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Thread started by Dave Winer on Monday, July 23, 2012.

Dear Fred: Re your users' content

VCs today seem to me much like product managers at big tech companies. I wrote about this last week, and it was echoed in a piece yesterday in the NYT.

Today's VC/PMs are exploring a set of open formats and protocols known as Web 2.0. Various combinations and permutations on blogging software. That's how I see all the major services. Those that don't fit the mold are re-shaping themselves to fit it. Google-Plus is a good example of that.

However this model doesn't do anything to safe-up the user's data long-term. When companies are acquired or go out of business, the users' data often goes with it. We saw this weekend a preview of this with Posterous going down. Someday Friendfeed will be taken offline by Facebook. Think about it, the two founders of Friendfeed aren't even at Facebook anymore. When there's a technical problem, or Facebook shifts priorities, who there will care about that archive?

I'm not innocent here. I started weblogs.com many years ago, and when the management of UserLand gave me responsibility for all the sites, a couple of years after I had left the company, the server I had allocated couldn't handle the load, and poof there went the sites. UserLand was a small company, on its way to going out of business, and didn't even get acquired, so that isn't an excuse. The company just couldn't handle it. And I promise you the users did not understand, and took it personally. (Why? Blog-type content is personal. Users rightly see it as their web-body. If you delete it, no matter how it happens or what your motives, that's heavy.)

I ask this question of Fred Wilson in a friendly way, because I know he likes discussions, and he especially likes discussions that challenge his business model. He's a leading VC, a blogger, and outspoken on the topic of free vs paid software.

The question -- what about the archives of the users of the companies you back? What will happen to their tweets, blogs, podcasts, check-ins, discussion threads, Scrabble games, photos, etc in the years to come? How much have you thought about that? What are your plans?

And if it turns out that this is something the VC community hasn't thought about or planned for, what are you prepared to do to safeguard users work against acquisition or failure of the companies?

Note: The discussion software here is created and run by a Wilson-backed company, Disqus.

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