The ongoing saga around the threatened discontinuation of url shortener tr.im plus the recent DOS attacks on Twitter are chilling reminders that your personal data is far from secure on the Internet. It also raises philosophical questions about the transient nature of knowledge on the Web. So where should we turn?
It’s a little unclear whether or not the tr.im panic was reality or just a cleverly orchestrated publicity stunt, but it doesn’t matter. What this incident reminds us is that when it comes to Internet content, we are all at the whim of the service providers. Whether it be business data, webmail, blogs, images or short links, if your favourite free service tanks – it can cause a lot of disruption.
Much of the trust we place in hosted web services hinges on the assumption that they will remain in perpetuity. Furthermore, we like to believe that such services are secure and that our personal data will not be abused. Are those fair assumptions? Even the big guys have server downtime and most don’t publish monthly reports on their financial stability. How can we feel confident that the best interests of end users are being served?
Don’t get me wrong. I like using services in the cloud and I’m 99% happy with what they provide. I also think tr.im is a very neat and user-friendly product and I’m sure they will find a way forward. However, it is a fairly straightforward exercise to set up your own personal url shortener service within your own branded domain name. Over at iWantMyName we’ve come up with a list of providers who can help you set up your own url shortener service. In some cases these services offer link portability – but you must own your own domain to do this.
But what if the domain name system (DNS) itself gets taken down? Well never say never. What we do know is that, despite it’s failings, the DNS system keeps chugging along and has done so for many years. It also has a powerful and well resourced regulatory body. The strength of the domain registration industry business model should ensure its longevity, unlike some other service offerings on the Web. So if you want to properly protect and control your digital identity, find an ethical, user-centric and innovative domain registrar such as iWantMyName and secure the web domains that you need.
Update – here’s a great article from LifeHacker assessing risks in the cloud: