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.

Related:

There is no Export Function
Hyves: The Money
Hyves: Background Class Pimp
Pimp My Profile tool screencast


3 Responses to 8 days, 200’000 users, 10 years, 25 Terabytes

  • # Kees Ruyter 2013-12-03 23:26

    The Dutch population is warned 5 weeks before closure. Within the system they were noticed 4 weeks. I shut off most email-messages, but this were sent to users that didn’t turned it off. But it still sad only 200,000 got their export from Hyves. On the other hand many people got backups by other companies; I have no figures . But there was no export-function for groups, because that will contain content of other members, so Hyves wasn’t allowed to provide them by law.

  • # olia 2013-12-04 10:47

    Jason Scott ‏@textfiles made a comment about my pessimistic assumption that there are no tools to make sense out of Hyves Archive
    “for what it’s worth, we learned a lot since GeoCities. The material is now in a web archiving format and needs much less tweaking.” https://twitter.com/textfiles/status/407938965229277184

  • # Ron van den Boogaard 2013-12-04 15:57

    I am one of the 98,3%. I met old friends there, made new ones, had conversations, joined groups. I guess for a period of three years.
    I was well aware of the possibility of downloading all my doings. And I didn’t.

    In the months prior to the sale I was part of the massive migration to Facebook. Hyves had become the “Biergarten” of the young teenagers. We didn’t feel at home anymore and we went to the next pub up the road. So the conversation never stopped, we just took it elsewhere.

    Like in a bar, the conversations weren’t for most part of any importance. Sure some very sensible things have been said there. The skinning brought everything from great art to unbelievable eye-hurting experiences.
    Is that worth while recording and archiving? As a cultural expression of a period in modern history? Absolutely.
    But is it worth recording in my own personal history. Not at all. I have had more significant conversations IRL, but I never recorded those. What I have said on Hyves happened to end up on some harddisk somewhere. The fact that it is typed, shown on a screen and is tangible in some way does not give it greater importance than a quick eye-contact in the supermarket.

    So I didn’t download my ramblings, nor the pics. It was there and it was good. At that particular time.

    When we move from Facebook and Twitter to the next big thing, I am sure I will have the same attitude. Conversations are left in time. Never to be heard again.


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