In the end of 2011 I wrote an article about the Dutch social network Hyves and its users — Many backgrounds of Hyves. It ends with the question:
But before it is shut down, will the company give its users time to save their files – and will they bother to do so?
Two years later the answers are here. Hyves, which was seen as a European version of Myspace in its best years, on the 2nd of December 2013 ended up just like Friendster: it turned into a gaming portal.
A month before, on the 31st of October, the announcement was released. I got an email inviting me to request my stuff for download eight days prior the shut down.
According to Frits van der Sloot, Telegraaf Media Groep Platform Manager, around 200’000 users took the offer and clicked The Export Button.
What do these numbers tell us?
Eight days is better then nothing, but it is a pretty short time. Not for the action of downloading (that’s fast), but for reaching everybody who could potentially be interested in rescuing their photos, updates, contacts.
The service was ten years old, there must be a lot of people — I personally know three — who didn’t visit their profiles for years and could hardly remember their user names and wouldn’t read hyves emails … One can say: if they were so inactive, then it is very likely that they wouldn’t be sad when there profiles are gone, so where is the problem? I guess the answer should be that only the person who made a profile is to decide what it means to them, how much to have inside and how often to update. There are different reasons to create a profile. Sometimes the purpose is exactly to be inactive, as absurd as it can sound.
So, it is difficult to say what is the right time to reach out to users with a deletion notice. There is no success story yet. Four years ago, Yahoo gave half a year to Geocities users. Maybe this precedent should become a rule, and social services shouldn’t give less time to say goodbye than it was with Geocities? Isn’t it an elegant solution? Besides the obvious one: that if service is discontinued it shouldn’t mean that profiles and files are deleted. Especially when even small children know that they are not deleted but just made invisible.
Anyway, half a year or one year — this period of time should be clearly communicated in the moment you sign up for the service.
200’000 users. I was so much longing to get to know this number, but now I don’t know how to interpret it. Because personally I think it is a lot. At the same time, on the scale of today’s social networking it is nothing. See for example Wikipedia’s article on Hyves, which calls this network that in 2011 served 11.5 million users a “small” one.
200’000 is 2.2% of 9’000’000 of the profiles the ArchiveTeam managed to grab, 1.7% of the total amount of Hyves users. What about the other 98,3%? Not enough time? No interest to have their online files offline? No interest at all? Maybe they saved their stuff without using the tool?
More research, more references and precedents are needed to understand what really happened, and what those percents mean.
And another number. Hyves Archive made by Archive Team is 25 terabytes. 25 times bigger than the Geocities archive. ~23 times more profiles than Geocities. Impressive, but also quite sad, because there are no tools and not enough competence to make sense from it. It will be 25 times more difficult to go through the the noise produced by both the system and the users. 250 000 000 times more difficult to grasp user culture of that time and place, compared to Geocities and amateur web culture of the 90′s in general. But the effort should be made, Hyves was not just a page in the history of social networks, it was many many very different pages that looked pretty much the same.