This week MySpace announced that, in addition to other content, over 50 million music tracks were lost. How did this happen? According to MySpace:
As a result of a server migration project, any photos, videos, and audio files you uploaded more than three years ago may no longer be available on or from MySpace. We apologize for the inconvenience.
The statement almost seems glib in its drabness. 50 million audio tracks is not a small amount of content and now, much of that might be lost forever. Could you imagine if this happened with Google photos? How about Dropbox?
These things seem almost unthinkable, and with the architecture at a company like Google, unlikely. But one thing I have learned in my career in technology is that any company that seems permanent, is a trend away from fading.
We could blame MySpace, but I think we would be wiser and happier in the long run if we instead used this opportunity to look at our own behavior.
Do you care about the content you are posting online? If so, you should be considerate of where you are posting it. Is it a closed system? Do you have the ability to retrieve that content when you want it? Will it be in a format that is useful for you in the future?
Take blogging for instance. A lot of great options exist for open Content Management Systems that allow you access/download to your content in convenient formats. WordPress is by far the largest and most successful example.
Yet people continue to buy into closed systems. Either buying opaque packaged software that hides behind vague promises of security or in closed publishing platforms that strip you of the rights to your own work.
The decision you make on “where” to post content has long term repercussions. Not just for the long term accessibility of your content, but also for the viability of the web itself.
When millions of files are silenced all at once, it creates a giant hole in the web. it robs of us of our history and confines the talent of many people to the digital void. The only evidence that they ever existed being tantalizing links that lead to nowhere.
You could count on organizations like Archive.org to alleviate the problem, and they certainly could use your support. But even in the best of circumstances, certain content on the web is difficult to archive.
Maybe you think that the internet works best at a living AND dying entity. Even if that is the case, you should consider what you do with your own content. It belongs to you. Don’t let other companies or “incidents” decides its fate. Choose your platforms wisely to ensure that you are in control.