Endangered large

Digital content produced, stored and accessed within commercial cloud-based services and communications platforms. This entry broadly includes services based on a costed subscription and contract and also free online utilities offered at no cost to end users, but with a business model based on gathering and reselling consumer insights.

Group: Social media

Trend in 2021:

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Trend towards greater risk

Previous classification: Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment within one year.

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve

It would require a major effort to address losses in this group, possibly requiring the development of new preservation tools or techniques.

Examples

Consumer Cloud-based Utilities: Google Docs, Google Sheets, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Prezi Premium or institutional social media services: Premium versions of Vimeo, Flickr, Yammer, Slack, Microsoft Teams and others.

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Unstable business model from service providers; service provider bought over or pivots to new market opportunities; lack of export functionality; unstable terms and conditions; lack of onsite copy of key media; lack of investment in infrastructure; lack of strategic plan for IT provision;

confusion on IPR; conflating preservation and access.

‘Vulnerable’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Clear export and migration pathways; preservation responsibility shouldered by the service provider; Offline back up for key media; fit to preservation and records management plan; strategic roadmap for adoption of social media;

2021 Review

This 2021 entry merges together two separate 2019 entries, Consumer Cloud-based Utilities and Premium or institutional social media. The 2021 Jury decision to merge the entries was to emphasize the similarities and common threats faced by cloud services that are both ‘paid-for’ and ‘free-at-the-point-of-use’. While there are differences, as noted in the additional jury comments, both depend on the business model of the vendor and the terms and conditions which they impose, with similar risks relating to…EXPAND?

Additional Jury Comments

While there are largely shared challenges between the merged entries, it should be noted that with digital materials from Consumer Cloud-based Utilities, the business model and sustainability can only be presumed, and contracts tend to be asymmetrical in favor of the supplier. Moreover, because these services have a low barrier to entry, they may be favored by agencies or individuals least able to respond to closure or loss. If referring to the entire platforms and risk of the entirety of data on these, the concern is that the corporation providing the service suddenly decides it is no longer of value to them. In these circumstances, materials could be removed quickly. That has happened previously and will certainly be seen again. Preservation is not a commitment that most providers make.

Similarly, with digital materials from premium or institutional social media services, the business model and sustainability are more obvious, and contracts may be enforceable more readily. Moreover, because these services have a slightly higher barrier to entry, they may be favored by agencies better able to respond to closure or loss. Traditional web archiving can be employed where the user pays for a service, but the content is ultimately publicly available (such as Flickr). But much is unclear about how to preserve internal social media / closed networks that web archiving cannot get to or existing tools do not cover. The growth in the use of these products for communication and social networking led the Jury to choose the Endangered classification. Existing tools could be modified to tackle some of the closed networks. Still, it is likely to require investments, perhaps related to corporate records in some cases (thinking about internal Slacks, for instance), and more education about the importance of preserving this material and not trusting the publishing platforms to host the content forever.

Case Studies or Examples:

  • The website ‘Killed by Google’ provides a list of projects and apps that Google has shut down over the years, dating back to 2006. See: https://killedbygoogle.com/


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