On March 18, 2019 MySpace announced that due to a faulty server the platform had lost much, if not all its content prior to 2016. Over a decade’s worth of user uploaded content gone.
Content creators need only see the internet as an invisible entity with endless cloud space that pops up on subscriber’s gadgets. We put our videos, art, photos, music up on sites that are supposedly boundless. But the internet is a network of networks and all those cat videos are being stored somewhere.
Google “cloud” space has physical data centers which store the increasing amount of data being added minute by minute. Google-owned YouTube has 500 hours of video data uploaded to its servers every minute. Facebook, along with other social networks constantly receive tons of user data.
While society has become more concerned recently on how this data is monetized with regards to privacy, many people don’t put as much thought to where it’s all stored.
Even with digital data the physical holder (servers, flash drives, discs, etc) will break down over time. The digital data eventually becomes unreadable as well. Today, we’re too dependent on digital data but engineers and researchers are looking for alternatives.
A major alternative could include quantum devices, which would have mechanics governed by quantum laws. Instead of our familiar binary bit system for storage (the charge of an electron), quantum devices could take into account the spin of an electron as well.
The WayBack machine is an alternative archive website. You can see current and closed sites and see how they looked at certain time periods. The archive is storing petabytes of data and plans to archive the internet far into the future as well. It’s our best internet time capsule to date.
Online memorial summary alternatives for the deceased will become more of an established expectation. Facebook has had an option for years to memorialize account pages for those who are deceased. Users can pick a “legacy contact” to look after the account after it becomes a memorial page. The memorial account keeps private messages secret even from the legacy contact. Options like this should become more sophisticated as the years continue with uploaded memories or mind signatures.
And, of course, there are the hoarders. The people who scour the internet and store memes, photos, texts, and more from various websites and often stick them onto their own personal storage devices. A Reddit forum called “DataHoarder” (https://www.reddit.com/r/DataHoarder/) has users sharing tips on building home data servers and which cloud services are best for backing up files. As the internet is really just a collection of interconnected servers, hoarder practices will immortalize information in the event of a large server collapse like what happened with MySpace.
Would we eventually live in a world cluttered with data centers holding YouTube videos from decades’ past? Would we start doing a global data cleanse, only preserving “historically significant material”? Will ephemeral content become more popular to save space? Could we develop even more advanced methods of storage compression that could drastically reduce the sizes of existing data centers with quantum storage? Could servers be migrated to other celestial bodies?