Clouds are Ephemeral

Google recently announced the Chrome OS, to meld their Chrome browser with their various online offerings into a cloud-based computer architecture. No need for large amounts of personal storage or even powerful computing hardware – it’s all in the cloud, and Google will take care of it for you.

Although Google appears to be a 900-pound gorilla that will stay on top and keep their sites going for as long as you need them, let’s take a look at the history of the cloud so far, shall we? Kodak has recently told users they need to spend money at the Kodak Gallery or their photos will be deleted. Sony Imagestation shut down in 2008. Yahoo shut down their photo site in 2007, mostly moving files to Flickr, if you asked them to. If you forgot, they’re gone. Personal site hosts Sampa and GeoCities are shutting down.

Youtube frequently shuts off videos or entire accounts, without notice or seemingly any recourse. Google Video is killing that separate service entirely. This follows iFilm, PutFile, ClipFish, MyTunes, and many other user-content-driven cloud sites into oblivion.

That doesn’t even touch on the for-pay sites that no longer work, even after charging similar prices for now-inaccessible content than that which you would actually own. Amazon remotely deleted files from Kindles, blah blah blah.

So, I have my own site rather than relying on the cloud. I mirror my public comments here onto Livejournal, Facebook, Myspace and even Twitter. But, those are just mirrors. My content resides on my site, which I control. I also back it up to my local machine, because even Dreamhost may go the way of Jennicam into digital dissolution.

I worry that an over-reliance on The Cloud will end with a great deal of individual personal histories disappearing over time. As it is, people of my generation and younger are disinclined to have photo albums that they can touch – why bother when there’s Flickr? I can imagine if we ever do move to a pure-digital society, some of us will be more paranoid about who we trust with our data. When in doubt, make a backup copy – clouds always seem to evaporate over time.