Whilst tinkering around this evening, FireFox told me there were updated plugins available, so I let it do its stuff. On restarting FireFox, Xmarks (the plugin that just updated) came with a sad warning…
Apparently, as of January 10th, 2011, Xmarks will be ceasing services. Todd Agulnick has a blog post up detailing the end of the road, and it basically boils down funding. Because Xmarks was always free to the users, funding came from investors, and very little advertising, and despite attempts to find new owners, it appears to have fallen short.
This is sad, but it is also an awakening. I’ve been using Xmarks since it was called Foxmarks, mostly making backups for FireFox, and syncing with another computer. Then they changed names to Xmarks, and had introduced support for Internet Explorer, and more recently Chrome. All browsers I use all the time, so it seemed logical to synchronize the information between all three. Without even thinking about it, I’d become dependent on this service, and without a doubt, it had become incredibly useful, not just as a tool to synchronize my bookmarks, but to make a backup.
This is what made me think this evening. Online services are often frail. They often have a lot of unseen infrastructure behind them, no well defined terms of support or services, little or no documentation about their backups or redundancy plans, and yet many of us put our lives on them without a second thought. How sure are you? Do a search for “<your favorite service> backup policy”, for example “twitter backup policy”, the first result isn’t even twitter, and the second is about reporting deceased twitter users.
Now, I’m not saying that these services don’t have an internal backup policy, or they don’t have the backend infrastructure in place to support failures, but can you put up with something you don’t know? How many people upload the photos of their kids, from the cell phones, straight to FaceBook?
How many people backup their online life? Do you have a plan when some goes awry?