Doomed Web Sites
Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 20 August 2007
On 12th August I received an email which informed me that:
.. the Splashblog service will be terminated on SEPTEMBER 10th, 2007. The Splashblog website, any uploaded pictures or content, and customer support will no longer be accessible after this time.
I subscribed to Splashblog‘s free service (which provides a mobile photo blogging service) in January, as the Splashblog application was bundled with a Palm PDA which I’d purchased. I never actually used the service, so the withdrawal of the service does not affect me. However having only a month’s notice to export one’s data did strike me as rather worrying. One could easily envisage a scenario in which a service like this is intended for use in a teaching course, but the lecturer is away on sabbatical during the summer and fails to stop this message and act on it, resulting in loss of the service and data.
Clear justification for not making use of such external Web 2.0 services, you might argue. We should either be hosting our own services, or at least using services which are managed by trusted public sector organisations and aren’t subject to commercial decisions, takeovers, etc.
But this isn’t necessarily the case, as struck me when I was reminded of the article published on the BBC News Web site in January 2007 on The doomed government websites which listed 551 government Web sites which are to be axed.
What is the future of the data and services provided on these Web sites? What should be done to support not only the direct users of the services, but indirect use; perhaps, for example, these services could be used in an educational context.
And if you work in one of the affected government agencies, what steps should you be taking now to (a) inform your user communities; (b) ensure that access to data and services which will still be required can be found and accessed by the users and (c) ensure that resources which may have some historical relevance are preserved?
These issues have been brought to my attention by the headlines in the BBC News article. But the issues are also very relevant in other sectors: what will happen to the data and services provided by the AHDS when their funding ceases; what happened to the data and services provided by universities which have merged in recent years (for example, University of North London and London Guildhall University)?
If we don’t have answers to these questions, we mustn’t use the demise of the Splashblog service as an excuse to ban use of externally hosted services provided by the commercial sector. After all, Google has a lifespan which is longer than, for example, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, which was only established in June 2007.