Clever Laziness

The Ephemeral Web

Juan Villela

We often take the permanence of our online data for granted. We trust that the content we create will always be there, a click away. But as recent events have shown, this is a dangerous assumption. A service can casually delete nine years’ worth of meticulously curated lists and reviews from your account, with no one for you to recover anything

Kole McRae penned a thoughtful piece on their obsession with the longevity of their digital creations. McRae, who uses note-taking as a tool to combat memory issues associated with ADHD, has developed a meticulous system for backing up his data. They don’t trust systems like Evernote and instead opt for open-sourced systems.

But the impermanence of the web isn’t just a concern for book lovers and note-takers. A recent report from the Video Game History Foundation (VGHF) and the Software Preservation Network revealed that 87% of classic video games released in the United States are critically endangered. With the slow demise of backward compatibility and digital game storefronts, the ability to play older games is becoming increasingly difficult.

These stories underscore a fundamental truth about the web: nothing is permanent. The digital landscape is a shifting, ephemeral beast, and data loss is a very real risk. Whether it’s due to system bugs, company policies, or the simple passage of time, our digital footprints are far more fragile than we like to think.

So, what’s the solution? In a word, archiving. It’s about taking control of your data and ensuring that you have a copy that’s safe from the whims of the digital world. It’s about choosing the most universal file format possible and always encrypting the files. It’s about backing up your data both on your hard drive and in a cloud service.

But archiving isn’t just about protecting against data loss. It’s about preserving your digital legacy. It’s about ensuring that the things you create, the thoughts you share, and your digital interactions don’t just vanish into the ether.

In the end, the responsibility for preserving our digital lives falls on us. We can’t rely on companies to do it for us. They have their agendas and their priorities. Our data, our digital lives, are too important to leave in the hands of others.

So, take a page out of McRae’s book. Back up your data. Archive your digital life. Because in the digital world, nothing is permanent. But with a little effort, it can be. Because in the end, our digital footprints are part of our legacy. And I think that’s something worth holding on to.