Whining entitlementism

by on Jan.31, 2009, under Wibbles

Just read a post likening shutting down websites to eviction (see also the follow-up here).

I’m saying that, like a real eviction, there should be practices in place. When you open your doors to hosting user content, you should have rules in action that, unless it’s a complete and total fire sale and you have no hope of even staying open that long, then you should be required, yes by law, assholes, to make the data available to customers for an extended period of time.

I’m sorry, but I think that’s a terrible idea. If a site or hosting service is free, you have no rights to demand things from it. If the site/service owners cannot afford to continue running it, or do not want to do so, it’s their prerogative. It would be nice and polite of them to do whatever they can to help you retrieve any content you had submitted there, but bollocks should it be a legal requirement.

Making laws like this will achieve one thing: dissuading people from knocking together valuable sites, for fear of the hassle of having to follow these laws if they ever want to shut it down. It’s not at all uncommon for sites which are huge these days to have started out as a one-person operation hacked together in their spare time.

At the end of the day, if a site/service becomes unavailable, the very most you should be legally entitled to is a refund of the amount you paid (pro-rata for the remaining paid-up service term). Morally, if the site owners are able to keep the data about for a while for people to download, that’d be a very nice gesture, but should certainly not be required.

The author of the posts above cites a few “heartbreaking” comments by people who used AOL Hometown, which shut down. AOL provided four week’s notice of the closure. Who the hell treats data placed online as their only copy? I’ve uploaded a fair number of photos to Flickr and Facebook, but the originals stay on on my hard drive (RAIDed and backed up to another drive also). If Flickr or Facebook had to shut down for whatever reason, I’d not have lost anything, and wouldn’t consider them responsible for my data.

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