Trust in Web 2.0

Danah Boyd writes a post about a rather worrying occurence: a friend who had their Google account taken away from them:

Earlier this week, an acquaintance of mine found himself trapped in a Kafka-esque nightmare, a nightmare that should make all of us stop and think. He wants to remain anonymous so let’s call him Bob. Bob was an early adopter of all things Google. His account was linked to all sorts of Google services. Gmail was the most important thing to him – he’d been using it for four years and all of his email (a.k.a. “his life”) was there. Bob also managed a large community in Orkut, used Google’s calendaring service, and had accounts on many of of their different properties.

Earlier this week, Bob received a notice that there was a spam problem in his Orkut community. The message was in English and it looked legitimate and so he clicked on it. He didn’t realize that he’d fallen into a phisher’s net until it was too late. His account was hijacked for god-knows-what-purposes until his account was blocked and deleted. He contacted Google’s customer service and their response basically boiled down to “that sucks, we can’t restore anything, sign up for a new account.” Boom! No more email, no more calendar, no more Orkut, no more gChat history, no more Blogger, no more anything connected to his Google account.

Maybe no-one should rely on just one company to do everything for them. I really only rely on Google for my email, but even if just that disappeared, I’d be seriously pissed off. Again, this is one of the anti-web2.0 arguments: relying on these third party services is all well and good, but what happens when something goes wrong? How can we trust these people with our data, our information, our identities?

This week saw some outage on Amazon’s S3 and EC3 services. Many people might think of Amazon as just a supplier of books and CDs, and a whole lot of other stuff. But they also offer services for people who run websites, hosting and that sort of thing. It’s used by an awful lot of Web 2.0 startups, because it means they don’t have to even buy a server to start a company – let Amazon handle the headaches for a monthly fee.

But when this giant back-end, if you’ll excuse the unpleasant image, goes down, what’s left? For those of us that are trying to sell the web 2.0 and social media dream, what’s left is potentially a face covered in egg. We need to have confidence that the ideas and approaches we want people to take up are going to work 99.999999r% of the time. Especially when we are talking government, and public services, where stuff really has to work (though to be fair it often doesn’t).

One thought on “Trust in Web 2.0”

  1. What a horror story!

    But you do raise a very serious issue, reliability of hosted services. Its a question I always try to ignore even when asked it directly. But when something like this happens, it brings home how precarious all of this can be.

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