Do you remember My Opera? The place where fans of a once great browser would create their own blogs, participated in forums, maintained picture galleries and much more?
It’s gone now. The great browser is also gone, replaced by a Chrome fork. Vendor lock-in is a big problem, but the possibility of a vendor going offline is a much bigger problem that none of us are truly prepared for.
I moved my blog to a self hosted static site after announcing the intention in a blog post a couple of days ago. While evaluating options for exporting my post history off of Blogger I remembered that I had a blog on My Opera. Opera was kind enough to inform it’s users up front that the service will be shutting down and allowed a data export to be performed before the lights went off. I tried to pull those posts in since I was already spending time on the blog migration.
The export is an XML file which looks quite similar to the way Wordpress exports it’s data. Unfortunately the plugins I tried for Jekyll were not able to parse the data in. Some online search lead me to old Wordpress articles describing an easy migration path for My Opera refugees with their ‘import from My Opera’ option. I tried that path. Made a quick Wordpress account just to import my data and export it to Jekyll. The option fortunately still is in the Wordpress wp admin page. It chugged on the file for 10 minutes after which I got emailed that my import was finished. Hurray!
No posts were imported. Now there are a few options. My export could have been corrupted on download from My Opera portal or the code at Wordpress was changed/unmaintaind for a while. It doesn’t matter in this specific case. The export is still text so I can painfully migrate it post by post when I have some time on new years to dig up old stuff.
What’s the problem here? When I made that initial blog on My Opera I never imagined the site going down. In hindsight that was stupid. Opera never was a huge company. Though the same thing can be done by Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple & other tech giants. It doesn’t have to be a big scale event like Google Reader being shut down. Imagine that Google closes down just your account for ToS violation. Can you regain access to all the services that were registered against your gmail account? Will your phone work properly? Will you loose important files?
Since I started moving my stuff to a self hosted service the impact of such an event gets less dreadful. Still I can’t imagine the day when I will be forced to export (if I’m allowed to do that) all of my remaining data from such services. Will it be possible to use the data in any way? Who knows.
The big guys aren’t making it any easier. My wife got a set of pictures shared over email, they were made during a dog walk. The email that came through were a bunch of links to a Google Drive. She had to download them one by one. Facebook is a closed internet fenced inside itself & G+ aims to be the same thing. If most people just use the big guys, they can suddenly decide that ‘we can ignore the 5% email from self hosted email providers’ and sell it as spam prevention to people. Though what will happen next? If a player gains majority he will start setting new internal standards and our goverments have been really laggy reacting to subtle aspects of the net like that.
What if they succeed gaining the momentum and then the light suddenly goes dark on them? We might no longer have anything to go back to and our exports without the software stacks of Google & Facebook might be useless.