How long will material posted at and Flickr be available on the web?

Both and Flickr offer free space. There does not seem to be a time limit for the information that we post at those sites. This actually seems to be an advantage over maintaining (and paying for) our own web sites. (Click continue for more on this subject.)

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There are now many sites on the web that are offering free space for my data. I have several Gmail related sites at Google (Gmail accounts, web sites, calendars etc.), pictures at Tabblo, several free phpBB forums, and so on. If the business plan of the hosting firm is faulty, I know that when the company vanishes so will everything I’ve deposited in their storage systems. But Flickr has been bought by Yahoo!, and Google seems to be a money-making powerhouse. So I am fairly confident about the longevity of these companies.

My office is littered with legacy data files that I can no longer access with current hardware. Somewhere I have audio cassettes with the text for a newspaper column that I wrote on a Tandy 100 circa 1986. That was a great notebook computer. I could type on an excellent keyboard, and the onboard modem allowed me to file my articles electronically. My data storage was managed with an audio cassette recorder.

There is a little filing cabinet that is crammed with Apple II floppy disks. If I bothered to haul out that old Apple II, with its Z-80 card (complete with its own high speed 64K of memory), I know that it would still work. In the late 80s we acquired WordStar to write and typeset a book on that. It never failed.

My dear old Mac Plus eventually died, so all of the carousels of hard-shelled floppies are now unreadable.

Lately I’ve been reading that CDs and DVDs are not archival! Since my Hi8 camcorder died I have not figured out what is best to do with the several shoe boxes of tapes (and valuable family history).

Flickr, Gmail,, Tabblo, and others are offering to allow me to store data with them for free with the implied promise that access will always be possible.


My own web sites will be available only as long as I continue to pay rent with the virtual host. Were I to die, they would be gone in a month or so.

But, will my grandchildren (no, I have none… yet) be able to read my blog and see my photos at Flickr?

Since these huge sites are well backed up, it seems that posting at these free sites offers the greatest potential for secure, long term, survival of data. I presume that as the storage technology changes, my old data will simply be moved to new and better storage media.

The implications of this are considerable. Imagine if a substantial percentage of the computer-using population open several free multi-gigabyte Gmail accounts simply to store data from their computers? No wonder Google is building a new facility next to a major power dam.

I suspect that I am not the only person contemplating where this will lead.


10 Responses to “How long will material posted at and Flickr be available on the web?”

  1. 1 tomawesome December 22, 2006 at 5:11 am

    nature tells us that depending on a single source is not wise (read “who moved my cheese”.) regardless of what yahoo, google say, once they decide to pull the plug, I would consider my data stored with them gone. therefore I scatter my data widely as possible. it is a fascinating thought though to imagine my future grandchildren reading this post in 30 years. heck I might even try to read this post in 30 years!

  2. 2 Robert December 23, 2006 at 8:00 am


    Good point about spreading your data around. I could imagine a software company that would act as a broker. You would deposit your pictures, files, articles or whatever with the broker and that online company would then store it in your name at several sites. I suppose the broker’s service could be paid with ads at the site.

    The magic here is the word free. The advantage of the free site is not that there is no cost, but that there is no further action required by the user after filing the data. The question then is: what is the security and longevity of the data?

    It makes me wonder how much disk space is now being wasted by sites that have free accounts that were set up and then ignored. I know that bravenet eventually deny access to such accounts. Will Flickr and Google do the same thing? I have a couple of forums at that I visit every few weeks to keep them active until I am ready to use them again. And I have 2 unused accounts because I wanted to secure the names for future use.

    Just as a bank will diminish an unused bank account, and eventually turn the funds over to the government, surely there will be some concern about continuing to store and backup un-accessed data.

  3. 3 mETAhero January 18, 2007 at 8:46 am

    Wow! The inverse function of privacy is durability! How do you optimise the benefit of these functions?

  4. 4 Robert January 19, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    I suspect that attempting to achieve real privacy, or durability, is impossible. If I had to choose, I think that durability may be of more value to me.

    My values are somewhat different from those of the mainstream culture. As a result of the Internet and other forms of personal networking, I am finding a large community, or communities, that share different sets of my values.

    I don’t think that those of us who demand privacy would be able to find each other.

    Did you see my article on networking?

    I value the people in my various networks. It is worth abandoning some privacy for us to be able to find each other.

    In 1999, Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems said to a group of reporters, “You have zero privacy anyway, get over it.” The story in WIRED is here:,1283,17538,00.html

  5. 5 Robert November 4, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    For a project that is not related to this blog, I considered the possibility of, what I called, “legacy blogging.” This would be a blog that recalls past history — in this case, of a beloved organization.

    The concept would be to blog about the past as if the entries were made at the time. It could create an interesting history for people to search, read and explore. I tried it out and asked about the limits of what is possible with the folks at You can read about it in the article: An Experiment in Time Travel.

    This comment is part of that experiment. The concept worked, but the legacy article did not show up in Google. I am wondering if this comment, clearly posted in November 2007, will cause Googlebot to catalog the article dated 1988.

  6. 6 Ian Fogg July 15, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Thanks for your comment on my blog (months ago), about what I should do with my old JupiterResearch archive, as the blog was being closed after our acquisition by Forrester.

    Well, I’ve finally found some time and have posted the entire thing, six and a half years’ of entries onto my personal site (I have permission), fully searchable. I’ve added new categories, but unfortunately some links between entries no longer work and I haven’t the time to fix them.

    • 7 Robert July 23, 2009 at 7:38 am

      Ian, I really appreciate your returning to this blog to let me know about the move of Being Connected by Ian Fogg.

      BTW, one of the weaknesses of blogs is that the articles are presented in chronological order (yes, I know that is the idea). The problem is that the old articles fade into relative obscurity. I’ve found that Google is very generous in rating new posts, but that falls off with time. Also, browsers seldom go back to explore the old stuff beyond the first blog page.

      Why do I mention this? I often read the author’s ABOUT page to find out who is blogging. I have also found that by going back to look at the first days of the embryonic blog I can find some real insights into the bloggers hopes and intentions for the site. Your blog is full of interesting content, and I know that I will enjoy exploring the back pages of it.

      Some articles do find resonance in Internet Land, and seem to maintain a level of popularity. My old post on Here is how I was taught to make a pepperoni pizza
      continues to receive constant flow of hits. It has nothing to do with the theme of this blog, but it is a great pie, and I can take no credit for it. If people can use it, I am delighted.

  7. 8 Hikari January 24, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    hahaha nice thoughts 😛

    Regarding old media, it is normal that newer tecnology doesn’t support older ones. What you should have done was copy those data before their hardware became useless.

    This is the advantage of digital media! A piece of paper can survive thousands of years with its content, but to be copied you need somebody to read it and write on another paper, risking mistypes and even adulterations based on opinion, philosophy, religion, etc divergencies. And when you use mechanical tools to make copies, it loses quality and on every copy you do the content goes slowly fanishing.

    Digital media on the other hand, it is wonderful how copies are done easily and new copies’ quality is exactally the same of original media’s content. It can be published and distributed much easier!

    I also had this kind of problem, I lost a few animes when I noted my old CDs were not readable anymore. What I do is make new copies of my DVDs when they become 4 years old, and my CDs are almost all converted to DVD. When a new media comes out, I just keep a DVD burner time enough to copy my data to it, and it is all saved again.

    Regarding free sites, we can store our data on them without paying for it, but I’m sure their TOS has something about deleting or losing our data. I’d not trust them to keep the only copy of my important data! Best thing to do is make a lot of copies and distribute them among places and people that will keep them updated and copied!

  8. 9 Robert January 24, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Hikari, you are right, I should have found a way to move data to newer media. For some, I may yet.

    For the examples I used, while I may have invested some (or considerable) creativity in the original material (videos, newspaper columns, articles, photographs, and even the postings on this blog) I don’t know that I am prepared to expend a lot of time as a curator of my own past. And someday I’ll not be here to be its curator. Just coping with the new opportunities seems to occupy more time than I have.

    That said, I cannot help but feel that some things, perhaps including this little blog that is a personal chronicle of this place (the Salish Sea and the surrounding watersheds) and this time (the first decades of this century), may have elements that could be of interest to readers or viewers long after I am gone.

    When Comet Halley was to shine in the Earth’s skies the last time (1985 – 1986), this columnist was researching every written account of earlier observations of the comet that I could find. Some of my discoveries appeared in the newspaper columns and planetarium shows I authored in the mid-1980s. I was pleased to find many gems that were buried in old books, journals, microfilm and in person recollections. I like to think my column added to the experience of many people when they saw the comet. Since I was writing for a newspaper, when the comet returns (in 2061), probably some future journalist will find value in my published views.

    It is hard to know what personal history may be illuminating to future generations. It would be nice to think that these blogs may turn out to be accounts of our time that will become the source material for historians, students, and anyone who is curious.

  1. 1 An experiment in time travel « Salish Sea Trackback on November 4, 2007 at 2:22 pm

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