How can a site vanish for such a long time? Read on for a brief summary of what happened.
The Midwinter Web server used to be colocated at Exodus Communications along with a bunch of equipment owned by NBCi, who allowed us to use some of their bandwidth thanks to a business arrangement whose details aren't relevant. It was a good deal for us; they handled everything from swapping backup tapes to monitoring the health of the network.
That is, it was a good deal until NBCi closed its doors. Without warning, our machines disappeared from the net. Since NBCi had been good in the past about staying on top of network problems without any prodding from us, we didn't try bugging them about it until a couple days had gone by. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that all of our contacts had been laid off, and nobody remaining had heard of us!
After much fruitless flailing, we managed to contact someone who had some idea what was going on. It turned out that all of the equipment in NBCi's cage had been sold to a liquidator. All of it, including the backup tapes and our server, which wasn't NBCi property (and was marked accordingly).
We attempted to find out where the equipment had ended up, but weren't able to find anyone who knew. We eventually decided it was a lost cause. We could undoubtedly sue someone somewhere over what happened, but that won't bring back the old site.
Some of what was on the old machine is lost forever; it was backed up, but the backups vanished along with everything else and some of our content wasn't well-enough linked from elsewhere on the Web to show up on the Wayback Machine or other Web archives. The Lurker's Guide was mirrored on several other sites, though, from which we've recovered all the content (though some of it still needs a bit of reassembly, and other parts have fallen out of date in the intervening months).
So that's what happened. Our new setup should be less prone to another fiasco like that; we have physical access to the server and we're dealing directly with the colocation provider. We don't have as big a pipe as we used to, but it's our pipe. Needless to say, we'll be keeping our own offsite backups from now on!
Thanks to everyone who wrote wondering where we went. Enjoy...