How long does the internet remember? And is there a difference between the internet and real life, anyway?

An interesting question arose on Slashdot: How long will the internet remember us?
That, coupled with another case of Online Career Suicide, prompted me to investigate my own past.
I took the opportunity and went to The Internet Archive to see if they had actually made a copy of my old homepage at FH Konstanz (which has renamed itself into HTWG Konstanz a couple of years back – a change I could never quite embrace).
So, had actually made a snapshot of my homepage, going back as early as December 5th, 1998. Over fifteen years to date. (Actually, I’m quite glad it didn’t catch any earlier incarnations of my site). Back then, nobody would have predicted how big the web would get. Not only in size – I don’t think we misjudged that – but rather how much influence the web would have on what back then would be called “real life” (as opposed to the “online life”).
Fifteen years later, with Twitter, Facebook (plus the three dozen social networks that preceded it and the couple of services it acquired), with Flickr, Tumblr, with the internet being in everybody’s pocket (that in itself being an enormous achievement few people envisioned), we have gradually shifted into a world where “The Internet” shapes us, rather than the opposite.
As long as is funded, it will keep those pages online. As for Facebook – it’s pretty much the same. Which is good news and bad news at the same time:
It’s good news, if you want some of the content to disappear rather sooner than later.
And bad news, if you think the internet is some sort of history book, an eternal diary of your life – it isn’t.
Unless somebody else has enough monetary interest in keeping your data online, there is no way our “online history” will survive as long as a black and white photo-album from early last century, or the notes of my grandmother.
Just keep that in mind and maybe drag the really worthwhile moments into the analogue world. As difficult as that might be sometimes.

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