We've been hearing a lot--and rightly--about the loss of privacy in the digital world, how everything we are sending out there into "the cloud" is susceptible of being mined for our private information and then sold to the highest bidder. The limits of who we are, what we do, and who else knows about it are all changing dramatically. But Yahoo's recent decision to stop supporting Delicious raises another issue: what if those with the power to mine our data don't want it anymore? Can they really use us up and throw us away, like the discarded lover in some country-and-western song? "I gave you all I had/ You wrung me dry/ When you had enough, you tossed me aside." Something like that. You name the tune.
The point is that the privatization of our digital lives has costs in multiple directions that should remind us all that the "public good" and "the commons" are not in corporate interest. Bob Darnton has recently proposed a National Digital Public Library. We need that. And Yahoo's Delicious strategy reminds us that we need more: we need a free and open Web with a toolkit of sustainable resources on platforms that can be assured to persist. Until then, none of our digital intellectual projects or digital pedagogical projects or even our individual digitial corporate projects can have a business plan because the horizon of sustainability is always in someone else's hands. We need not just a National Digital Public Library but an International Digital Public Library with International DIgital Public Librarians and Library Services.
I personally used to use Delicious pretty heavily and then, a few years ago, just found other forms of search commercially available (NB: googlization of everything) more flexible and useful and stopped relying as heavily on what used to be called "the world's leading social bookmarking service." HASTAC's business has Delicious accounts, though, and now, as with many of my students, we are finding alternative places to archive information that we have been holding there. I know lots of dissertation students who feel abandonned by a system they trusted.
I personally think this Delicious failure is a bad thing--but it is useful in this particular transitional point because it reminds us that the cloud is not, intrinsically, our friend. The cloud is a highly commercialized entity that holds our data for as long as it finds it useful or profitable to do so and that means, like that country and western song, it can abandon us when our data no longer suits its needs or its desires. "I gave you all I had/ You wrung me dry/ When you had enough, you tossed me aside/Now I sit here all alone with a half-empty bottle of liquor/Wondering if next they'll take your photo . . . for it is saved on Flickr."