Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Your Personal Memories -- Safe For 100 Years ... Then What?

The holidays are over. Time for a fresh start. Time to get back to business.

Your mental recall of the past few weeks of holiday festivities may be fading, but your digital memories -- your still photos and videos -- are fresh, fresh, fresh. At least they are for now ...

But, how about later?

During the holidays, I read a profile piece on personal archiving software company Evernote -- click here to read it from Gigaom. In it, Evernote's CEO, Phil Libin, underscores his persistent theme that he wants Evernote to be a "100 year company." At first blush, 100 years sounds downright audacious. But, think about it. And, think about 100 years in the specific context of archiving. Is 100 years really enough?

Okay, let's say that Evernote -- and other personal memory companies (photo sharing sites, etc.) -- can hold your personal memories for 100 years. What happens after that? Remember, our family and friend digital photos and videos are perhaps our most precious possessions. Once we entrust them to Evernote and other companies, do we really believe that they will safeguard those precious forever? While we all fully understand our own mortality, do we really believe that Evernote and others of their personal archiving ilk are immortal? Or, are we simply resigned to the fact that our memories will be meaningful -- really meaningful -- for about 100 years; but our family and friends essentially won't "matter" after several generations and after 100 years?

Yes, you can save your digital memories on your internal and external hard drives. But, those crash. Yes, you can save them onto discs. But, those ultimately are not lasting and also become obsolete. And, of course, the "Cloud" sounds great -- until your user names and passwords are forgotten after ... gulp .... you have checked out or after your service provider rides off into the sunset (taking your digital memories with them ...). This IS a stark reality. After all, one of the largest keeper of memories -- Flip (which seemingly was in the "safe" hands of Cisco!) -- shocked its millions of users (who trusted them) last year when they announced they will be completely shutting down the service at the end of 2013. All digital memories in FlipShare (the companion service to the Flip cam) will simply be gone, baby, gone!

At the end of the day, maybe the best course is the tried and true course -- the proverbial box of photos (hard copies). Yes, those fade away too -- but, at least we have proof that they can last over 100 years ....