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Author Topic: A fork in the road - dangers of web services  (Read 6314 times)
justice
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« on: November 25, 2008, 03:57:53 AM »

Today's news brings up the risk of continuity of webservices:
Quote
Today marks a fork in the road for this particular startup. Values of n, the company behind Stikkit and I Want Sandy, will be closing its doors. Both services will going offline at close of business (5pm PST) on Monday December 8th, 2008. Until then, they'll be up and running as usual to allow our users time to make the transition, find alternative services, and download any data they wish to take with them.

While the company and services will be shutting down, Stikkit and Sandy's DNA will live on; the intellectual property behind both has been acquired by Twitter, Inc.







from Daring Fireball

As one of the comments says:
Quote
Blogger Tom said...    I don't think it's wrong to say "You got me addicted to your service like crack cocaine, and now you're telling me to go to very poor alternatives which are nowhere near as powerful."

    I don't like being told "it was free, so deal with it". If Google decided to close Gmail and delete all your mail in 10 days, would you have no right to be mad because it was "free"? Of course you would. It's a very poor excuse.

As users will become wiser of web services and more of these will be bought up / close down - will this ultimately undermine confidence in web services? What guarantees should be in place? Should the webservice become open source or an read only archive be created when it will no longer be supported? It shows that the webservice industry is still growing up in my opinion.

As a person who earns a living (indirectly) with the web, it's a valid concern.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2008, 03:59:32 AM by justice » Logged

mouser
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« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2008, 05:37:19 AM »

Not only is it a valid concern, but it's a business model.

This is one of the reasons why people like me are extremely reluctant to use these (often) free web services.. the prospect of them closing up shop and leaving you and your data in limbo seems quite high -- and it seems like it's often part of the business model.

Basically a company creates a web service and get as many people using it as possible by keeping it free.  [as a side note, make sure to call it "In Beta" forever so no one can complain about anything] They don't worry about profits yet.  Then at some point they say we have all these users, now is there a way to make a profit on it -- via advertising or whatever.  If not, then just close up shop and move on.  And the user is out of luck.
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2008, 05:57:13 AM »

It isn't just free web-services either - what is to stop paid for services being sold and shut down? It has happened a lot to software titles - but at least you keep the version you have paid for - with a web service you get to keep nothing.
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f0dder
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« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2008, 05:58:04 AM »

Data on harddisk = <3.
Data in the cloud = </3

I'm never going to rely on having important data (solely) on the web if I can help it.
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- carpe noctem
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« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2008, 11:39:00 AM »

I'm never going to rely on having important data (solely) on the web ... Unless the server it's hosted on is phyically mine.

Tis an Evil Cloud coming me thinks.
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Darwin
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« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2008, 12:11:23 PM »

I'm too paranoid to have my data held on someone else's server, anyway...
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f0dder
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« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2008, 01:24:28 PM »

I'm never going to rely on having important data (solely) on the web ... Unless the server it's hosted on is phyically mine.
I'm not sure I'd do it with a server that's mine either, unless I have easy-ish physical access to it.

Tis an Evil Cloud coming me thinks.
Agreed. I don't like the idea of all that web application and cloud computing stuff. Lousier application interfaces, slower, and "all your data are belong to us". Yay, what a step back!

I'm too paranoid to have my data held on someone else's server, anyway...
Even with stuff like that data backup services that "encrypt your data", I wouldn't use such a service without encrypting my data client-side first.
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« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2008, 01:56:55 PM »

Since web services started, I've always been wary of them & have preached to my customers the pros and cons of them.  I personally don't like  a company possibly holding me hostage to either their whims or profit.  Because you can be sure that very soon one of these companies will look at the profit potential of saying "if you don't want to lose your data, we can save it for you at the new company at such and such price!"

Reminds me of the political situation America is in with the Oil Countries - they've got us by the balls because we need the oil.

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« Reply #8 on: November 25, 2008, 02:04:16 PM »

It isn't just free web-services either - what is to stop paid for services being sold and shut down? It has happened a lot to software titles - but at least you keep the version you have paid for - with a web service you get to keep nothing.
I was going to say just the same thing after reading Mouse Man's post.
I'm too paranoid to have my data held on someone else's server, anyway...
More power to the tin-foil-hat brigade!!

Ehtyar.
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40hz
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« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2008, 03:48:57 PM »

We spent the last thirty years trying to get away from the old terminal-mainframe centrally controlled computer metaphors. Web services are just trying to bring them back, except they're now dressed in prettier clothes.

Sod web services. I insist on the "personal" in personal computing: my CPU, my machine, my universe to be a lesser deity in.

Funny thing: that attitude used to be what got me branded as a rebel. Now they call that same attitude old-fashioned.

I must be on to something! Grin


« Last Edit: November 25, 2008, 03:51:08 PM by 40hz » Logged

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4wd
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« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2008, 05:55:10 PM »

Reminds me of the political situation America is in with the Oil Countries - they've got us by the balls because we need the oil.

Not quite the same because the USA has always had to pay for it, whether the crude or the resultant products.  There is a choice involved, pay or develop some alternative.

Here it's along the lines of you squirreling away all your vintage wine in your cellar and then finding someone's put it all in a coke machine and you have to pay to get your bottle that you want out.  Here there is no choice, it's your possession held to ransom.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2008, 05:57:17 PM by 4wd » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2008, 06:14:56 PM »

Valid points all. I hope everyone here will extend this thinking to their file formats as well. Open formats using open standards protect you in the long run and save tons of time and money. It's the 21st century: I want to control my data, period.

The next step is to do the same for other devices, e.g., your phone, your OS, and so on. Ironically, both online and proprietary may encourage users to stop storing all but the most important -- or expensive -- data.

If you do use these services, just make sure to sync or offload your data to a backup device at regular intervals.
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« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2008, 10:04:32 PM »

I've always thought of online backup as secondary to your own hard drive. Like I have pictures on adrive but I sill have them on my hard drive. I can't depend on adrive to be the primary backup. My primary backup is the slave on this computer and the slave on another computer, with adrive as a convenience.
My Syncplicity, Dropbox and Zapr are just tools to use and not for backup primarily, just services that are cool to use and make things easier.
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Paul Keith
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« Reply #13 on: November 26, 2008, 03:48:58 AM »

While this is indeed a risk, I fail to see how both services are related to many of the complaints here.

I want Sandy is a feature, not a repository of all your data so the privacy isn't as crucial as the missing feature that, as the quote clearly said has no comparable alternative whatsoever, desktop or otherwise.

Meanwhile Stikkit is purely a text manager so it's not like it's going to be difficult to extract or replicate by a mere copy and paste. Again, with this it's pretty much the features tacked on to it and not the actual data loss that's the core problem.
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cmpm
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« Reply #14 on: November 26, 2008, 06:57:20 AM »

It seems related to all online services Paul.
Cause any service can close their doors.
Xdrive is as well as some other different online services that I was checking out and deleted their bookmark when they had a 'no longer available' note for it's page.

http://www.techcrunch.com...elinkup-closes-its-doors/

For instance.

I just recently backed up my Gmail and will be on a regular basis because of this apparent danger.
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Lashiec
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« Reply #15 on: November 26, 2008, 07:08:02 AM »

As users will become wiser of web services and more of these will be bought up / close down - will this ultimately undermine confidence in web services? What guarantees should be in place? Should the webservice become open source or an read only archive be created when it will no longer be supported? It shows that the webservice industry is still growing up in my opinion.

Simple solution: Provide the means to actually backup all the data you have into the service, or design the frontend for the data in such way you can backup the data manually (that is, using the tools most browsers have at hand).

What is funny is that this is the first time I hear about these services, just now they're closing Grin. And by looking at what they offer, it's no wonder they're saying bye-bye: I Want Sandy looks it does the same service as Remember the Milk, and Stikkit performs tasks that can be achieved with Remember the Milk as well tongue

I wonder why Twitter bought the company though, perhaps they want to use microblogging as a mean to manage tasks?
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Carol Haynes
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« Reply #16 on: November 26, 2008, 07:15:15 AM »

Simple method is the option of automatically two way sync local files with your online files!
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Paul Keith
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« Reply #17 on: November 26, 2008, 03:19:35 PM »

It seems related to all online services Paul.
Cause any service can close their doors.
Xdrive is as well as some other different online services that I was checking out and deleted their bookmark when they had a 'no longer available' note for it's page.

http://www.techcrunch.com...elinkup-closes-its-doors/

For instance.

I just recently backed up my Gmail and will be on a regular basis because of this apparent danger.

That's true but I'm just pointing out that the examples being used are unrelated to what's mostly being discussed here. Had the example been Xdrive then yes, you could say stuff like online sync and choice of export and even private data makes sense.

Oh and Lashiec, Remember the Milk is sooo overrated. :p

I want Sandy and Stikkit actually are fundamentally different though as with most task based programs, they share something in common.

I want Sandy is much more simpler and more designed for pure e-mail users without the hassle and bussle of Remember the Milk. It actually gained a niche base but as with most e-mail centric services, you're not going to get much more interest than that.

Stikkit on the other hand is more of a notetaker than a pure To-do list on minimalistic steroids like Remember the Milk. You could say it's an intelligent/stupid auto-configuring notepad. The kind you would be annoyed with when MS Word auto-capitalizes your text and you have to look for the options when you just want to type in texts.

The system was obviously not going to get many users precisely because of the fear of these features but for people who can cope with it, there's certainly few simpler programs both online and offline that serves that need. The automation process combined with the tagging process was just something you'd expect that a person dissatisfied with Google Notebooks would want. It's just like a cruder Latex that rather than make you type the text and format it later, lets you type the text and auto-formats your text into a to do list, a reminder and whatever new syntax the service had added since I tried it.

Here's a more detailed article from someone who's fully explored the features:

http://daringfireball.net/2006/11/stikkit

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40hz
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« Reply #18 on: November 26, 2008, 04:23:49 PM »

Not only is it a valid concern, but it's a business model.

This is one of the reasons why people like me are extremely reluctant to use these (often) free web services.. the prospect of them closing up shop and leaving you and your data in limbo seems quite high -- and it seems like it's often part of the business model.

Basically a company creates a web service and get as many people using it as possible by keeping it free.  [as a side note, make sure to call it "In Beta" forever so no one can complain about anything] They don't worry about profits yet.  Then at some point they say we have all these users, now is there a way to make a profit on it -- via advertising or whatever.  If not, then just close up shop and move on.  And the user is out of luck.

Offering your product/service for free is not a business model. If there is no sale, there is no business.

Giving something away to establish credibility, or to identify a new market, is one thing. But I think that is also the major flaw in most web-based "business" plans. Companies offering these services seem to forget that the willingness of someone to pay for something is one of the best reality checks available for how well your product or service meets a genuine need. If people are willing to "do without" if they have to pay you for something, then your offering is not addressing a real need.

I once heard an anecdote about a guy who inherited some money and used it to start his own business. He hired some excellent people, rented nice office space, and got the best equipment available. Once he was all set up, he invited his old Business School professor to come visit. When the elderly professor was escorted into the new CEO's office he looked around at the artwork and state of the art computer setup.

"So what do you think of my new business," the CEO said.

"I don't know. Who are your customers," the professor asked.

"Well, we don't actually have any yet," said the CEO. "We're just starting up."

"Then you don't have a business yet," the professor said.

"Then what do you call all of this," the CEO said, waving his hand around the room.

"A lease," the old man said, with a sad little smile.

 Wink
« Last Edit: November 26, 2008, 04:25:32 PM by 40hz » Logged

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Paul Keith
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« Reply #19 on: November 26, 2008, 04:35:30 PM »

Well most web service business models that are free revolve around the model of attract lots of users -> sell to big companies who gets suckered into your brand -> run away with the cash as big businesses find out they can't monetize much out of the service -> wait for said service to be screwed up by the business out of desperation to gain money -> release new and improved service under a new brand so... the old man is obviously living in the dinosaur age of business, I think? :p

Btw from the same site linked earlier, here's an interesting article regarding this:

http://www.randsinrepose....mbing_down_the_cloud.html
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40hz
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« Reply #20 on: November 26, 2008, 06:28:51 PM »

...old man is obviously living in the dinosaur age of business, I think? :p

Yeah. I heard that said about the "New Economy" too during the dot.boom years. Wink

But in the end there really wasn't any new economy, because the age old formula: "revenues minus expenses equals profits" is just as true as it ever was. And we can read the Chapter 11 filings of all those "new economy" ventures until we go blind if we don't believe it.

So, if the current Western idea of "business innovation" boils down to finding a way to become a big enough thorn in some corporate lion's paw in order to be bought out by same...well...we'd better start brushing up on our Mandarin and Hindi. Because there are some new players in the global economy that haven't forgotten what being in business means.
 Cool
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Paul Keith
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« Reply #21 on: November 26, 2008, 07:29:18 PM »

Not business innovation 40hz, business "start ups" as in you start, you go up and there's your business. :p

I'm ignorant of the New Economy phase since I really wasn't exposed to web services until the Web 2.0 marketing hype but wasn't the dot.boom years primarily composed of unmarketable ugly looking geo-cities and it's myriads of portals as opposed to the more "hip" induced, marketing phase of today where the demands outweigh the supply? 
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justice
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« Reply #22 on: November 27, 2008, 03:40:59 AM »

Interesting post 40hz!
When you think about which web services are you paying for now and how many can you do without? The answer for most (and me) will be: none and all (if there was any). The don't know how they could convince me of paying for something I don't have (my data in a reusable format), and this topic is evidence of trying to convert me to the second part (via lock in).

Seems like the only way to make money on this is a free version for the individual and a commercial one for organisations, for which ownership of their data is even more important.
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