On fearing the continuity of online services

Today I read that co.mments bit the dust. Another web service (who remembers the I Want Sandy discussion a while back), ceasing to exist (though from what I see, a lot of folk are using Disqus more).

It got me a little worried. I rely quite a bit on online services.

  • Bookmarking, once previously living in my bookmark.htm file, now is shared on delicious. It has proven to be invaluable, storing 3,108 bookmarks. They are a Yahoo! run company.
  • Photo storage and sharing, once previously sitting in directories on my web server, are now kept on my Flickr account. Flickr is great, because I can share photos with just friends, family, or participate in a vibrant community of photo enthusiasts. I currently have 16,813 items stored there, with backups on various media sitting in my various homes. They are a Yahoo! run company, and I happily pay them for a Pro account.
  • I depend on Google Reader (read my shared items) to read RSS feeds. In fact, I have been sharing items as a form of bookmarking them. Ditto with adding stars to items. Don’t say Google doesn’t close services – they have.
  • I use Google Calendar, because it simply rocks. I also use Google Docs, and I also use GMail (hosted, and regular).
  • I use Twitter, who has no business model, as of yet. I like it over FriendFeed for one minor detail – I can update via SMS.

Most of these services have ways for you to get your data out of them, assuming they don’t exist in due time. But what will replace them?

Sure there are desktop applications. But with the variety of devices I utilise, I’m trying to cut down from using desktop applications and just focus on working online. In fact, all that is open now is Firefox, Adium, iTunes, TextMate (where I carve this text out), Terminal, Skype and twhirl. On my work laptop, its just Thunderbird, Firefox, Terminal, and Skype that’s open.

So maybe I need less desktop applications. It’s good, because that’s the hope of online services – live right in your browser.

But in tough(er) times, what do you do if the online service you use, disappears? Where’s the continuity (i.e. will my grandkids be able to browse my Flickr photo albums?)

I do wonder, if this will lead to more open source, peer-to-peer/federated run, online services. Like if Twitter folds up, who’s to say its excellent community won’t move to identi.ca ? (till then though, the latter probably doesn’t stand a chance, besides the very geeky top-of-the-trend open source folk…)


  1. Seng Ming says:

    Thanks for the reminder and warning, now time to backup my gcal, gmail and twitters.

  2. mrwn says:

    which is why I look for online services that has some sort off backup/save-to-desktop functionality..

    anyway, we have at least two option
    1. user-owned services
    — own server, own services (so as long as you pay the hosting, it’ll never go off)

    2. backup
    — at least, when a services goes dodo, you have a backup in your PC, and some other service can pick-up from that

  3. Seng Ming says:

    Or, you can wait for Google to keep up with converters to make it easy to switch services (tongue in cheek)


    Seriously though, now that you bring it up, backing up data is just part of the solution. When a site goes down what we’re actually losing is the data and the service. e.g. I currently use muspy.com to track new music and sure, when they fold (touch wood) I could probably get my list of artists back in a nice xml file, but how am i going to get back the service they were providing? Oh well.

  4. byte says:

    Look, Google canned some more services:


    “the company said it would close Dodgeball, Google Catalog Search, Google Mashup Editor, Google Notebook, and Jaiku. It also said it’s discontinuing the ability to upload videos to Google Video. ”

    I actually use Google Notebook. Jaiku I never found too useful, considering I use Twitter. And where do I upload my videos now that I can’t do it on Google Video? YouTube’s 10 minute limit is just no good!