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Our data on the internet

Social Media

Social MediaOne evening, while going through my Facebook wall I began to wonder, how long is it all going to last? 40 years? 20 years? 100 years? I joined Facebook back in 2008, and my friends list has grown significantly (360 something friends and counting). Over the years we have shared jokes, posts (how we felt at that particular moment in time), relationship status (Miss X, Miss Y Then Miss X again), photos and such.

But most of all we have built memories on Facebook. We have invested so much time and emotions into the social network, so much that if someone where to go through my wall, they would know a significant lot about me and my friends.

There is Gmail as well. I opened an account with these guys in 2006 when Gmail was still in beta and you would need an invitation in order to open an account. Gmail brought with it Google Talk, thus mainstream IM frenzy began. I loved was how fast the message was delivered; it was like talking to a real person (well it felt like it back then) and we have been chatting ever since. I have never deleted any chats or emails in my Gmail account and this means Google currently holds “tonnes” of my email and chat messages. As well as those of hundreds of millions of other users.

This is our history, my history, get into any of those accounts and you will see how far I have come. You will know more about me than anyone could have in a very short period of time. My whole life story.

So, as I was going through my accounts that evening, I was deeply concerned about the future (not security) of our data. Wondered if 40 years from now we will still be having all this data. Are these popular networks just a fad? Indeed these networks crash someday or just they fade away.

It would be nice to still have all that data to sit back and reflect on how far you have come years from now. For some it will be a How I Met Your Mother moments, with the kids and grandkids.

Email has been around for a few decades now. For what it’s worth, I hope it stays a few more. Or that, whatever replaces it, can make sense of email data. But what about social networks? Facebook? MySpace is on a steady decline. So is Yahoo; just last month it caused a scare with the rumoured closure of web bookmarking service Delicious. Look what happened to Geocities. Will Facebook be able to weather on?

If these big tech companies holding our data in the ‘clouds’ were to close shop, all our data would go down with them. What if 10 years from now Facebook, Gmail, Twitter are all gone and there are newer non-compatible technologies? What would happen to our data, our memories?

It’s a scenario I hope never plays out.

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