Paola, E-learner Platform 2.0, Thomas Wanhoff, and I were talking about Paola’s frustration when Yahoo shut down its Photo service and how painful it was for her to migrate all of them to Flickr, at a fee (it was a while ago so I didn’t remember exactly what Yahoo asked Y! Photo users to do) at Alfresco when I first met them. So we talked about possible solutions to “Web Eternity”, how do you make sure that your web 2.0/3.0/4.0/etc. live there forever regardless of the disappearance of the providers.
As the web evolves, more and more people are not only using the service, like Ducban argued in my last post about the lack of APIs in Vietnamese web service, but they are also entrusting their digital life with the Net: they’re not using it, they’re living it.
Therefore, a discontinuity of the service provision means a part of our digital live has died, and it is devastating.
Need more example?
- On November 19, Google announced it would put an end to Lively at year end. Even though the service has not been very popular since its launch, it teaches us that a large provider such as Google may sometimes get things wrong and disappoint its clients too.
- Yahoo also made an announcement that it would shut down Yahoo 360 in April 2009. This has been expected for a long time but still, this will be perhaps the most tragic event in Vietnam’s digital history as Y!360 is by far the most loved service, enjoyed by millions of Vietnamese users, those who know that they will some day have to say farewell to it but are still using it blindly. It will be interesting to see how the Vietnamese community makes a post-360 move.
- Mocxi, one of the largest videosharing + photosharing + discussion site kissed goodbye to its users a few weeks ago. This, perhaps, was also a tragic moment in Vietnam’s history as hundreds of thousands of users had been spending hours on the site enjoying the most pleasing moment of their day. Now that it’s gone, they all look to Lauxanh.us for a rescue. We barcampers are planning for an offline event of #moccamp to revive the spirit of the “Mốc Family”. Oh, by the way, it was a porn site FYI =))
How to make ourselves digitally eternal?
For centuries we human beings have been in search of a way to make ourselves eternal. That eternity desire is even stronger when it comes to the web. Fortunately, there are ways.
The only solution we came up with at Alfresco was to ask providers to open source their platforms andlet users run the service on their own. A good example is Ning vs Elgg. Both provide a service that allows users to create their own networks, but only Elgg gives users the pleasure of hosting their own SNS. Another example is Typepad/Wordpress.dot/etc vs WordPress.org/Drupal/Joomla/etc.
What about Facebook/Twitter/Friendfeed and the likes which do not have the flexibility of Ning or WordPress.
The same solution applies, but it may work a bit differently. They provide their open source platform, we run these platform by ourselves, they provide a method (API?) for our own platform to integrate itself into the entire network. The network is still there when it’s alive, but if Facebook dies, all the communities run by the many individuals are still there
This is a complicated solution that meets with many difficulties if it is to be realized.
a) Open source
As the world is increasingly shifting towards open source, there exist a large number of companies who are still in love with proprietary software. It’s a matter of when they decide to open up their platform and leaves us to our own devices.
b) Financial constraints
Yeah, having our own web services is great. But not everyone is happy to pay an expensive amount of money to enjoy that kind of luxury 2.0, especially a poor geek like me
However, since individual users are able to run the platform themselves, service providers are relaxed from the burden of maintaining their servers. They may then make financial contributions to, say, a server consortium, which provides hosting services to all sort of web services around the world. Individuals will also pay a small sum of money for their luxury.
c) Tragedy of the commons
It needs a bit of explanation if you haven’t heard about this yet, but an example may work better:
Herders sharing a common parcel of land (the commons), on which they are all entitled to let their cows graze. In Hardin’s view, it is in each herder’s interest to put as many cows as possible onto the land, even if the commons is damaged as a result. The herder receives all of the benefits from the additional cows, while the damage to the commons is shared by the entire group. If all herders make this individually rational decision, however, the commons is destroyed and all herders suffer. [Wikipedia]
Here, if providers contribute to a common server platform, it is very likely that they will act upon their self-interest and eventually such a consortium will disappear due to lack of finance. It’s hard to centralize
There is silver lining
What about a P2P network? This means applications, services, etc. are run across the globes from individual nodes which respond to a vast number of web platforms such as FB and Twitter. P2P network is a proven concept that works out of the box thanks to the popularity to Bittorrent. So basically Service providers will only need to run their “tracker” (right termilogy?) and we will run the client of all sorts. Users may want to support the entire Internet or only services that they’re using.
We can even bulletproof such a P2P network by using GFS, or Google FileSytem. The GFS is well-known for running on commodity low-cost machines and are very fault tolerant, it replicates different files in different machines to ensure that when one PC is shut down, data are still present in other PCs across the globe.
Just a quick question though: am I crazy? =))
P/S This post is for entertainment purpose only!