This morning I came across a commentary by Bruce Schneier at Wired entitled When the Internet Is My Hard Drive, Should I Trust Third Parties? Schneier worries about the loss of data that is stored on the Web, including web pages and websites that are not under his control.
Schneier first notes how the Wine Therapy web bulletin board, a place where wine aficionados posted and shared information since 2000, was lost when someone hacked the site and deleted the database. The site owner had been sick and was not keeping a backup. (Join the club.)
After a few anecdotes about broken travel links, the loss of the blogging website Greatest Journal, and MySpace losing control of members' personal data, Schneier says of our online data: "there's no way to predict what will disappear when." And although there are some emerging personal archiving tools, "we don't know which bits we want until they're no longer there." He sadly concludes that "there's not much we can do about it."
Some of the comments are interesting to read. One reader says that "Link rot is actually a healthy way for clutter to evaporate from the web leaving room for useful information." I'd like to see this person's reaction when their blog "clutter" disappears one day.
Someone named Daniel commented that there's no simple way to backup your dynamic website, but they remain hopeful: "[I] Also expect that somebody will make it easy to backup your site--and not just from a browser perspective--and then we'll just have to wait until it becomes so cheap it's ubiquitous." hmm... maybe I'm on to something here.