Yesterday I did a review of the feeds I follow for tech news, and posted a request to Facebook for people to recommend their favorites. In this review I came across a "MegaFeed" for Glenn Fleishman, a blogger who also writes for a number of publishers. The feed is stitched together by Yahoo Pipes, a service that has been around for many years. They announced last week that the site will close in September. There is a discussion on Yahoo's support forum.
I wondered what will happen to the people who follow feeds produced by Yahoo Pipes? Yahoo doesn't say they'll provide free redirection, but it would be good for the web if they did. However, even if they did provide redirection, where would people redirect to? Because Yahoo was a big company people trusted and their service was free, little if any competition developed for Yahoo Pipes. Either way, it's a clear example of why it's not good to depend on free commercial services to form critical parts of your content infrastructure.
Then I read stories on BuzzFeed, Business Insider and Fortune about recent changes at Medium, another site where people post their ideas, instead of posting to a blog that they pay for and control.
When people post to Medium they think about exposure for their ideas today, but imho they should also be thinking about how people are going to find their ideas in the future. There's no guarantee that Medium won't shift strategy again, or shut down. It happens all the time in the tech world. With no way to dual-host content, and no guarantee of future redirection, Medium is not a very future-safe place to post.
But even sites like Tumblr and WordPress.com that look stable are still subject to corporate changes or disappearance.
What we need, and still don't have, is a systematic way of publishing to the future. Such a system would allow you to pay a fixed sum to keep your content at a specific address for the foreseeable future. No one can make a guarantee, we don't know what the future holds, but every effort has to be made, upfront, to be sure that the content has the best chance to survive as long as possible.
It would be nice if a visionary entrepreneur would get involved, and an educational institution, perhaps, and/or an insurance company, the kinds of organizations our society creates to be long-lived. It would be great to get input from Stewart Brand and his colleagues at the LongNow Foundation.
I've said this many times, it bears saying again. I've been aware of this problem for a long time, and I'm hosting a lot of archives that should be preserved long-term. I want them to be, I'd be willing to bequeath the funds in my will to keep the content going for the indefinite future, but today there is no way to do it, as far as I know.
PS: People always say archive.org is the answer. Of course I'm aware of that excellent and wonderful service. But long-lived content is not the same thing as having a snapshot. We're building networks here. Archive.org is a museum. I'm very glad it exists. I want something different, a way for the actual content and the networks they're part of, to persist.
PPS: An after-the-fact open source release of Yahoo Pipes probably isn't an answer.