Sci-fi master Ray Bradbury’s death earlier this month was a big blow to American Literature, geeks and modern technology. Tim Bray, a Canadian software developer that works for Google, wants to honor the writer by introducing a new HTTP status code inspired by Bradbury’s seminal novel, Fahrenheit 451.
Bray wants to recommend a new status code to the Internet Engineering Task Force (yes, there is structure to the Internet). Status code 451 would appear when access to a website is denied for legal reasons, in other words, government censorship. Believe it or not this is already a pretty common thing on the internet, but you often don’t even know it’s going on. This would clearly denote when the content of a website is censored and the number, 451, is a clear reference to Bradbury’s anti-censorship novel Fahrenheit 451.
Bray told the Guardian about the new HTTP status code proposal…
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… 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…
The Internet Engineering Task Force meets again in July and this is when Bray will deliver his proposal to the committee. Whether Ray Bradbury, himself, would want to be honored this way is up for debate. He actually hated the Internet and called it “a big distraction” from books. He said to the New York Times in 2009,
They wanted to put a book of mine on Yahoo! You know what I told them? ‘To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the internet.’ It’s distracting… It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.”
Maybe the best way to honor Ray Bradbury is to simply read his books and short stories. What do you think? Is creating a new censorship code named after Bradbury’s most famous book a good idea? Let us know in the comments below.