Saturday, August 23, 2008

What if the cloud disappeared tomorrow? Thoughts on a "Online Users Bill of Rights"

NPR did a story on the (often unexpected) risks involved in storing your data in the cloud. What would you do if Gmail, Flickr, or Yahoo decided they no longer cared to store your massive amount of free data and ran a large "rm -rf". Sure they'd get some pretty bad PR, but if you look at their EULA's, I'm betting they have the right to do this. Can we ever trust that our data is really safe in the cloud?

What's needed here is a "Online Users Bill of Rights". This would define specific standards that protect users and gives them insight into decisions currently made behind closed doors. Here's a start:

1. Files, documents, or anything else that the user has created and saved online cannot be removed or be made inaccessible without a 30 day advanced notice.

2. The service must be accessible 95% of the time each month. Specifically, users must be able to access their data, be able to delete or retrieve existing data, with availability of at least 95% in each month long period. It is also highly encouraged to make public a tighter uptime commitment, including the consequences of not meeting that commitment.

3. During downtime events, the service must make a best effort to provide status updates, estimates as to when service will be restored, and an explanation of what led to the downtime after the event. It is also highly encouraged to make known a central location to distribute this information.

4. The service will provide a performance SLA describing the average page load time they expect to see, and the consequences of not meeting that average in any given month. This is especially important for API's and services like AWS.

5. The service must give at least 30 days notice prior to making any "major" changes in the functionality or level of service provided up to that point (including API interfaces). It is also highly encouraged to involve the users in the decision making process prior these changes.

This Bill of Rights would need to be signed off on by any online service that stores data for users (Google, Yahoo, Flickr) or provides online service that other business rely on (Amazon AWS, Salesforce, API providers). I'd like to see the day when users simply do not trust online services that aren't willing to sign off on this.

The above is just a first draft, and I'd love to get some input on this. I would purposefully keep the list somewhat open to interpretation, staying away from legalese, and focusing on the spirit of the idea of transparency and user rights (similar to the concept of a B Corporation).

What do you think?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Microsoft celebrates its downtime

After experiencing downtime in its launch of Photosynth this past week, Microsoft admits it's projections were a little off:
"We have been abolsutely overwhlemed by demand, and have turned into a special static/read-only mode for the moment. The team is hard at work adding capacity and getting the full site back online. We've been under incredible demand since we released just over 12 hours ago. With everyone waking up around the world traffic has been on a steady ramp up since that release and has far exceeded even our most optimistic expectations.

Getting ready for the launch we did massive amounts of performance testing, built capacity model after capacity model, and yet with all of that, you threw so much traffic our way that we need to add more capacity. We are adding that extra horsepower right now and should be back up shortly.

Thank you for the incredible reception! "

Nice to see some visibility into their thinking up to launch, and the preparation they (unsuccessfully) went through. The next best thing to real time downtime status is a well formed explanation after launch (assuming the downtime is not prolonged), and something this personal coming out of Microsoft is a good sign.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Apple makes up for their downtime with 60 days of free service


Why is Apple granting a 60-day subscription extension?
The transition from .Mac to MobileMe was rockier than we had hoped. While we are making a lot of improvements, the MobileMe service is still not up to our standards. We are extending subscriptions 60-days free of charge to express appreciation for our members’ patience as we continue to improve the service.

Am I eligible for the 60-day extension?
You are eligible if you are a MobileMe member whose account was active as of August 19, 2008 at 0:00 Pacific Daylight Time.

That's one way to deal with downtime!