The users of the Web 2.0 rely on many sites to discover, share and publish content. But these days I think that many people felt the earth crumble under their feet, when they found out that the sites they rely on are in an unstable situation. For example:
- The URL shortener http://tr.im/ is closing.
- Friendfeed has been bought by Facebook.
- Twitter has been attacked by hackers.
The consequences of the changes could be great on the end user. If tr.im closes and an user has always used tr.im on his site, then all of a sudden all his links would be broken. If Facebook decides that Friendfeed’s “automatic post to Twitter” feature is not welcome, people relying on it would need to find another solution fast. People relying on private Twitter timelines to do “private” tasks from todo lists to turning on the heat at home remotely, they feel insecure and could stop to use their solution.
I think that two things are required in order to survive social earthquakes:
- Easy data backup, manageable data restore
Redundancy means that if something fails, you have something to fall back to. I have both a twitter and an identi.ca account that can be used in the same way. The Friendfeed “automatic post to Twitter” feature can be replicated by Twitterfeed (that can also post to identi.ca, by the way).
Backing up your data is not always easy and not always automatic. WordPress.com allows to backup your entire blog and restore it later, even on a home server with WordPress.org installed. The restoring process can’t be prepared for every kind of situation, but at least it should be possible to restore by hand. For example, one could find a script that, for each shortened link on a page, writes on a text file the shortened URL and its expanded address. If the URL shortener closes, the links on the pages can be replaced, even one by one. It could be cumbersome to restore the original situation, but the links are not entirely lost.
Meanwhile, many tools come to help. Recently Google Reader became more like a small Friendfeed, with a “Note this” bookmarklet, friends to follow, “Likes” and access through RSS. The Internet is always moving; to think that it won’t change is a fallacy, to act like it won’t change is a recipe for failure.