We love free stuff. We love free online services and tools. Educators particularly like them because they often don't have a budget for anything else. No money to buy a photo editing program or online photo storage account? Just use Google's Picasa, Flickr or any number of free services. There are better commercial products but...
Need a place to store and share files with others? Google Docs or Dropbox will work. Want to share your presentations and have a way to embed them on other sites? Try Slideshare.
The problem comes when we rely on these services and they suddenly go away.
In August, Google announced that Wave would no longer be developed as a standalone product, but that the Wave technology would survive in other products. I wasn't a big fan or user of Wave, but I know people who were using it in courses for collaborative space. What happens when you build curriculum around a tool or service and it disappears?
The Yahoo product team announced plans to “sunset” (shut down) eight products and consolidate others. Products on a list include MyBlogLog, Yahoo! Picks, AltaVista, Yahoo! Bookmarks, Yahoo! Buzz and Delicious.
Delicious was the first and most prominent social bookmarking tool. I used it in my courses as a way to share links in an organized and dynamic fashion. It was a signature Web 2.0 tool.
It makes sense that Google has just rolled out a tool for importing your Delicious bookmarks to Google Bookmarks. It's easy and it imports all your bookmarks, preserving labels or tags. It also moves you into their Bookmarks which launched in 2005 but never really got much use. Yahoo plans to sell Delicious, but the Google tool probably knocks any asking price down.
A colleague had sent me news that Adobe is dropping their 'Rome' project. What happens to all your "user-generated content" now? Here is what the company told him:
Dear Project ROME user, As part of the recent announcement by Adobe to stop development on Project ROME, we will be shutting down the ROME Websites service and removing all user-generated web content that is hosted by Adobe under the project-rome.com domain on January 20th, 2011. You have thirty (30) days to move your website to another hosting provider.
Sounds like a pain, but at least you can reboot somewhere else, right? Depending on your tech skills and patience, how easy do these steps sound to you?
To publish your website on another web server, please take the following steps: 1. If you are using the AIR version of Project ROME, please make sure you have updated to the latest release. (If you are using the web version, you are always on the latest release.) 2. Open up the .anh file of your website and export it through Output>ROME Website. This output channel has been updated to create a set of files on your hard disk (index.html with embedded .swf and referenced media files) that make up the entire website. 3. Upload the set of files (e.g. via FTP) to the root folder of your web server. Regards, The Project ROME Team
I have had two blogs on services that bit the dust and I couldn't pull the content off in a format that could be easily rebuilt on another service. Microsoft recently switched users of their Spaces blog type tool to Word Press.
So many of the big players like Google, Microsoft and Adobe don't seem to be able to pull off Web 2.0 services. Plus, they bail out after 6 months or a year when the service fails to make any money through ads or by selling a "premium" version.
With FREE, you often get what you pay for, and can always get a full refund on your purchase price. When you use a free service and invest many hours into using it and create content that matters to you, it hurts a lot more to see the service ride off into the sunset.