The cloud has a darkside

Submitted by kattekrab on Mon, 08/11/2010 - 07:53

Blue Clouds by Kattekrab, on OpenClipartThe cloud.

Put it in the cloud.  Store it in the cloud. Interact in the cloud. Share it in the cloud. Collaborate in the cloud.

If you do, do you own it? If net access is not as reliable as electricity or water how do you access it? If the provider of that cloud shuts down the service or changes the rules where does that leave you?

I'll admit to being seduced by the power of 'the cloud'. Google docs has transformed my ability to collaborate on content with others.  Screenr is a breathtakingly simple way to 'show' rather 'tell' how to do something on a computer screen.

And there are now countless hundreds, if not thousands, of online tools that make it easier to share ideas and create new knowledge. But if you're not paying them, you might want to ask how are they funding the service? Out of altruism? Because it's a marketing exercise / demo for their open source version? What?  What guarantee will you have that the service will be there when you need it, and what recourse do you have if they choose to go away? Also - do you have exclusive rights to your data?

Just so long as you can get online, and the provider hangs around. Here are a couple of cautionary tales...


Etherpad hit the scene some years back. A web based collaborative text editor. Similar in function to Gobby - but didn't require client server setup, other than pointing your web browser at It was great. But the guys that made it got employed by Google who wanted to roll the technology into Google Wave and Google Docs. So Etherpad was to be shut down.  This one had a happy ending though, because of the outcry, Google and the Etherpad team agreed to set it free and open source the code. So now, we can all run our own etherpad servers.

Event Wax

Event Wax is a cloud based event registration service. In 2009 it's owners sent out an email saying it would be shut down. People relying on it to organise their events were given a 3 month window to make other arrangements. Fortunately, one of the customers of Event Wax saved the day and continued the service, so it's still around. But it reinforced the dangers of relying on someone else's infrastructure and policies. [updated and corrected with feedback from Kevin Taylor, owner of Event Wax]


Ning is a very popular social network enabler. It used to be free. It ain't no more, and the rules changed on a lot of active communities.  Well within NING's right's to do so, but it is a good example of the vulnerability of free cloud services.

Update - 18 Dec 2010


A leaked slide from an internal presentation at Yahoo sent ripples through the twitterverse, suggesting the Delicious bookmarking service was in a Sunset phase and no longer fit the organisation's ongoing strategy.  The Diigo service was bandied about as an alternative gladly accepting refugees. It seems to not be coping with the sudden influx. (I'm still waiting for a validation email about 12 hrs later)   Delicious has issued a statement saying they're not shutting down. But they seem to have removed their XML export option.