“Your List Will Be Closed In One Week’s Time”

The dangers of reliance of externally-hosted Web 2.0 services has been mentioned previously. And there have been recent incidents in which companies have given a short period of notice of impending closure of services, with users having little time to migrate their data to alternative providers. A recent article in The Guardian (Thursday 2 April 2009)  entitled “Can I assume that my online data is safe for ever?” addressed such concerns in an article on the closure of the Filefront.com service, who gave their users just 5 days to migrate their data.

Coincidentally I recently received the following email from a service I subscribe to:

Our previous request to you to provide a new owner for the  list has not produced a response.  Therefore, we assume the list is no longer useful and aim to close it in one week’s time.
We would be happy to provide a zipped copy of the archives and any files on deletion of the list, should they be required.

In this case it appears that the service has been little used for over a year. And yet what if useful information is still available on the service? Is a week’s notice enough for users of the service to consider the implications of this decision, identify appropriate solutions and then implement them? And let’s not forget that this email was sent outside of term time when researchers could be away.

The email did not make it clear if data was to be deleted, the service was to continue to be made available in a read-only mode or the interface to the data hidden – all possible solutions if it is felt necessary for a little-used service to be withdrawn.

There’s still a need to establish the best practices when Web-based interfaces to services are to be removed, I feel. And such issues do not just affect the third party services outside of our community.