The big tech news today is that Google is shutting down its Reader RSS Sync service, and my Twitter and App.Net feeds are full of people upset about it.
I’m not because I planned for it. Free web service shutdowns have happened before and free web service shutdowns will happen again (with apologies to Pythia). So I regularly backup my online life. (Links to do so are below.)
By now, we’ve all been on the Internet long enough to know that everything changes, frequently. We all moved from:
- MySpace → Facebook.
- AIM → MSN Messenger → Google Talk → iMessage.
- Hotmail → Gmail.
- GeoCities → Tumblr.
- Del.icio.us → Pinboard.
As one service becomes less popular, less featured or shuts down, we all move to another. If there is no free version, we pay, or we find another alternative, or someone makes a better, more innovative product. It’s the internet circle of life.
The real issue is when we lose the data we placed on those services.
That is because we relied on these services for their data storage and assumed, incorrectly as we now know, that they would always be there. We did not have local copies or backups. So when the service went, so did our data.
The best thing you can do is to make sure that for anything you have on a free or paid for web service, you also have copies and backups on your local drives. There is no excuse for not doing this. Hard disks are cheap, huge and reliable, and the data you share is usually quite accessible.
For example, I use a mail client application to ensure all my Gmail is downloaded and safe. I keep copies of all my photos, even the ones I share, in Aperture libraries (which are just folders of files). I use IFTTT and Slogger to keep all my tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram’s up to date locally. My blogs are all baked on my computer. I download my Pinboard links every month. I even have a copy of my old GeoCities web site (and no, no way am I going to share that atrocity). And I have an OPML copy of my RSS feeds.
I am not saying Gmail or Twitter is going to go away tomorrow, but these are free services, and they can be shut down at any time. However, if any of these services do go away, you should still have the data, up-to-date, and in a useable format. That way you can upload it into a new service any time without pause.
You’ve been told to backup you computer, you should also backup your online life.
The Geeky Part
Links and resources to get your data out of some popular services (you’ll need to be logged in to access them):
- For Twitter, request your Twitter archive or use Manton Reece’s lovely Watermark service.
- Download your App.net data at https://account.app.net/settings/content/.
- Download your Facebook data at https://www.facebook.com/settings?ref=mb - export link at the bottom of the page.
- Dump your Pinboard bookmarks at http://pinboard.in/export/.
- Grab your Tumblr using the scripts at https://github.com/bbolli/tumblr-utils/blob/master/tumblr_backup.md.
- Save your Linked-In connections at http://www.linkedin.com/people/connections - link at bottom of the page.
- Get all your data from Google using their Takeout service at https://www.google.com/takeout/?pli=1. This is really well done.
- Use IFTTT recipes to backup recent data to Dropbox files, (not shared as they use my logins) including:
- My App.Net posts and replies.
- Foursquare Checkins to file.
- Facebook Status to File.
- Use Slogger to dump data daily onto DayOne. I just love that a journalling solution also acts as the perfect online-life backup solution.
I am sure you all have more links for services that I have missed, please add and share them in the comments.