If you have to leave, go out in styleRespect your customers' data in your web application information policies

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Sort-of-a-Twitter-competitor Pownce will soon be shutting down their service. Bought by Six Apart, Pownce has announced they'll close the doors for good on December 15.

But there's a little nugget of goodness in that sad piece of news. They're making it easy for you to rescue your data so it doesn't go down with the ship:

Since we’d like for you to have access to all your Pownce messages, we’ve added an export function. Visit pownce.com/settings/export/ to generate your export file. You can then import your posts to other blogging services such as Vox, TypePad, or WordPress.

That's a classy thing to do... and a smart one. It builds a lot of trust for users of whatever service the people by Pownce invent next (two of them are heading to Six Apart, as it turns out).

It's easy to forget just how much of our information is out there in The Cloud. If Facebook were to shut down tomorrow, how many of your photographs and posts would you be able to recover? How much of your social network could you hold on to?

If Google decided YouTube wasn't carrying its weight, how easy would it be to pull your videos down - especially the ones recorded directly from your webcam? If Twitter pulled the plug -

...wait, I'm hyperventilating. I need a paper bag. Hang on a sec.

Okay. In truth, not one of those major services shows signs of imminent failure. (Twitter has been especially well-behaved of late. It's quiet. Too quiet...) But in a contracting economy, you can expect to see more than a few web applications folding their tents... and taking your data with them.

Which suggests that savvy social media creators should keep local backups of their content, and ask their web services to offer a convenient export feature.

And for web application builders, offering users a graceful and convenient way to leave and take their data with them isn't the suicidal move it might seem at first glance. These days, it could well be a competitive advantage.


Steve Ellwood says

December 4, 2008 - 3:23am

Well, kudos to a point, and I generally agree that your data should be portable. Hmm. Data portability. Nice ring to that...

You can get your content out of pownce. Well, that's nice. I *could* get content out of pownce by using a Google search through Pownce.

What's the most valuable information in your social network? The network of contacts. As it happens, I have hardly any contacts in Pownce; I've already taken a snapshot of my Twitter contacts. Whether you should be allowed to take your network with you is a whole different issue of ownership.

My photos - Facebook ones are exported from Flickr. Flickr photos are collated through Picasa and still available locally, backed on to hard drives in two locations, and on S3 storage. I've only got about 30G of content like that though. My trust for the cloud isn't complete.

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