Protecting Your Data When Web 2.0 Sites Fail

January 5, 2008

So… hard to miss this subject, but Robert Scoble was banned from Facebook a few days ago, and is still reeling from the implications.

The sad truth is being banned from a Web 2.0 site happens more often than one would think. I recently read a long post from Tamar Weinberg about Digg’s silent banning policy with terrible customer service to boot.

Many have handed over personal and critical information to Web 2.0 sites. It’s more than just user created content – it’s a fair chunk of our lives. Without access to that data – you feel as if one of your limbs has been cut off.

Last night I lost access to Google. That really sucked. I’ve become overly reliant on GMail, Google Blog Search, Google Reader, Google Docs, Google Analytics, and just plain Google, Google, and Google (did I mention Google?). I felt like the Internet had become useless and resorted to MSN because I couldn’t think of another search engine (sorry Yahoo!). It turned out I just had to restart my computer, but still – life sucked for a short time.

When we hand part of our life to any company, we can easily become crippled – if they decide to play hardball, if they decide to get greedy with their content, or if they become inaccessible or go out of business.

One solution is to run your own site. But even that’s not a complete solution. WinExtra has been down for nearly a day due to hosting problems, and David Airey had his domain name stolen (he got it back). I’ve also had website issues. Instead of handing your life over to Facebook it’s now in the hands of a hosting company.

So ultimately, the answer seems to be backups and diversification:

Standard computer advice is to back up often in the event of a hard drive failure. Standard financial advice is to diversify your investments for the same reason. I think that advice holds for social networking and online applications as well.

Web 2.0 has got to start making user data portable, and Scoble is the canary in the coal mine.


  1. JC says:

    Intersting point. I still think your data is more secure on a Google server than it is on your own hard drive. At least Google has redundant backup systems going at all times. Sure, I have Tume Machine. But in the event of a fire or Earthquake, I’m far more likely to lose my own data. Both my laptop and my backup drive could get swallowed in an instant.

    Now with Facebook, or some of the other newer, less proven companies, I definitely wouldn’t feel safe. But I do think Google, at least, isn’t going anywhere. And its in their best financial interest to keep my data accessible as often as possible.

    Still, I keep local copies of anything that’s on the web as well. Can’t hurt, right?

  2. webomatica says:

    Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly continuing to use Google. They do give the option of getting the data out to a large degree, which I’m glad to encourage.

    And no it can’t hurt to have data in many places – offline and online. As long as all those places play nice with the data and support open, standard file formats.

  3. David Airey says:

    Like you, I’ll still be using Google’s services, even though a GMail security failure led to the theft of my domain name.

    I’ve just learnt to be more security concious now, and appreciate how important a good host provider / domain name registrar can be.

    Interesting post.