Look, even the most non tech savvy folks have it beaten into their heads that they must back up data that is important to them. I'd wager just about any student or worker has (at one time) lost an important file simply for lack of backing it up. If those folks do not realize that data on the web must be equally protected, I frankly do not have much sympathy for them. Ignorance isn't an excuse for me here, knowing that (IMHO) the vast majority of computer users out there have been exposed to the need to archive/backup data on their local machines.
As far as losing data to propriety formats, that is indeed an issue. But if it is text alone that one wants to protect, there are multiple open formats that can easily be supported no matter what the future holds in terms of hardware or other formats.
For instance, small utilities have been written that will take posts on a forum such as this (or mine) and translate the threads into easily portable plain text files. A very basic format like ".txt" likely isn't going anywhere soon. Future technologies will easily (and likely)support it.
For instance, many classic video games no longer exist or or produced in their original form (format). However, today, even though their "format" no longer exists, one can play pixel perfect versions of Pacman and space invaders on todays technology due to the joys of emulation. It's quite possible that "format emulators" will exist for data that is in a propriety form today. Heck, it's already here, as there are non Microsoft products that do a darn good job of reading/writing to the very propriety MS .doc (word) and .XLS (Excel) formats. So even if MS goes out of business some day (don't laugh!) that data will still be recoverable. In the event that the .txt format did fade out in time, one could always print out the text one wanted to save on some high quality media (archival quality cd, acid free paper, etc.) to preserve it for another generation. Regardless of format, I'd be willing to wager that OCR (Optical Character Recognition) will improve and be available to translate hard copy text back into a supported digital format in the future. So there are a myriad of ways to keep information from "vanishing".
However, all the above require a few little things called forethought and commitment. And if the data is important to one, I don't think it onerous to ask that that one sees to its longevity. I'll reiterate that if folks cannot be bothered to make the commitment to preserve their data, they are foolish to believe that simply having it on the web will somehow preserve it forever. I do not buy "technological ignorance" as an excuse.
As with the student who loses their term paper for lack of a backup, perhaps folks will have to lose something they value on the web to learn the intrinsic value of protecting/backing up that data. Many (if not most) web hosts run a little thing called Cpanel (control panel) that has a very prominent button that allows one to backup ones whole site to their local computer with one click. Why should I feel sorry for people who cannot be bothered to avail themselves of such a simplistic solution? (Unless some feel it's too "high tech" to ask someone to click a button) On one's local machine, one takes personal responsibility for backing up/preserving their data. Why should the web be any different?
I wonder if Richard keeps daily backups of this forum in a form that will survive for the next generation?
Just for fun. Want to see what the Genii website looked like back in \'98?
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