In the hours before the blackout hit, coders and bloggers alike scrambled and many succeeded in finding ways around the anti-censorship protests on sites like Wikipedia, Reddit and Wired. Now that everyone's had the chance to tinker with the sites, more details are emerging about the real effects of the blackout. Chief among them, because Wikipedia editors can't access the pages they need to update the English language site, Wikipedia's community has been silenced. Not only can you not easily read Wikipedia, editors can't write. This is going to make Thursday a very busy day for diehard Wikipedians.
And here's a lesson: if even the Internet experts at Wikipedia didn't totally understand what would happen when they blacked out their site, how could a bunch of Members of Congress fully comprehend the technical implications of anti-piracy legislation?
Those playing around with Wikipedia's "hack" have found lots of ways around it if you're truly desperate. Wired's work around is self explanatory -- click the big red button marked "UNCENSOR THIS PAGE" -- while The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal offers this Wikipedia workaround. The New Yorker's Ben Greeman suggested, "If Wikipedia's only blocking English-language articles, can't you just go in through the German site and use Google to translate?" We gave it a try and it works, but it's kind of horrible. Because Google Translate works in mysterious ways, the page we translated was muddled with Germenglish sentences. ("1934 Hemingway traveled to a big game safari in Kenya , by the big-game hunters, Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke of , the husband of Karen Blixen , and Philip Percival was directed.")
The SOPA blackout was meant to raise awareness about the anti-piracy bills currently pending in Congress. And based on the way that the topic has taken over the web today, it's succeeding. But the fascination with the many ways around the blackout itself is a reminder that the Internet is based on innovation and curiosity that's resistant to central control. Based on the surprise in Walsh's voice when he saw what was happening to his site for the first time on Wednesday morning -- it would appear that there's much more research to be done on the unanticipated consequences to anti-piracy legislation.