intimate details on their websites, but rather in the sense that they personally produce the majority of the content therein. so what happens when the owner of a personal domain dies? i haven't seen this happen yet on any of the personal sites i frequent, but domain owners (like all people) are always getting older.
i only see a few options here, and they all have major drawbacks. first, the personal site could remain unchanged upon the death of its owner. it could become a sort of memorial to the person who created it. this strikes me as a little ego-centric, resting on the assumption that whatever one has created in a website is so important that it should remain as a fixed entity in an otherwise rapidly changing internet. it's almost like preserving the rooms people lived in after their deaths. the second option is inheritence. a close friend of the deceased could take over the website. this also doesn't work well because no one else is really going to be able to continue a personal website. that's what makes it personal, after all. the last option i see is to let the website pass away with its creator. the problem with this is that anyone else could snatch up the domain name and abuse the continued inflow of visitors. this would be analogous to someone buying your house after you die and turning into a (most likely porn) store. only people keep dropping by to see you months or years after, and -- for those domains that include the name of their owner (e.g. diveintomark.org, curry.com) -- your name is left on the mailbox.
unfortunately, this doesn't really matter for me because 1) i'm not getting visitors in significant numbers, and 2) this isn't scottreynen.org. but i wonder if the people who do have popular personal websites have ever even thought about this. with all of the effort put into these websites, and all of the potential pitfalls, has anyone thought about it enough to give specific instructions to friends or family? or to include a domain in a will?