Your internet data is rotting - If MySpace could recently lose 50 million files, where will your memories be in 10 years time?
Many MySpace users were dismayed to discover earlier this year that the social media platform lost 50 million files uploaded between 2003 and 2015.
The failure of MySpace to care for and preserve its users’ content should serve as a reminder that relying on free third-party services can be risky. MySpace has probably preserved the users’ data; it just lost their content. The data was valuable to MySpace; the users’ content less so.
Massive and desperate efforts are underway to preserve whatever is worth preserving, but even sorting out what is and what is not is itself a formidable undertaking. What will be of value in 10 years – or 50 years? And how to preserve it?
Acid-free paper can last 500 years; stone inscriptions even longer. But magnetic media like hard drives have a much shorter life, lasting only three to five years. They also need to be copied and verified on a very short life cycle to avoid data degradation at observed failure rates between 3% and 8% annually.
Yes, it's a growing problem that we are all just ignoring. I inherited a shoebox of paper photos from my grandfather which I can still look at, but what if he'd stored all the family photos on Flickr and everything above 1,000 was just automatically deleted, or on his MySpace account or that bulletin board service that discontinued in the 1980s? I'm still fearing we will be the "lost generation" and despite us capturing more memories and photos than ever before, I think my grandfather's shoebox may outlast it and have more to show in 100 years time. So imagine if your photos and documents manage to survive the cloud service going out of business, what are you going to open and read them within 30 years time when a company called Microsoft is a dim memory some of us will have. We all thought WordPerfect was here to stay 20 years back and they
disappeared quite quickly when the fall ultimately came. Is MS Office still opening your WordPerfect, WordStar Samna, etc documents off the 5.25" floppy discs you kept them on?
In one minute on the Internet 2,08 million Snapchats are shared, 473,400 Tweets are sent, 49,380 photos are Instagrammed... I don't have the answer either because keeping them at home (even if backup up offsite) does not guarantee they'll be available in 50 or 150 years time. Parts of the Internet are already rotting and collapsing.
MySpace users were recently shocked to learn that the company lost 50 million user files. It's a harsh lesson in not leaving your intellectual property unprotected on the information superhighway.