Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sad story of ma.gnolia

Well, well, well... Seems like it takes a really sad story to bring me out of my hibernation.

The story in short: very popular bookmarks-management service ma.gnolia recently suffered a major data loss – I mean, really, REALLY major. So major that it lost ALL data for ALL users. Now the users are crying over the loss of all their precious bookmarks, and the service owners (or owner?) are inventing some desperate ways of recovering at least parts of users' data (like combing through Google cache) and saying “We are sorry!”.

This story not only brings the feeling of compassion to poor ma.gnolia users – it also raises some interesting questions.

For example, the question about the service itself. I absolutely cannot understand, how it could happen that there were no good backups – even a month old backup would be a real salvation here. Even more, it seems that ma.gnolia was a one-man-shop (or, to be more precise, two men shop – this is how many official representatives of ma.gnolia are talking to the frustrated users on some getsatisfaction.com page. Which means one simple fact: hundreds of thousands of people trusted their data to two incompetent and irresponsible guys. The outcome is no wonder.

But here is the next question: what do we really know about the services we are using on a daily basis? We are storing picture on Flickr, build communities on Facebook and LiveJournal, write our wise thoughts on Blogger – but do we know much about these tools? Who runs them? How well do they protect our data? What will happen if they, like ma.gnolia, screw up big time – can we, the users, get some compensation for the data lost? And what happens if they will just decide to pull the plug – will there be a way for us to reclaim what's ours?

What I would like to have is the ability to get some sort of verified answers to these questions. I no longer want to hear “we are top of the line technology company staffed with brightest people and using the best hardware and software”. I want somebody to actually go and tell me: “ This Web2.0 service is run by Sam and Bob from their father's garage; they backup data once in a blue moon and store the only backup on an old DVD-RW disk”.

In other words, I want to have a centralized online service certification authority. This authority will inspect the company, and, if the company follows certain reasonable rules (have a process for daily data backup in place; use services of professional sysadmins; have hot-swappable backup servers etc.) the authority will issue a certificate, which the company can proudly display on their site. And I, the customer, will definitely prefer the certified services, just because I do not want to lose any more of my data.


Heavy Battle Wombat said...

Remember KrasAir? :) Well, I don't think there will be such a certification authority any time soon. And if there will be, I can imagine a situation where there are 10 such certification companies around and 8 of them are run by Bob and Dave from Dave's mom garage. In any case, I always went with the "if I didn't back up my data, I am my own злобный баклан and that is that. Most of the online services will either allow you to export your data (such as gmail or delicious) or you can archive the data you upload (flikr, picasa). I, myself, don't make backups of my stuff nearly as frequently as I should, but at least I have no illusions about it :)

Aleksey Linetskiy said...

Yeah, KrasAir it is :) Or SunRocket

Of course, initially there might be several different authorities. But pretty soon most of them will disappear, and few good ones will survive.

And as for backing up your own data - well, you don't take your parachute when flying, right? :)