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Ask Slashdot: How Long Will the Internet Remember Us?

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the it-forgot-about-you-six-years-ago dept.

The Internet 126

An anonymous reader writes "The common trope these days is that the internet never forgets. We tech-inclined folk warn our friends and relatives that anything embarrassing they put on the internet will stay there whether they want it to or not. But at the same time, we're told about massive amounts of data being lost as storage services go out of business or as the media it's stored on degrades and fails. There are organizations like the Internet Archive putting a huge amount of effort into saving everything that can be saved, and they're not getting all of it. My question is this: how long can we reasonably expect the internet to remember us? Assume, of course, that we're not doing anything particularly famous or notable — just normal people leading normal lives. Will our great-grandkids be able to trace our online presence? Will all your publicly-posted photos be viewable in 50 years, or just the one of you tripping over a sheep and falling into the mud?"

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This is forever (3, Interesting)

ShaunC (203807) | about 4 months ago | (#45779279)

Jon Postel. His name doesn't come up all that frequently but I still remember. Martin Manley. You remember that guy? I do, even if Yahoo pulled his website down.

Come on, the internet remembers forever. You die twice, once when you stop breathing, and once when the last person mentions your name.

I, for one, do **NOT** want to be remembered (3, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 4 months ago | (#45779621)

Since before Internet was Internet I have been online, but unlike many others, I rather have my real identity to remain inconspicuous.

Why should I let Internet to "remember" me ?

I mean, what for ?

Re:I, for one, do **NOT** want to be remembered (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about 3 months ago | (#45780493)

In older days people had a family Bible with entries for births and so forth; scrapbooks; photo albums. "That was your great-grandmother's rocking chair." "Your old uncle Charlie got these drafting tools when he went to work for Glenn Martin." And so on.

Nowadays, families and friends are scattered - and much in the way of family mementos as well. Is it worth anything to be remembered? And how will that be done?

I've built a few things that ought to last for a while, tho I doubt anyone will remember the builder - my satisfaction there is the knowing of what I've done. If along the way I manage to say/write something interesting or witty or even just a funny story about an experience, I wouldn't mind if it's recalled down the road. But on the Internet at large? I dunno. I guess if something got left behind that another found useful or amusing I'd be happy with that - and I likely wouldn't care if I got credit for it. Now, it might be different if I wrote the next Great American novel or something, but that's a whole 'nother category. Even then I have to figure the idea is more important than the thinker; bodies go to worms, ideas can stick around a while.

Re:This is forever (1)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 3 months ago | (#45780753)

You have said nothing. Wikipedia links will survive until there is no one left to defend the "notability" requirement, and it's hard to tell if permanent notability is granted after a given length of time. I'm sure they will change the rules between now and then.

And then there are the links from tech magazines, which may or may not return responses in the "permalink" fashion. If they don't go bad, the name will probably outlast piles of people, because endless links will still pull dead people to the top of search engines.

Specifically to address your point, no one needs to "mention" anyone. It is an endless circle of search engine results, wiki, article results, and faceless people making stupid links on a moronic web page.

And another side of your point - people searching by name will find results. People searching by something else might find someone else who superseded importance, which is appropriate.

The internet means the typical rules about longevity have to take in to account things like server uptime and free space - all of which may be compromised in the interest of the future. The importance of your message may be hijacked by a power or service outage of a few weeks, intent to the contrary.

Re:This is forever (1)

rmccoy (318169) | about 3 months ago | (#45781917)

"You die twice, once when you stop breathing, and once when the last person mentions your name."

Great callout to Eagleman's "Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives."

That was one of my favorite stories that they read on the RadioLab episode.

As long as the services exist (5, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 4 months ago | (#45779281)

The Internet will remember you as long as the services that have information about you exist. The services... they'll remember you as long as their owners can make money off them one way or another. As soon as they can't make money (even if it's just milking venture capitalists for another round of financing), they'll shut the servers down and wipe the databases. A couple months after that, the search engine caches will have lost track of the pages and that'll be that. All that'll be left is what individuals have saved somewhere else, and that's disorganized enough that it probably won't turn up anywhere.

The issue for most people isn't whether the Internet remembers you, or for how long. It's that how long it remembers you is completely and utterly out of your control.

Re:As long as the services exist (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about 4 months ago | (#45779299)

The Internet will remember you as long as the services that have information about you exist. The services... they'll remember you as long as their owners can make money off them one way or another. As soon as they can't make money (even if it's just milking venture capitalists for another round of financing), they'll shut the servers down and wipe the databases. A couple months after that, the search engine caches will have lost track of the pages and that'll be that.

I was going to say pretty much the same thing.
How long did those Angelfire and Tripod sites stay up?

Re:As long as the services exist (2)

ShaunC (203807) | about 4 months ago | (#45779433)

I'm not sure about Angelfire, but I was just shown a Tripod site [tripod.com] today that's still up. I had no idea the tripod.com domain even resolved anymore. The page in question still has ancient (but revolutionary for the time) JavaScript slide-in ad boxes, and is almost a time capsule from 1997 or so.

Re:As long as the services exist (1)

Zibodiz (2160038) | about 3 months ago | (#45780247)

Wow -- according to his Tripod site, he still has an @webtv.net email address. That almost sounds like some sort of punchline.

Re:As long as the services exist (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about 3 months ago | (#45780801)

Wow -- according to his Tripod site, he still has an @webtv.net email address.

Well that service is truly gone as of earlier this year. I think the addresses function as aliases to outlook.com accounts now.

Re:As long as the services exist (2)

vlueboy (1799360) | about 3 months ago | (#45780369)

A couple months after that, the search engine caches will have lost track of the pages and that'll be that.

I was going to say pretty much the same thing.
How long did those Angelfire and Tripod sites stay up?

Tell that to geocities content. Not only does it live on in japan [since they shut down their english presence] but I've seen clones that still hold the space I made more than ten years ago. Look up "oocities".

Re:As long as the services exist (2)

ShaunC (203807) | about 4 months ago | (#45779635)

The services... they'll remember you as long as their owners can make money off them one way or another.

Fairly eternal, if you ask me. Acxiom and ChoicePoint will be out there forever. Sure, perhaps 20 years from now they'll have been bought out, consolidated, split into a few pieces due to anti-trust litigation, then renamed and consolidated again. But your records, my records, our information is not going to go away. They will always find a way to make money from us, even if it's just selling public records to ancestry.com for our future generations to figure out what a bunch of idiots we all were.

Re:As long as the services exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45779637)

Wouldn't it be plausible for a company to sell off their user data when filing bankruptcy?

Re:As long as the services exist (2)

jargonburn (1950578) | about 4 months ago | (#45779711)

Beat me to it. The internet will "remember" you so long as the information about you is perceived to have value.

Re:As long as the services exist (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 4 months ago | (#45779795)

Beat me to it. The internet will "remember" you so long as the information about you is perceived to have value.

Which basically means as long as you live, and probably half way through your childrens' lives. And that is exactly the problem in the first place. Other people and companies having hoards of information about you is bad, as it given them power over you. For as long as you live.

Re:As long as the services exist (1)

ron_ivi (607351) | about 3 months ago | (#45780721)

you so long as the information about you is perceived to have value.

The tricky part people are overlooking is value to whom?

Which basically means as long as you live,

Disagree - it basically means the information will be kept forever in certain silos. The NSA will probably keep your information forever - so 999 years ago of your descendants are suspected of something controversial then they can use what you post on /. to go after them. Health care & life insurance companies will probably keep some of your data forever so they set the rates for your descendants based on statistics from your genetic makeup. Google (or whomever buys them) will probably keep some of your information forever, just because they can.

But these will all be in private silos of data. The public internet will probably forget you much much much faster.

Re:As long as the services exist (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 3 months ago | (#45780183)

The internet will "remember" you so long as the information about you is perceived to have value.

But the cost of "remembering" (storing the data) is falling much faster than the perceived value. I once paid over $1000 for a ten megabyte disk. That much space now costs a tenth of a cent. I never delete anything anymore. The value of the space saved would be dwarfed by the value of the time spent thinking about what to delete.

Who cares? (4, Insightful)

neiras (723124) | about 4 months ago | (#45779303)

We're all dead anyway. None of my old files are particularly accessible, from code written as a teenager and saved to worn-out floppy disks to CDs formatted for dead operating systems. Most of my photos are rotting on hard drives and I never really bother to look at them.

I don't want to be remembered by "the Internet". I want to be remembered by my kids and grandkids, and maybe some future programmer who might run across some old code I wrote and go "whoa, nice."

The internet can suck a bag of dicks and charge 5.99 a month to watch.

Re:Who cares? (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 4 months ago | (#45779805)

It's not your call if "the internet" remembers you. And that's the problem.

Re:Who cares? (2)

neiras (723124) | about 3 months ago | (#45780151)

It's not your call if "the internet" remembers you. And that's the problem.

How could it ever be my call? What does that world look like?

Through regulation? I'd rather have a wild and crazy unregulated internet than a managed, legally constrained network.

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45780885)

It's my call to end the Internet in my 24/7 home PC with webserver and related services. At home is a large cyclone of data that vanishes as soon as I'm disappeared. This loss triggers my dead man's switch to activate a new host in my remaining cell, which has nothing to do but split in two. There isn't anything about this on the wayback machine anymore.

Re:Who cares? (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 3 months ago | (#45780461)

I don't want to be remembered by "the Internet". I want to be remembered by my kids and grandkids...

Jesus dude, isn't it time to die? This guy has some ideas for you: http://martinmanley.org/ [martinmanley.org]

Re:Who cares? (1)

neiras (723124) | about 3 months ago | (#45780691)

Bwahaha, thanks for the inspiring link, you horrible person, you!

All these "right to be forgotten" movements just make me laugh. We'll all get there. In the meantime "the internet" might have some dirt on us. Ruh roh!

I'm just surprised that my eggnog-infused existential mini-crisis scored so highly! What is it with Christmas anyway...

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45780909)

I don't want to be remembered by "the Internet". I want to be remembered by my kids and grandkids

It's the same thing, you insensitive clod!
Al Gore

Roy (5, Funny)

SeaFox (739806) | about 4 months ago | (#45779349)

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe... Web Rings on the shoulders of AngelFire. I watched animated GIFs glitter in the dark profiles on MySpace. All those... upvotes... will be lost in time, like memes... on... 4chan. Time... to die...

Re:Roy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45780087)

I want more likes... fucker.

nothing lasts forever (2)

THE_WELL_HUNG_OYSTER (2473494) | about 4 months ago | (#45779357)

Nothing lasts forever. Move on.

Black_hole_information_paradox (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45779533)


Re:nothing lasts forever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45780685)

Except the earth and sky.

Cosmology recapitulate cosmogony (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 3 months ago | (#45781013)

Eventually the sky will come down to meet the Earth and they will briefly become one in fire. When the fire dims, there will be nothing but night. Until the night itself fades and then there is nothing. Whether that nothing will last forever is an interesting question.

Digital Memories will remain, until such time.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45779367)

..as they have figure out how to properly monetize them - till then, they will collect, and wait, collect, and wait..

Depends (5, Interesting)

cold fjord (826450) | about 4 months ago | (#45779379)

The internet has selective retention, and things do disappear. It is still possible, last time I checked, to pull up some usenet posts that I made in the mid 90s. At one time Google was able to pull up certain information about me, but that disappeared 10 years ago. On the other hand, lots of things people posted online in information services like GEnie, CompuServe, The Source, etc., never made it onto the internet. Also, many of the old internet archives, ftp sites, gopher sites, archie sites, etc., are rapidly disappearing. I used to spend a certain amount of time spelunking, looking for various types of old information, and a lot of it has disappeared. Some professor leaves and his site and papers eventually tend to go away either by plan, accident, or negligence. A university reorganizes its web site, and old files and personal information goes away. Even on Slashdot it can be hard to find posts I made years ago. For years prior to getting an account I used to post from time to time, and I can find a couple of the posts I remember, but there is one I'd really like to find, and just can't. It seems to have faded into the ether.

You see the same thing happen with blogs and personal web sites. They tends to hand around for a time, sometimes a very long time. But if you change to another service, or lose interest, your stuff eventually tends to disappear for all sorts of reasons. In some cases that can mean a real loss of useful information given the growing important of blogs.

I think the fading memory of the internet is actually a problem. It often seems that for every bit of information that makes it onto the internet there is some fraction of other information that fades away. That would be great if the only problems we faced were new ones, but we keep having to fight the same old battles again and again. Sometimes the old documentation that had faded into irrelevance becomes very timely again, and the old techniques beat the new ones under the changed conditions. That is assuming you can find the documentation to make them work.

Re:Depends (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45779925)

I would agree with you insofar, if *you* are looking for something (e.g. an old Slashdot post - and I am now, and probably forevermore, posting as an AC as I can no longer remember my enviably low digit username password..;) - however, I sincerely doubt Google, etc, *really* forget this stuff, it remains, after all, their business not to do so. No point in clogging up the search machines with stuff >10years old, relevance is nominal. Unless, of course, somebody *really* wants to know, in which case, they would pay accordingly.

Digital fade remains doubtless a greater problem than people think, however, somebody, somewhere, always has a copy, depends upon the importance to yourself, and how much you are willing to pay - e.g. I could probably make a business case now entirely from trawling the internet archive, for info for those who are currently unaware that such a service exists.

Re:Depends (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about 3 months ago | (#45780617)

I'd like to have some of the stuff from GEnie - there was some good discussion, some stuff that would now be Internet or computer history as told by the people who were there. Ditto a few things from CompuServe and Delphi. Not to mention the files libes for use with an old OS or two running in emulators (there are a few apps, for instance, for which I've found no modern examples with the same capability - or ease of use for that capability.)

Your last paragraph: amen. Lot of good info now lost - or at the least not readily found. A newer example, maybe, is that pages, information, even whole sites went missing after 9/11. Items in public domain, gone. At least, to my casual searching, looking for some things I'd read and wanted to get back to.

The whole preservation idea gets weird; why preserve old Victorian romances, for instance. Maybe somebody finds use for them for a thesis. Who knows? Is it worth hanging on to... how much? And what? How do we predict what a mind yet unborn will find of interest or use? I'm guessing that with increasing storage density, better search and data mining, a lot will get saved; and yet, as with every generation, a lot will be lost. Do we need to know how to make button-hook shoes? In a hundred years will we need to know how to change a spark plug? But yeah, that weird face you made at that frat party will live on....


Re:Depends (1)

rastos1 (601318) | about 3 months ago | (#45781389)

It is still possible, last time I checked, to pull up some usenet posts that I made in the mid 90s.

I have a bookmark to one of my earliest posts on the Internet - from 20th of Nov 1995 (I was wrong in that post :-) ). The bookmark still works today.

Copyright will kick in (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45779397)

Your story will be available as:
1) Standard edition: all your communicated information
2) Gold edition: Standard + incompleted post, emails, etc
3) Platinum edition: Gold + Analytics of your online life

Inherited accounts will be a violation of the copyright.

More than 10 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45779419)

Somebody discovered my name, unlisted phonenumber and address 10 years after it was posted and then deleted. Google had some historic cache day and it came up again. The thing is that it was a men seeking men site that I never knew existed and I certainly didn't write it myself.

Nobody replied, but I did get a single reply from a similar "advertise" on another site. This was around the time that I suddenly got 100+ emails/day. I had one suspect for it, but couldn't prove it. He was however kicked out of school for using school computers to DDoS. I wasn't signed up for more mailinglists or anything after he left. Go figure.

This mean the internet remembers at least 10 years even if the text on the site is deleted long before those 10 years expire and this memory about you includes what other people write about you without your knowledge and/or consent.

If you or something you did was noteworthy: (1)

Reliable Windmill (2932227) | about 4 months ago | (#45779429)


Re:If you or something you did was noteworthy: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45779555)

Nothing last forever. Absolutely nothing,

Re:If you or something you did was noteworthy: (2)

dreamchaser (49529) | about 4 months ago | (#45779799)

Nothing last forever. Absolutely nothing,

Protons might. Nobody has observed proton decay yet. They could well last forever.

Wait, who are you again? (2)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 4 months ago | (#45779485)

Put something funny/quirky/stupid on your IRL headstone, the internet will then rediscover you over and over until the words can't be read.

nnnn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45779519)

The mormons have been saving everyones name &DOB for years. Unless you have done something really really good - no chance.
Of course if we are not off this planet in 10 billion year we (the human race) is dead anyway.

a long time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45779529)

Well taking into account the rate of capacity increase it could be around for a very long time look back to the 60's. The best back then was 100-300mb less than a CD and look at now "HGST announces a helium-filled 6 TB drive"

Ever-Growing Accumulation (2)

darenw (74015) | about 4 months ago | (#45779539)

When my university's library expanded in the late 1980s, I wondered about two things: in another two or three decades, will they need to expand again? Of course. And also: Who is going to read or look up info in all those books? Of course, there will always be specialists and indexes and catalogs, but if the trend continues for all the 21st Century, and all of the 22nd Century, ..., at some point there will be far too much "literature" even in a very narrow academic specialty for any human to make use of. Then what about all the non-academic stuff, cheap romance novels and mysteries and memoirs of flash-in-the-pan pseudo-celebrities?

It's not that we need a good ol' roaring book-burning now and then like at Alexandria long ago, but somehow the best needs to be brought to the top, and the most of the mediocre disposed of. And maybe keep mediocre writers from ever starting. (Stuff that's actually *bad* not merely mediocre - keep some as examples and for the entertainment value!)

So now we have disks and all manner of extremely dense storage materials. This changes nothing, aside from the physical space requirements are reduced to near nothing. Even with intelligent indexes and indexes of indexes, or miraculously good search engines such as Google, or whatever we'll have in fifty years - it's mind-boggling to wonder how such a huge growing pile of information will be utilized.

Re:Ever-Growing Accumulation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45779625)

What we miss is good authentic pr0n - not this loads of loads shit they sell us for many bucks. Thus my playlist of pr0n is extremly valuable because with my pr0n experience I could and was able to bookmark all the good one. Thus such list shall be preserved. I hope librry of congress can do that for me...

Re:Ever-Growing Accumulation (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 3 months ago | (#45780233)

Old libraries had that problem even more so: they didn't have indexes, like we have now.

These days you still occasionally see some news report of some old work being discovered in a library. It had been sitting there on a shelf for possibly centuries without anyone noticing it - the library didn't know they have it - until someone runs into it and realises it's an important piece of history.

Re:Ever-Growing Accumulation (1)

Ambvai (1106941) | about 3 months ago | (#45780557)

One may wish to consider the short story 'Ms Fnd in a Lbry', by Hal Draper. (http://folk.uio.no/knuthe/msfndinalbry.html)

Summed up, it's a report of an archaeological document discussing the collapse of a previous civilization due to information overload and how index upon index made it impossible to verify information and linkages if anything was ever misfiled... with the added addendum that the document in question appears to have a bad reference...

Re:Ever-Growing Accumulation (2)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 3 months ago | (#45781149)

Something similar happens already around Wikipedia.

I recall a story about some historic US navy vessel. Some facts about it (size) ended up wrong in WP. Then other web sites took the info from WP in their own stories on the subject. Later when someone tried to correct WP, citing the original source, it was quickly edited back to the wrong number, citing other sites - sites that took the number from WP to begin with.

And so a new truth comes to life.

Re:Ever-Growing Accumulation (1)

excelsior_gr (969383) | about 3 months ago | (#45781397)

Well, "bad" literature will die, and that's a good thing, because it will reduce the amount of material that somebody needs to go through. In scientific literature, bad papers (i.e. with erroneous conclusions, obsolete models, etc) will get cited less and less and they will thus pass on into oblivion. Cheap novels are dying remarkably fast, and only the best material is remembered.

So, no need to get rid of bad material, or keep it from being created. The collective intelligence will take care of that!

Algorithms, if not minds, keep improving. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45781903)

With the help of Google and its ilk, we have an unprecedented capacity to find nearly every needle, and very few things other than needles, in a haystack of arbitrary size.

We're in no position to determine what will be useful far in the future. Preserve it all, and let the Eschaton sort it out.

Then again, I'm a confessed hoarder.

I wish people would stop (2, Interesting)

Virtucon (127420) | about 4 months ago | (#45779543)

The Internet is not a Sentient Being. It doesn't live nor breathe, nor is it a set of tubes. It doesn't "remember" anything. The systems that we associate with the Internet, like Search Engines or Storage Services all have Terms of Service (ToS) that have a wide range of rights and responsibilities that are legally binding. Since you had no dealings with the authoring of the ToS for any particular service you use, you're basically agreeing to allow them to do whatever they want with whatever you're willing to use of their services. Think Human Centi-I-Pad [southparkstudios.com] here folks.

If you don't want to be "remembered" by the Internet there's really not a way to eliminate your information. Sure there are companies out there who'll clean up your image or try to, for a fee but in the US at least these companies can be as predatory with what you allow them to have because you allow them to do it to you. It's in the ToS you agreed to and they'll sell the information to other companies who will then create new profiles about what kind of cereal you eat or what medications you take. The downstream market on data mining personal preferences and choices is huge and even your state and local governments sell your data to middle-men data brokers all the time. Buy a new car recently? Your information, what you bought, how much you payed is all out there. So now not only is that transaction disclosed to somebody else it's used outside of that transaction to determine your eligibility to buy or possibly buy other things. You bought a VW, that must mean you fit into this box and your address is here so your income level must be this... You're now filed and categorized and your junk mail will now reflect the new influx of great marketing material targeted to that box.

What's been lacking is a complete lack of legislation protecting your privacy and keeping your private information private. The problem with is legislators are constantly glad-handed by the same companies who mine your data constantly and they constantly lobby them prohibiting progress in protecting you. In the US the Supreme Court has even ruled that you have no expectation of privacy when you hand data over to a third party. Until this is rectified, you're screwed.

On the flip side should you choose to deal with a company who provides their service via the Internet, I wouldn't rely on a company that offers something for free because at the root of this is how sustainable is that model? If it's "free" there's usually a hook and whatever you entrust to them will usually be subject to some change in that ToS in the future. If you pay for a service, you should make sure that the business has a sustainable business model and will grow. I mean you wouldn't put your money in a bank that just popped up and is operating out of the trunk of a car would you? No you wouldn't, but there are people who constantly trust their photos, files and other personal data to droves of Internet "startups" who will be gone or have such rotten infrastructure that whatever you give them will either disapper or be stolen. Of course you can hope that they get acquired but usually in that case, it means that whatever you have will be discontinued or substantially changed by a new ToS that again, you have no input on. You either agree or disagree.

I tell my family and friends that it's not the Internet, it's the companies providing these services. If you trust these companies fine but then I say "Would you let them hold your wallet for a week?" "Would you let Larry Ellison watch your small child while you run and do an errand?" If not why would you then entrust your vacation photos or that huge collection of old Jazz MP3s you have to them? Sure, there are services that add value but again what's the business model and are you in control of what they do with the information you give them? In most cases, that's not true and those are the services you should avoid.

Re:I wish people would stop (4, Interesting)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 4 months ago | (#45779809)

The Internet is not a Sentient Being. It doesn't live nor breathe, nor is it a set of tubes.

Well the wires are not sentient yet, but the Internet is cybernetic entity. [wikimedia.org] The Internet has servers that connect to other servers autonomously. Data flows through the web's organic structure via web crawlers, email servers, and other web services. Compromised systems still spew packets of past exploits across the web. I can tell what time of day it is by looking at the traffic graphs alone. As the sun spins around the digital world and wakes the entities living thereupon, a brain wave of stimulus pulses across the web while others exhaust their activity and drop into a more dormant state. Much the way porpoises and other animals rest one half a mind at a time. [wikipedia.org]

You have amoebas in your blood that can be removed and placed in a Petri dish, and these individual immune system cells will carry out their behaviours outside of you. You have a colony of bacteria that lives on your skin and gives you your identifying odor, killing some other harmful bacteria. In your guts thrives an essential colony of microbes. You are a cybernetic being formed from many smaller individual living cells... Much like the Internet is a single cybernetic being formed of all the clients and servers in the world -- and its users. You are one of billions of organic input aggregation, stimulation, and accumulator cells; Just like the blood cells you depend on for survival, the Internet survives on you.

In aggregate we are the Internet -- A cultural mind formed of self aware beings, far greater than the whole. This cybernetic symbiotic system is billions of times more aware of all its many selves than you. We do breathe information, we live online, we can be injured and even die. Is it not a set of tubes, it is a world wide neural network. The internet does remember. The more sensational, interesting, or entertaining the more impact the memory has and the stronger and longer the information is remembered; Just like in humans or other cybernetic creatures with memories.

forever (1)

sinij (911942) | about 4 months ago | (#45779549)

Forever and not a second longer than it has to. If your dirty secrets are around, but nobody cares to look - does it make a sound?

Geocities alive ! (2)

gitano_dbs (1490853) | about 4 months ago | (#45779553)

Theres http://www.archiveteam.org/ [archiveteam.org] a collective effort to save web sites, i am downloading Geocities in a torrent http://www.archiveteam.org/index.php?title=Geocities [archiveteam.org] just to recover two crap pages i did long time ago, its like watching photos 20 years old :)

Re:Geocities alive ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45780417)

Mind's missing :(

Monument (5, Funny)

darenw (74015) | about 4 months ago | (#45779559)

When I am a multi-billionaire, I will build a giant monument, 100 miles wide, fifty tall, and engrave on it all over every tweet and facebook post ever written since the 1990s, through all of the 21st century, so our descendants one thousand years in the future will not lose all that precious wisdom and insight into our culture.

Re:Monument (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45780085)

...every tweet and facebook post ever written since the 1990s

While it seems that the vapid contents of social media is saturating out existence, neither of those sites are even ten years old and will not likely survive ten more.

Re:Monument (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45780817)

While it seems that the vapid contents of social media is saturating out existence, neither of those sites are even ten years old and will not likely survive ten more.

All the more reason this precious wisdom must be immortalized.

Re:Monument (2)

subreality (157447) | about 3 months ago | (#45780865)

100 miles * 50 miles =~ 1.00 * 10**13 square inches

340 million tweets per day * 100 years =~ 1.24 * 10**13 tweets

~0.81 square inches per tweet

You could make it work with a small font, but I don't think all of facebook is going to fit on the other side.

RE: How Long Will the Internet Remember Us? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45779571)

the internet will remember you as long as the sum of your online life is valued >= $0.01

...or as long as the sum of your online life is valued >= 0.00000001 BTC (whichever comes last)

Picture of myself in the 80s www (1)

pigsycyberbully (3450203) | about 4 months ago | (#45779579)

Your picture would not be on the Internet for 50 years I uploaded a picture of myself in the 80s in a gift format swing in my cock around and around and posted it on a BBS, in Japan it become very popular so I saved a copy it has faded so much that you cannot even see what I am swinging around It is gradually over the years become darker and darker. I was younger then obviously and I really looked the business if I do say so myself. People used to be more isolated on the Internet in those days and they needed titillation and friendship homos used to have their accounts deleted in those days if you remember even by the fashionable crowd like virgin in 1996. it all changed when the U.S. mob with their self hosting and getting somebody to volunteer to expose themselves to somebody in the USSR and China Philippines and so on. The only records I can find of me on the Internet these days is when I branded SUSE shit-Suse for putting a U.S. flag on regional KDE regardless of what country they come from.

Only as long as civilization (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45779631)

This info will only survive as long as our current modern advanced civilization. If, for whatever reason, civilization got knocked back to 19th century levels or earlier then it would all be gone. Whether the cause is a comet impact to the earth or chaos related to global warming, glacial melting and inundation of coastal cities or just another damn big volcano like in 535 AD.

We still know of famous authors who wrote hundreds of books, but none of their books exist to this day. They were burned in the sacking of Alexandria or the volcano which destroyed Herculaneum. Or just used as fuel by the peasants struggling to survive after the fall of Rome or Athens or Constantinople or whatever.

There is no guarantee about the future. But at the same time, how many of you have read the debates in parliament about the health of King George III. I have because they still exist and the library at my university had a full set of Hansard in its collection. But how many people do you think would seek out this kind of old trivia? Same thing goes for the vast Internet archives wherever they may be. At some point, if not already, Google's search algorithm will make a lot of old stuff unfindable unless you do a specific search that includes that stuff. For many people that day is already here because they are logged in to their Google account and Google searches based on their personal interests.

long enough (2)

fermion (181285) | about 4 months ago | (#45779633)

Much of the concern, for the average person, is that stupid thing you did in high school and as a freshman in college will still be there when you are looking for a job. In practical terms the picture of drucken sex at a party that were posted on myspace will be back in 2007 may cause some problems now that one is looking for VC funding or a well paying job 6 years later.

This internet thing is recent and the 'content lasts forever' is a problem of the present generation. Before the turn of the century the stupid shit we did in high school and college would go away unless it generated an official governement record, and someone was inclined to do a deep background check. Now many document every little thing that happens and posts it on services that depend on keeping those records for a long time. No forever, just long enough to be annoying when one is trying to make money or get married. Facebook, tumblr, whoever, will eventually begin to archive, or there will so much new content that old will be harder to find. Even the sex videos will become overwhelmed with the new content. Memory is not just existence, but

establishing a navigable path to the content. Such a path will still have costs, and if we are not famous that cost will less liley be borne by the random stanger

Let me give you a benign example. For years I had a press photon online as part of minor research project. It was posted in the mid 90's, at the beginning of this internet thing, and would be what would pop up if anyone was looking for me. After a time, 10-15 years, it simply disappeared. from a casual search. I am sure that if one dug it is somewhere online. I am sure if one dug it is a newspaper or a hard drive. But who is going to do so? Not me, not anyone I could imagine.

Re:long enough (3, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 3 months ago | (#45779981)

This internet thing is recent and the 'content lasts forever' is a problem of the present generation.

Which is why in another generation or two, it won't be a problem. When everyone's embarrassing adventures in their teens and early twenties are sitting out there in easily accessed archives, the social attitudes toward such things will be very different. Facebook and Twitter posts from 2013 will be no big deal in 2033 (and yes, I'd be willing to bet they'll still be out there and easy to find).

forgetting (4, Insightful)

Tom (822) | about 4 months ago | (#45779703)

More importantly: Do we want to?

Forgetting is a benefit. We all have things in our lives we do not want to remember, or want to remember differently than they truly were. That perfect holiday you had, the love of your life, how you met your wife, etc.

In many relationships and friendships, selective memory is what keeps them together. Remembering the good times and forgetting the troubles.

:) thank god! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45779721)

the internet doesn't remember me even now, and I've been using it since 1995...

It's quite simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45779897)

Will our great-grandkids be able to trace our online presence?

Yes. They will have access to deanonymized archives that will include things you thought couldn't be connected to you and there'll probably be a top-100 most embarrassing facts list. Your data will be cross-indexed automatically with the same care that we now use to preserve important historical artifacts, because humanity's data IS a historical artifact. This will be both economically and technologically feasible. The data is there and it's not expensive to store it forever.

The real question is to what extend non-published data will be included, such as your emails and phone calls. This data is collected and stored, but it's anyone's guess whether that data is in enough hands now that we can be confident that it'll survive long enough to be available in 50 years. E.g. if your US phone calls are only recorded by the NSA and no one else, it all comes down to the particular policies of the NSA, which isn't something we can predict 50 years ahead.

If you publish an encrypted 100-hour 1080p video on the internet now, then that may well not survived forever (you have to encrypt it to defeat someone storing a lower-quality copy), just because it's too big. A 1 kb post on a forum? Why do you think that would ever go be forgotten? Just because you can't find it now doesn't mean it can't be found, and even if it isn't publicly accessible, there are likely still private organizations out there with a complete history of the internet and those archives are what will be the basis for public history in 50-100 years time.

Forum 2000 (1)

vandelais (164490) | about 3 months ago | (#45779919)

I for one would like the Forum 2000 Hall of Fame to be restored.

Now that I'm divorced, all that relationship advice from Cookie Monster, Ayn Rand, Bill Gates and Hillary Clinton would come in handy.

It's more about the rate of decay (2)

Joe Helfrich (837865) | about 3 months ago | (#45779961)

I think it better to think about internet longevity in terms of 'half life': a certain amount of the information recorded will decay over a certain amount of time. Few people will ever completely disappear. But that doesn't mean that people beyond a certain point will be easy to find.

Sometimes you can't forget... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45779975)

I'm pretty sure goatse will live forever. No matter how much eyebleach you use. That's permenant.

This is the way the world ends: Not with a bang (1)

retroworks (652802) | about 3 months ago | (#45780053)

but a whimper. (TS Elliot). If data sits in a server, and no one looks for it or accesses it, does it make a noise? I have a warehouse full of used books (recycling collection business). No one is reading them. They exist, though.

Plenty of broken links on the net (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45780109)

I can't find a lot of stuff that used to be there 15 years ago.

Re:Plenty of broken links on the net (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 3 months ago | (#45781033)

Content-addressible networking could solve this, if more people would just start using it and more companies work on promoting the technology. Right now the only major user is the pirate community.

very easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45780129)

if you're looking for it 10 years later, its gone

if you find it a year later and wish it would have been lost forever, it will always be there to remind you

forever (1)

bob_jenkins (144606) | about 3 months ago | (#45780143)

The internet (in particular ancestry.com) will remember you forever, whether you want to be remembered or not. In particular it will remember your name, the day and location you were born, the day and location of your marriage (and the person you married), what children you had (when, where), and the day you died. It'll also remember how you responded to censuses. It'll probably remember one portrait of you, or a group shot. If you have an obituary it might remember that too. I expect soon it will remember your full genome as well, stored extremely compactly a diff of your parent's genomes.

What is the ultimate question to life, the universe, and everything? You already know it: "What is your name?"

Longevity A Function Of Need (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45780317)

Data longevity is a function of need. The more you need it the less time it lasts. The less you need it the longer it lasts.

That drunken self of you and the donkey? Yea, that lasts FOREVER.
The CAD drawing you did of a gearbox ten years ago that you desperately need now? Yea, it disappeared two to four weeks ago.

It doesn't matter. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45780437)

Anyone who thinks this stuff matters needs to read this poem
until reality sinks through into the brain of the reader.


Until current civilization ends, duh. Obvious?! (1)

ReekRend (843787) | about 3 months ago | (#45780517)

How has every comment missed the obvious here? As long as storage capacities stay current or increase (as seems incredibly likely) and computing power does likewise (for search concerns), then your Internet Archives and Googles and search engines and media hosts and governments, and blogs even, have no reason to delete anything ever, it will become both cheaper to store/search and a mere fraction of the data they continue to store. If any major service even goes out of business its data will be bought and preserved by another. On the other hand it is obvious that current civilization will end in a matter of decades, barring magic technological discoveries to save us from ourselves (guaranteed collapse from the insane "infinite growth is good" paradigm). I think a far more interesting question is how and what data will last, via physical media and technology issues over the long term, what and how data is intentionally preserved and by whom, and when/who/how it will be attempted to be read/recovered by future civilizations (or aliens if we manage to destroy our planet or race that badly). I did some superficial looking before and I am not sure that we have any sort of capability to reliably store digital data for thousands of years without a refresh, if it should come to that, and there is a lot of gray area in between.

Much is already gone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45780815)

Which isn't a bad thing; with the rate of Internet traffic, we'll soon have to dispose of it like toxic waste. In clay-lined pits, undisturbed for hundreds of years, until some unfortunate graduate student had to enter the toxic data mines as part of his research into how a botched website actually killed people.

Much from the 80's and 90's is already lost. SERDAR ARGIC, Kibo, and Chalie Spradling.

Oh well, at least Joel Furr and Bonnie Burton are still going strong.

Re:Much is already gone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45781391)

Kibo still is present on the net. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Parry.

Ebert Essay (3, Informative)

BenBoy (615230) | about 3 months ago | (#45780831)

Roger Ebert wrote a poignant essay [rogerebert.com] on this topic about a year before his own death. In the essay, he explores just what information about someone means, divorced from actually knowing that person. Check it out; it's a keeper. Merry Christmas.

Not the right question (1)

aissixtir (2752321) | about 3 months ago | (#45781419)

I think the question is the wrong question to ask. The right question would be for how long we, the data owners, will allow the internet to store more of our data.

Servers embedded in Tombstones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#45781683)

With the way things are going there will eventually be, tombstones that have servers, hard-drives, screens not to mention be wi-fi or whatever enabled.

The big question is will there be enough information to create a facimile holoprojection of you, that is sentinent. It would make visiting graveyards a whole new experience.

Signal to noise ratio (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 3 months ago | (#45781803)

I would be willing to bet that a lot of what we do will be around forever due to mirroring sites ( some legit, some not so much ). However as your data ages, and more and more data comes out, the older stuff will be virtually invisible as its crushed under the weight of 'current' data.

I have found that even when services go away ( like geocities, which had a lot more content than people realized ) at lot of what was there can still be found, if you search long enough, or know where to go.

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