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When betas kick the bucket

Richard Stallman recently railed against "cloud computing". The Guardian’s Jack Schofield also warns against its dangers:

"Look, if you have data online, you can lose access to it at any second, through hacking, an idle whim, a simple mistake, or some financial or even natural disaster. In fact, calling it "the cloud" is a good metaphor, because it’s insubstantial and easily blown away. It’s not Google’s fault, it’s the nature of the beast. "

If this might be true with big companies like Google or Yahoo (see another Schofield article about what can happen to your email), it is even more true of startups that offer tempting beta services. One of these was Zude (an innovative social networking service), about which I have written before. When I came back from my summer vacation in India, Zude had vanished without a trace - well almost:


Interested what had happened to them, I checked back through my emails to see if I had missed a message from the company. Not a peep. Then I looked through Google’s news and blogs searches, Technorati, and elsewhere. Complete silence. None of the writers who had written so enthusiastically about the advent of Zude had anything to say about its demise. The only reference I found on the entire internet was a comment appended to a Mashable article "ZUDE = closed. Not surprised…" (from August 18).

I’d spent just a few weekend hours playing with Zude, and didn’t visit the site very often. Others had invested a lot more time and effort, and I’ve no doubt a few of them felt cheated. Whether it’s absolutely the end of the story for Zude, I have no idea. But this should be a cautionary tale for all of us who spend a lot of time with web services, small or large. Afterall, web giant AOL recently announced the close of its blogging service, AOL Journals, by October 31. Anyone who happens to miss that message will find all their content vaporized.