When I was in college, Yahoo, or some company like that, gave the entire school a free subscription to their music service, which was a forerunner of Spotify. I was an enthusiastic adopter and I had a big library of music and I made all kinds of playlists. But what songs did I listen to? I have no idea! Because the service sucked and was difficult to use and I eventually moved back to iTunes.
Meanwhile, I still have all the mp3s I was listening to from high school, because anything they just got swept up into my backups and I’ve passively transported them from computer to computer ever since. Ever since the music experience I’ve been extremely wary of any service where I don’t have complete control of my data–and I’m talking the files themselves. Because nothing is forever.
It’s likely that in fifty years, I will still have a computer. And it’s likely that that computer will still be capable of playing mp3 files. But will we still have the internet as we know it? Will WordPress be around? Or Spotify? Probably not. And that makes me wary. Because I know that things can happen without you noticing. Maybe the service shuts down quietly, and there’s a deadline for collecting your data, and I’m busy with something or other and I just don’t notice.
And yet…despite this wariness, I use SOOOO many of these services. All my emails are in the Google cloud. I keep meaning to mirror them on my computer, but somehow I never get around to it. All my blog posts are in WordPress. I periodically download the database, but I couldn’t tell you where on my computer it is, and anyway “periodically” is like once a year. All the blog posts also get emailed to me, but that’s extremely unwieldy, and anyway those aren’t on my computer, they’re on Gmail. I mostly listen to spotify now, and I have the same problem with playlists on spotify that I had on the Yahoo music service.
And, of course, 70% of the books I’ve bought over the last five years are in the Amazon cloud. I keep meaning to download them all, crack the DRM, and store them in a database, but I still haven’t done it. And, in any case, if the process isn’t automatic, then it means I’ll inevitably lose or overlook plenty of things.
It’s all scattered! And I have no idea how to pull it together!
All I can hope is that someday, years from now, someone invents some way of scooping all of this stuff out of the memory of the internet and depositing it back onto my hard drive.