Over the past month or so, there’s been quite a bit of news and speculation about Microsofts purchase offer for Yahoo. Probably the largest focus of this (possible) acquisition has been the popular photo site flikr.
A small but vocal minority on Flickr are already staging online protests at the prospect of a Microsoft takeover. Flickr is one of several popular Web 2.0 websites owned by Yahoo that loyal users fear will suffer under Microsoft ownership.
As soon as the news hit the wires that Microsoft is proposing a $44.6 billion bid for Yahoo, Flickr users began posting anti-Microsoft images, satirical “Flickr Live” logos and announcing they will abandon Flickr if it falls into Microsoft hands, fearing such a move would mark the beginning of the end.
These ‘mini-rebellions’ always seem to happen when a popular web site goes up for bid. I remember the same thing happening when Yahoo first bought Flickr. Users freaked that Flickr had ‘sold out’ and gone corporate and were convinced that Yahoo would ruin the site. At the time Yahoo told nothing would change, us ‘old school’ users would continue just as we had before. But sure enough, it wasn’t too long that we were told we had to create a Yahoo profile or link our ‘old school’ account to a Yahoo profile in order to keep using the site. It’s natural to assume Microsoft will do the same thing (Microsoft Live anyone?). But… that was really the only major change, albiet an annoying one. I had to create another yahoo profile just for the flickr site. I didn’t want it linked to my ‘personal’ yahoo account. Yet another username/password to remember.
In any case, thats not really the point of this entry. This news just reinforced my reluctance to ever rely on a third party to handle any of my data. I never signed up for a Flickr ‘pro’ account. I never really saw the point. There’s no guarantee the the Flickr service will exist tomorrow as it does today. I know quite a few people who treat Flickr as a type of archive for their photos… in some cases what they have posted on flickr is the only copy they have (they insist it’s a reliable backup). To me thats absolutely foolish. I have no confidence in anyone to take care of any of my data except for me. There have been too many cases of online companies just disappearing or hell, even just randomly deleting accounts for any type of online service to be considered reliable. One in particular jumps to mind:
Charter Communications, which provides cable and Internet access to 2.6 million customers, accidentally and irretrievably wiped out 14,000 active email accounts while trying to clear out unused accounts.
Charter maintained NO backup of those email accounts. If you counted on Charter to handle your data, you where screwed. Hell, even Internet powerhouses like Google are not immune.
Google is working on restoring the accounts, but it looks like several which have been re-enabled do not link properly to email attachments. Some people have even been locked out of important information they had stored in their Gmail accounts, and out of their Google Accounts that control blogs, Docs and even AdSense for seven days so far.
As online apps like Google Docs and Adobe’s Photoshop Express become more popular, I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more stories like the above. Can you afford to be locked out of your files for seven days or more? I can’t.
For nearly 10 days, a strange sort of bug is simply cleaning out the GMail inboxes. An afflicted soul wrote to us this morning, warning about this bug.
Now whats important to note here is Google’s policy. Once a Gmail account is deleted, it is gone forever. It cannot be restored and the account name can never be used again. Check out Google’s response posted in the above story:
Once we found out about this issue, we worked day and night to confirm that only a few accounts were affected and to do whatever we could to restore as much of the usersâ€™ accounts as we could. Weâ€™ve also reached out to the people who were affected to apologize and to work with them to restore the email from any personal backup they might have.
Emphasis mine. Google did not maintain a backup of these accounts if they were hit with the delete bug. If you didn’t have your own backup, you where screwed.
As I was saying, I’ll just keep the responsibility for my data in my own court. I pull backups of this blog (and my political blog) several times a week and store them off site. I’ll post photos to flickr now and then but I don’t treat it as an archive service. Hell, I run my own Gallery on my own server just to be sure I know where my photos are (in addition to my backups which are, you guessed it, off site). As for Gmail, I use it. Alot. It is pretty much my primary email account. Mainly because I have found it to be one of the most effective spam filters I have ever use (probably because they bought PostINI a while ago).
I have several email accounts I’ve used for years. Double digit years. As you can probably guess, they’re 99% spam by now. But I have Google POP those accounts which filters out the crap. I’ll get maybe 4-5 spam messages that make it into my inbox per week now. Contrast that to my oldest account which average 700-800 spam message a day. Once they’ve been filtered through Gmail, I then POP my gmail account from my ‘private’ account and download all the non-crap messages to my personal machine (and personal backup). It’s pretty effective. And if my Gmail account ever gets ‘wiped’ in any way, I still have all of my messages.