So everybody knows the cloud is the future. All the titans of the information age are trying to convince us, day-in and day-out, that we should migrate our digital lives onto their servers and stride confidently into a bold new age of instant-everywhere access. Google, Amazon, Facebook, and many more among fleets of hardware SaaS mongers and thin-client mobile Co’s are working feverishly to sell everyone on the cloud service model. But should we really trust profit-driven companies to responsibly care for our data?
Today, a leak has exposed that Yahoo! plans to shut down del.icio.us because it has been identified as an “underperformer”. The Yahoo! property is one of exactly two Yahoo! properties that has any real broad value beyond ad-search monetization (the other being Flickr). It is widely used and relied upon by industry analysts, researchers, students, and scientists alike. I use it everyday. Yet, among Yahoo!’s many well-documented failures has been its inability to effectively grow and monetize its two most valuable properties – the two properties that do more to salvage the fading brand of Yahoo! than anything else it has done in the past 10 years.
But everybody knows the Yahoo! story by now. And shutting down del.icio.us is arguably a far bigger story because what it effectively says to everyone using a hosted data service is this: your data is only worth as much as our ability to monetize it. This, of course, makes sense to business. But the story that’s being sold to all of us on the user side, including the many businesses being pushed to move to the cloud and trust that Google, for example, will take care of all their enterprise data… The story we’re being sold is that we can trust the cloud and it’s masters to take care of us and to protect & preserve our information. Never mind the data breaches. Never mind the has-been web failures forever shelved and buried. Never mind the fact that your data is only valuable because hosting services can mine it and re-sell it and use it to find us anywhere. And never mind the simple, logical fact-of-business that if the service you have trusted to protect your digital life becomes a corporate under-performer, it may very well get shut down and locked away forever.
Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz reportedly earned $47 million dollars last year. She is currently in the process of laying off 20% of the Yahoo! workforce. As is sadly the case for so many big, public tech companies in the valley, layoffs and consolidation are used to make up for the value-draining malaise of bad management and a failure to innovate. In the end, it’s the beleaguered workers, the overlooked users, and the many partners that have adopted the cloud story who bear the very real burden of corporate small-mindedness.
[As has been noted by others, data transport, shared standards, and simple mechanisms to extract and redeploy data will be critical requirements for secure cloud adoption and faith in the story. There is a path to export data from del.icio.us but much of the value built around that data by the service, such as tags & bundles, will not transfer.]
[I migrated my del.icio.us data following the Lifehacker script. Lost all taxonomic data (tags are gone) and crashed Firefox repeatedly after import trying to manage 1000+ bookmarks. Now I have a ton of bookmarks that will likely be lost because they are too hard to search through. So even though del.icio.us has a migration feature, it looses all the secondary structural data that I added as tags in order to be able to manage the volume. Harumph. ]
[UPDATE: Now Yahoo! may sell off del.icio.us. Wish they would have paid enough attention to the service to see its value before everyone started screaming about its retirement. Seems yet another indicator that Yahoo! just doesn't get it about 21st century information services...]