Affirmative action for W.

Wd U go on a d8 w/ me?

Death of a death site

How’s this for irony? Three years ago, some dot-com entrepreneurs started up FinalThoughts.com — a company that would help you plan your death, organize your finances, and communicate your last wishes to friends and family.

It was actually not all that bad an idea, though it offered one particularly creepy service: Beyond-the-grave email. That’s right — FinalThoughts.com would store emails that you, the dying person, had written in advance of kicking the bucket, and would send them to the recipients after you’d been planted. Imagine the scene. You wake up one winter day, get a nice mug of coffee, log on to check your email … and discover a message from your dead relative. From their website:

Through our revolutionary, e-mail service, FinalThoughts.com allows you to share your final wishes and personal feelings with your loved ones, after you have passed away. Our unique e-mail service puts YOU in control and assures that your personal objectives are communicated to your family and friends when the time is right.

As a FinalThoughts.com member, you will have the ability to attach to your e-mail messages, at no additional charge, several online forms that can be completed and stored securely and confidentially with FinalThoughts.com until the right time. These forms, such as the Personal Property Allocatorâ„¢, Pet Lover’s Organizerâ„¢, and Final Arrangements Plannerâ„¢ , assist you in thinking about important issues such as: how you want your personal property distributed, who will care for your pet, what type of funeral arrangements you want, etc., and enables you to share these decisions with your loved ones.

And okay, sure, yeah, it’s a bit ghastly, but I can sort of see the demand for this type of service. (Hell, one of my life goals is to produce a chatbot programmed with my personality, to live online long after I’m dead.)

The kicker is, FinalThoughts.com is now itself dying — done in by the awful funding environment for ebusinesses, and, possibly, a more slender market than they’d anticipated for people who want to mail their siblings from the choir invisible. In a lovely piece of symmetry, FuckedCompany.com has acquired the goodbye email that the CEO sent to the company’s employees and supporters. It’s actually quite nicely written, as these things go! An excerpt:

I regret to inform you that the FinalThoughts.com website
(www.finalthoughts.com) will be shutting down on January 31, 2003 for an indefinite period of time. The market downturn of the last two and a half years has made it increasingly difficult for our company to stay in business and cover the costs of operating the website. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you and we hope that we will someday be able to serve you again.

… please note that any email messages or online forms that you have completed and stored on the FinalThoughts.com website are available for you to print out and save for future reference. After the site shuts down, however, this information will no longer be available. So please don’t delay.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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