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Lost Gmail Emails and the Future of Web Apps

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the i-like-keeping-my-stuff-thanks dept.

Software 273

brajesh writes "Recently some people lost all their Gmail emails and contacts. The problem seems to be contained and fixed, but this incident shows how far are we in terms of moving all communication online on services like Gmail for your domain(beta). Will it ever be possible to do away with desktop solutions like Outlook and Thunderbird? Given the nature of the internet, will it ever be possible to truly move to an 'online desktop'?"

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273 comments

Sure (5, Insightful)

coleopterana (932651) | more than 7 years ago | (#17399918)

You have the potential of losing email anywhere you store it--it's trading the server for your desktop, in a way. Every new solution used en masse will have new problems. I suppose I'm always a lot more worried about hard drive meltdowns then server problems--someone takes a lot better care of those, or so I'm told.

Re:This is not about 'potential'... (5, Interesting)

motek (179836) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400204)

...whatever you mean by that. This is about control over my stuff. Or rather perception of control. I am a control freak. Almost. And I am not alone. I had an issue with using software like Outlook in the first place (file format and such) because I may lose access to my archive. Now someone is trying to convince me to give up yet more control. Thanks, but no, thanks. My willingness to trade this control for release from my responsibilities (for taking care of my stuff) only goes that far.

I hope and expect the on-line desktop to be as successful as Java-station (or whatever it was called).

-m-

Re:This is not about 'potential'... (5, Insightful)

shmlco (594907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400394)

Your "control" is an illusion, and the potential to lose your data is just as real. In fact, a service org probably has RAIDed drives and automated and offsite backup systems superior to what most people are doing on thier own... if they're doing it at all.

In your case you may "think" you're in control, when in fact your last backup copied over the same corrupted data, your archive DVD is now unreadable, and your last full offsite backup is two months old.

Re:This is not about 'potential'... (1)

SuperStretchy (1018064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400546)

Right- in a business-type environment any admin worth his salt would have his exchange (or whatever) server backed up, in RAID5, etc. However, Google doesn't bother with that. They admit that when an email (or everything in your mailbox) is gone, its gone.

Re:This is not about 'potential'... (1)

thyarcher (1036802) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400726)

That is true in the sense of completely losing or corrupting your data. The other edge of the sword is access to your data. When systems go down, and you can't get to your Gmail or other remote hosted account or service, who can you really call? You are stuck. If all I need is a phone number or photo that I stored a year ago, I can always grab my DVD backup of my email or images and use it. If your online service is gone or the internet access is failing, you are completely locked out of your data. I also use and mostly trust Gmail. That said, I had a situation in the past where I needed to call an important someone back at a certain time, and the phone number was in an email stored on a web email site (not Gmail). This site conveniently went down for some un-scheduled maintenance or something for a few hours. Yes, I should have written the number down, but the moral is when you put your trust in services where there is no real recourse when they mess up, you need to make the effort to backup the critical online information as well to ensure that you maintain access to it.

Re:This is not about 'potential'... (5, Insightful)

motek (179836) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400742)

I would not call it an 'illusion'. For one reason or another, enthusiasts of on-line services assume their detractors to be technologically inept bozos. That is short sighted. The matter is that I can (and I am forced) to take steps to ensure the security of my data. And I alone am to blame if I fail to do so. There is definitely something to what you wrote. I did realize that when I wrote my post. This is what 'perception of control' was supposed to mean.

Please realize that my arguments against the 'google desktop' are not technical. And not even relate to that company's level of service (even though there is something to be said about it; but this is a beta, so no matter). They are on the level of perception, not the net result (and on a large scale). In a way this is similar to the 'airplane effect'. Everybody knows that overall air travel is way safer then driving. Still, plane crashes are way more publicized then car accidents. And great many people (including seasoned travelers) get an uneasy feeling boarding a plane, while getting into their cars every morning without giving risks they are taking any thought. Why so? I believe the root cause to be the perception of control. Or, as you preferred to call it, an 'illusion'.

-m-

Re:This is not about 'potential'... (2, Funny)

SirCyn (694031) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400672)

You can not directly control the computer or the programs that it runs. You merely interact with it. Your idea of control is an illusion. With snail-mail you have paper, you can directly control that paper. With e-mail the computer has bits and bytes, you have what it shows you.

Re:Sure (1)

toddbu (748790) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400364)

someone takes a lot better care of those, or so I'm told

In a world where everything is free, I sometimes wonder. In cases where you've paid for a service, you have every right to demand that your data is restored if lost. Not that the company is guaranteed to help you, but at least you can insist that they do something. If they don't, you always have the option of a lawsuit. So what is the consequence of Google losing all your data? Apart from some bad press, there doesn't seem to be any.

I'm not suggesting that everyone store everything on their PC, but you do have to consider that with virtually every free web service that you're handing complete control of your data off to someone who could pull the plug at any time. One exception to this rule is Yahoo. They offer Intellisync, which does an acceptable (though not great) job of syncing their service to your desktop so that you can make backups. I would never put all my contacts, calendar, and tasks on a service that I couldn't back up or take with me somewhere else.

Re:Sure (1)

coleopterana (932651) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400432)

Well, I mean to say, I'm told by the people that work there. Specifically the people maintaining their servers. They bust a lot of ass and they're brilliant too. We don't have the control in the end that we think we do even if we're keeping data on our computers at home, especially when that computer is connected to any network.

You can still do your own backups. (5, Interesting)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400728)

The nice thing about GMail is that having your email on the server, and having it on your desktop, are not mutually exclusive. It's trivial, if you know what you're doing, to set up your GMail account so that it's always backed up to a local machine. There are even step by step [blogspot.com] instructions for doing it. You just set up a POP connection and suck down your entire mailfile, and then set up your local mailreader to download the new ones periodically.

Google rightly doesn't make any QoS promises, because it's giving you a free service. However, it's a pretty good bang for the (lack of) buck; and it doesn't preclude you from doing things to protect your data on your end. Until Google came along, I don't think most free webmail services let you have this level of desktop/web-service cooperation. (Though I think Yahoo's mail does POP access now. Not sure about Hotmail.)

Re:Sure (5, Insightful)

gregmac (629064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400768)

In a world where everything is free, I sometimes wonder. In cases where you've paid for a service, you have every right to demand that your data is restored if lost. Not that the company is guaranteed to help you, but at least you can insist that they do something. If they don't, you always have the option of a lawsuit.
Most EULA's (you know, the things you agree to when you sign up for the service - even if you pay them) or contracts specifically say you acknowledge that they're not responsible for loss of data, or liable for any damages you suffer because of it.

It sucks for the end user, but it means the company doesn't get sued out of business if they make one little mistake.

Because no one has ever... (3, Funny)

gavinroy (94729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17399930)

No one ever loses their data on their PC.

Re:Because no one has ever... (5, Funny)

paeanblack (191171) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400142)

No one ever loses their data on their PC. ...and dead-tree-format is impervious to fires, floods, and accidental disposal.

If it's important, make a backup or twenty. Unfortunately this commandment was engraved on Moses' third tablet.

Re:Because no one has ever... (5, Funny)

TykeClone (668449) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400286)

He should have made a backup of that tablet.

Re:Because no one has ever... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17400490)

*whooooosh*

That was the sound of the joke flying over your head.

Re:Because no one has ever... (1)

Trails (629752) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400150)

Parent is exactly right. Moreso, GMail is still in beta, maybe for a reason?

Has anyone ever lost data due to an error in a beta desktop app?

The fact that the article claims (or insinuates, with that aggravating CNN & FOXNEWS technique of posing statements as questions, e.g. "Pakistan supporting Taleban troops?" to get around backing them up) that this incident demonstrates some innate problem in web apps is idiotic. It's like saying "it's colder than normal on the west coast, so global warming doesn't exist".

Re:Because no one has ever... (4, Insightful)

HMC CS Major (540987) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400498)

Google claims most of their stuff is beta, so that's hardly a defense.

The fact of the matter is that all hard drives fail at some point, and most RAID controllers eventually fail, too. Relying on a service to do backups for you is safer than no backups at all, but it's not sufficient if you have truly important data.

The "innate problem in web apps" is probably closer to reality than you want to admit - companies like Google, Yahoo, and MSN are fighting a battle in scalability. Having multiple redundant backup systems (array + offline backup) makes scaling much, much more expensive than designing a single fault-tolerant, semi-redundant primary system (large array of whatever kind).

If you think all of the massive online media sites (think Flickr, for example) have backups of all of your photos, you're probably mistaken. They certainly have basic protection against single disk failure, but that's not always going to save the data in the event of a catastrophe.

But... (5, Insightful)

m-wielgo (858054) | more than 7 years ago | (#17399934)

Do we want too? I don't like the idea of somebody besides me having ALL of my data.

Re:But... (2, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400008)

Why? They'll take much better care of it than you do. (RAID, daily backups, off-site storage, regular hardware upgrades...)

Re:But... (1)

Daemonstar (84116) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400234)

It's not about the availability of data, but of the contents. If I wrote some anti-view pieces (if only in a journal or diary), I don't want other people with potentially dissenting interests to get ahold of it. And what about my Quicken data? What about home-business accounting files? What about my audio/video files that I have backed up from my bought media, but the *AA's don't see it that way? What about porn fetishes? :P

The potential for abuse is too high; I'll stay with my own RAID and backups, thanks. :)

Re:But... (1)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400378)

Bah! Unbeliever!

But seriously, I agree. I'd love, and I'm sure I'm not alone, the university I work for to use GMail for all its e-mail (the supplied web mail service is... well, lets say suboptimal). However, this is not going to happen, for reasons ranging from confidentiality (I'm sure students would love Google to have a copy of all their e-mail, for example) to reliability (I just love it when I can't even read my existing e-mail, when our network link goes down). Personally, I'm more expecting Google to release a stand alone GMail appliance, much like the Google search appliance, at some point. Where by some point, I'm thinking 2010 at this rate.

Until then, we'll stick with the lousy service that fits our needs, rather than moving to a great service that doesn't...

Re:But... (1)

Luke Dawson (956412) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400626)

Get used to it buddy. There's a record of pretty much everything you do online somewhere. Privacy is sooo 20th century.

While inconvenient.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17399942)

The bigger issue is that most email will never be lost anymore and hang around for decades if not longer on a server that the government can easily access any time it wants to with a simple court order (or, in the case of the Bush White House, without a court order).

If all you do is.... (1)

peterpressure (940132) | more than 7 years ago | (#17399944)

e-mail and contacts, than sure? I on the other hand dont want my desktop shortcuts to video gamez, pron and other various sleazy activities on the Net, sorry...

Never lose a local mailbox? (1)

D-Cypell (446534) | more than 7 years ago | (#17399950)

Recently some people lost all their Gmail emails and contacts.


Will it ever be possible to do away with desktop solutions like Outlook and Thunderbird?


Because local mailbox file corruption never happens?

Re:Never lose a local mailbox? (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400348)

After reading my mail I tend to immediately delete it. Seems to work for me. Usually I use elm but occasionally I will get wild and use a more exotic client like Pine.

Simple answer: YES. (5, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 7 years ago | (#17399952)

I use Gmail for Domains and love it -- we've even been moving customers over to it and they love it.

I still use a POP3 e-mail app to download e-mails for archival purposes or to better format them for printing. I also use POP3 to get my e-mails to my cell phone/PDA (HPC Trinity P3600, best product ever) and it works fine.

I am ready to move to a virtual online desktop TODAY. Anything I need to backup I will -- everything else I'd rather pay someone else to host for me. While graphics design and high-data jobs require me to work locally, almost everything else works just fine remotely. I can see Wordpress evolving to the point that it could compete with Word locally, and I already use Google Spreadsheet for all my spreadsheet work (I've actually removed my office suite entirely as of last week).

As long as it works over my T-Mobile EDGE connection (bigger than a thin client), it is fine with me. Those days are quickly coming that I won't care what OS I am running as long as my browser is compatible with my online desktop.

Re:Simple answer: YES. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17400292)

I guess as long as you have complete trust in the provider, you're OK. If something goes wrong with your service and you lose (important business data/info), then just try suing them - considering the fact that their terms of service probably render them harmless in all cases anyway.

So when your 100+ employees are trucking along working at their new entirely remote desktops, and all of a sudden the ISP has problems or Google has trouble - how long can your business last without its apps and data?

Of course this question has to be answered by Google, and certainly will in the form of the following:
1. I can run it online
2. I can run it offline with cached ads.
3. I can purchase it without ads for my business

Nothing is for free. Once you get to #3, you have M$ Office.

Re:Simple answer: YES. (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400468)

So when your 100+ employees are trucking along working at their new entirely remote desktops, and all of a sudden the ISP has problems or Google has trouble - how long can your business last without its apps and data?

Forever since I would surely have redundancy for the most recent data. In fact, my office employees already have multiple paths to the web -- a few months ago when our T1s both went down we actually connected to the web via a cell phone GPRS connection. Slow, yes, but we got through the 90 minute outage.

How long can my employees work if the local server blows? It happens. How long can my employees work if the electric company has problems and the backup battery isn't big enough?

For my company, and most companies, 99.5% uptime is enough. 30% is enough if the outages occur off work hours -- which is likely if the service is international in scope.

Sidenote: Modern caching techniques might even allow some intelligent programmer to create a feature that lets you work even through loss of connections to the main server -- while I am not adept at caching technology and theory, you better believe someone will figure out a way to store the most recent used data on a centrally located "caching" server that offloads the data to the main server instantly during connected times, but holds it locally during disconnects. Just a thought.

Re:Simple answer: YES. (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400772)

I'm sitting here at my Grandmother's borrowing wireless from a neighbor. The signal is very weak and page loads are on the order of 30 seconds. The idea of online apps makes me shudder.

well (2, Interesting)

SuperStretchy (1018064) | more than 7 years ago | (#17399958)

Personally I don't want any email stored on my computer. Granted, I have enough space for it, but with different breeds of viruses and what not, I'd rather not make provision for them to occupy a single sector.

As to the contacts and emails being lost... Backup, backup, backup! GMail has an export feature.

It wasn't "lost," dammit (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17399960)

Those users were victims of a deliberate cross-site scripting attack in Firefox 2.0. If this problem had involved Windows Live Mail and IE7, do you honestly think we'd be using terms like "lost" and dodging the real issue, which is browser security?

+1 Informative (0, Troll)

Uncle Rummy (943608) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400130)

I think this may be a /. first - not even the submitter could be bothered to RTFA before commenting.

Re:+1 Informative (0, Offtopic)

tourvil (103765) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400762)

I think this may be a /. first - not even the submitter could be bothered to RTFA before commenting.

You must be new here. Welcome to Slashdot!

Re:It wasn't "lost," dammit (5, Informative)

Fanro (130986) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400610)

Where does it say that this was a cross-site-scripting attack? Also, at least one of the affected users claims to use IE.

Re:It wasn't "lost," dammit (2, Informative)

T3hFish (943693) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400684)

If you RTFA, you find that some of the people who had the problem used IE.

Griping about free services (1)

sgt.greywar (1039430) | more than 7 years ago | (#17399970)

Reading through the message threads for this I see a whole lot of people who are complaining vociferously about the "customer service" they aren't getting from a service that is provided to them for free. Fact is, you are *not* a customer until you pay for something. Don't gripe about the free ice cream not being to your liking and don't use free mail services for anything critical. Or maybe even just backup anything you might like to keep. Will we ever be able to implementthese sorts of services as business tols? Sure, and we will pay for that service too (which will include backups and other assurances).

Re:Griping about free services (1)

partenon (749418) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400156)

We aren't the customers, but we are the most valuable asset they have: ad audience. This is how they earn their money. So, we are more than customers :-) Also, if you want to provide some service, for free or not, you have to give your best. If you think you don't need to care just because your "customers" aren't paying, well, it's better to get out of the market.

I do think Google and GMail team are giving their best to provide a good service (the best email solution I've ever seen), and it's not clear the causes of the problems. Cross site scripting? Hardware failure? PEBKAC? Nobody (outside Google) knows yet. But I'm sure this problem will make GMail even more secure.

Re:Griping about free services (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17400704)

You need to adjust your thinking to the 21st century. I AM paying for gmail service. I pay with my eyeballs on the screen where they present their advertising.

Re:Griping about free services (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17400722)

I call bullshit!

They are providing a service which also features ads, much like television. To take an extreme example, if the local TV station goes down during the superbowl, would you tell everyone who complains that they are unjustified since they are pulling the service down over an antenna?

Now if you wanted to take the point of trusting critical data to a beta service, well, you'd have a point there ;-).

Re:Griping about free services (1)

sgt.greywar (1039430) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400782)

There is a difference between calling the TV station to tell them that their broadcast went down and going off in screedy profanity laced diatribe's about their "customer servicce". Even with the TV example the TV is not obligated to do a damn thing for you. They will take care of the problem because it is in their best interests not because they have some contract with you.

Beta, and Perspective (1)

loxfinger (571135) | more than 7 years ago | (#17399976)

Gmail is still in beta, isn't it, so I hope no one was using it for anything critical. Furthermore, keeping your emails online with services like Google or Yahoo is probably safer overall, even after this incident, than trusting your own hard drive and personal backup.

The problem isn't being web based. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17400024)

The problem is that GMail isn't backing up the data, or are unwilling to restore it.

Nothing magical here, whether its on a desktop or a server, lost data is lost data, and we have known since the first punch card and paper tape how to mitigate the damage caused by lost data.

What it does go to show is that despite the massive hardware investment, the drive arrays, RAID systems, etc., data is still vulnerable to good old fashioned software bugs.

What needs to be done beyond actually fixing the bug is for Google to come out with an assurance that folks will be able to restore potentially lost data in the event that something like this ever happens again, otherwise there's clearly no good reason to store anything important on GMail.

Re:The problem isn't being web based. (4, Insightful)

Mr.Sharpy (472377) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400282)

What needs to be done beyond actually fixing the bug is for Google to come out with an assurance that folks will be able to restore potentially lost data in the event that something like this ever happens again, otherwise there's clearly no good reason to store anything important on GMail.

That subscript "BETA" under the GMail logo is giving you all the reason anyone should need to avoid storing anything important within GMail. Like many Google products, GMail is still defined as a beta by the company. A well polished beta to be sure; but as long as it says beta on it, you should have no expectation of it remaining static or being 100% stable. They could delete everyones accounts and reset or scrap the whole thing tomorrow, and they would be completely within their rights.

If you want to have expectation of safe retention of mail that goes through GMail, you should use the tools that Google has provided and download it to your PC via POP3. Then YOU can be responsible for its backup and retention.

I'm not saying it's right, I'm just pointing out that no one has any right to claim that Google screwed them by losing their important email that they [the user] were housing on a BETA email service.

Re:The problem isn't being web based. (1)

toddbu (748790) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400784)

A well polished beta to be sure; but as long as it says beta on it, you should have no expectation of it remaining static or being 100% stable.

So are you saying that when Gmail leaves beta that there will never be any lost email again? If you aren't then this comment is meaningless since a user never has a right to complain about something that they got for free.

see a need fill a need.... (2, Insightful)

Brigadier (12956) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400026)



I think that is the direction that joe average wants the internet to go. He wants to upload and save all his pics to the net, have all his e-mails accessable via the web from anywhere. He wants his bills e-mailed to him and he wants his banking online. He also likes the idea of accessing his phone messages via his computer.

The traditional desktop was never by choice I dont think. It evolved this way because of technological limitations, lets be honest. If it were from pure design it would be no bigger than a note pad. So my point is yes it will be a reality it's just a matter of companies investing in gurantees. As opposed to just selling a hot service without really backing it up. This applies not only to e-mail but to online sales (security), storage services like flicker and utube (bandwidth and up time).

Re:see a need fill a need.... (1)

japhering (564929) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400180)

I think that is the direction that joe average wants the internet to go. He wants to upload and save all his pics to the net, have all his e-mails accessable via the web from anywhere. He wants his bills e-mailed to him and he wants his banking online. He also likes the idea of accessing his phone messages via his computer.


Why does everyone want bills electronically? Most people I know, who get their bills electronically, print them out immediately. So the biller has just passed one of his costs of doing business to you. Frankly, it is bad enough having to pay the bill which includes the billers overhead.. but it is just so wrong to then have to pay to print said bill.

The traditional desktop was never by choice I dont think. It evolved this way because of technological limitations, lets be honest. If it were from pure design it would be no bigger than a note pad. So my point is yes it will be a reality it's just a matter of companies investing in gurantees. As opposed to just selling a hot service without really backing it up. This applies not only to e-mail but to online sales (security), storage services like flicker and utube (bandwidth and up time).


I think it is more a situation where people no longer care about their privacy.. they take it for granted that everything is and will remain private. Given the number of data breaches, there is no way I'm putting anything of value on the web

Never used Outlook or Thunderbird (1)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400036)

I don't get it -- I've used email for more than a decade now, and I've never used an app like outlook or thunderbird. From Yahoo to GMail, and on and on. Who uses things like Outlook outside of a corporate setting, anyway?

Re:Never used Outlook or Thunderbird (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400220)

I do, I want to be able to back up my email and such so I don't have to worry about screw-ups like that.

I use Outlook Express, and have done so for several years, and the mail servers I use are POP3 based.

Re:Never used Outlook or Thunderbird (1)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400536)

well, if GMail or Yahoo would add some sort of plain-text dumping feature, we'd be all set as far as backups are concerned.

Re:Never used Outlook or Thunderbird (2, Insightful)

doshell (757915) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400654)

If you have many email accounts like me, it's handy to have a single interface (the mail client) for handling all of them, instead of having to visit multiple sites a day just to check for new mail (let alone search for a particular message when you're not sure in which account it ended up).

Re:Never used Outlook or Thunderbird (2, Informative)

Malc (1751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400778)

I don't think Yahoo Mail existed a decade ago, or that was very close to its launch date. Email clients were (still are???) common in academic environments too. A decade ago I was still using Pine (via IMAP), whereas a lot of people had switched to Netscape Communicator. I don't remember many people back then using web mail - it just wasn't very common or popular yet. Apologies for doubting you, but your claim of not using an MUA even though you've used email for over a decade seems rather far fetched - what've you been doing in that time if it wasn't academia or corporate? Most people not in those environments didn't get on the email bandwagon until sometime after 1996.

Back it up locally (link is google-cached) (5, Informative)

dave-tx (684169) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400054)

You can use POP [64.233.187.104] (google cache link, the original seems to be missing) to back up your Gmail mail....Anyone have a alternate method that they use?

Re:Back it up locally (link is google-cached) (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400792)

You can use POP (google cache link, the original seems to be missing) to back up your Gmail mail....Anyone have a alternate method that they use?

I'm the reverse. I have all my mail sent local first and then I sent it on to GMail. That way it's backed up in two places *and* I have easy access to all my e-mail from remote locations that might not have putty or allow me to run something other than the browser.

trust others to take care of my own (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17400056)

not likely, given that most companies don't have a real clue about either integrity or service

as well, why?

that is, what is gained by offsite apps? please explain as i've yet to hear a single compelling reason

duck and cover (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17400068)

if online provider would take some responsibility for users material, he'd have the local desktop beat by a mile

'dude, we lost all your email. please accept this $50k check along with our apologies in exchange for your signature...'

beats the hell out of

'tough shit dude, the contract says that once you unwrap it, it's your's. consider yourself lucky that it worked at all...'

And this is surprising how? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17400078)

One of the wisest mantras of the digital lifestyle is "Always backup your data".

What use is moving everything online if you cannot backup your stuff. Gmail at least allows for this via their POP3 access, but so many other Web 2.0 sites have no such provision. If you let someone else handle your data, and don't keep a backup for yourself, you have no excuse when it disappears.

Reliability aside... (4, Insightful)

brennanw (5761) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400082)

... why would we really want to move to an online desktop in the first place? The PC revolution moved us away from a mainframe/terminal environment. Why would we want to move back to a similiar model?

Re:Reliability aside... (3, Insightful)

loxfinger (571135) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400158)

I like having my email online so I can check it anywhere there's a computer and an Internet connection. Notebook PC's are a pain to carry around everywhere....

Re:Reliability aside... (5, Insightful)

dada21 (163177) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400230)

The PC revolution moved us away from a mainframe/terminal environment. Why would we want to move back to a similiar model?

I don't think the PC revolution moved us away from client/server -- it was the bandwidth/process/cost ratios that did. A PC with sneakernet provided better cost/efficiency ratios that did mainframe/terminal. As PC networks progressed, it really surpassed the server/terminal environment. But now we have extended the network beyond the office, and bandwidth is up, costs are down, so the focus today is on offering people access to their data from everywhere instead of just their hard drive.

I love client/server if it means having a really powerful server and a weak client. My PCs at home sit around doing nothing 80% of the day -- wasted hard drive space, wasted processor time, wasted hardware. Sure I can crunch some scientific equations on the PCs when they're dark, but all that technology could be better used if it was shared for others to use.

I would rather lease processor time/hard drive space to use as I needed -- in the amount I needed -- than worry about buying the latest and greatest every 6 months just to keep up. There are times when I have to RIP a 4GB print file on my most powerful PC and I wish I could get a cluster of machines to RIP it faster. For me, client/server in this case would make sense -- if I had 4-6Mbps of bandwidth to send the RIP'd info to my local printer. I _have_ RIPd big EPS files on a remote PC in the past and sent it via DSL to the printer (yes, 500Kbps was fast enough to keep the printer humming along).

For most people, leasing space/processors online would be cheaper -- and I think ISPs will move in that direction in the near future, as they already have in the recent past. Advertising-sponsored web servers are the norm lately, and I don't see why this won't make many happier. Google's apps are ad-sponsored and they work fine for me (and have even connected me with great online services through reading those ads on occasion).

beta (0, Redundant)

owlnation (858981) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400096)

What part of "beta" did everyone miss?

Since GMail is the only email application I've used that so far has controlled spam effectively I'm keeping going with it - though I do pop mails from my account into Thunderbird too (since it's beta and I have occasionally had difficulty reaching it).

Bearing in mind the spam deluge we are all suffering from, is a better question not: "will we ever find a suitable replacement for email - and when? Tomorrow's fine by me, I'm ready to ditch email right now, today.

Re:beta (3, Insightful)

tehshen (794722) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400474)

When something's in "beta" for over two years now, it becomes less of a product status and more of an excuse.

pwned? (1)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400102)

There are people claiming that they received e-mail stating that it was a malicious attack. I'm guessing that it's just some pranksters jumping on the bandwagon, but who knows. Others are claiming that Firefox 2 had a scripting vulnerability which led to this problem.

mandelbr0t

Look on the brightside (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400106)

if your boss canned you via email, you can always claim you never got the message.

Re:Look on the brightside (2, Funny)

operagost (62405) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400278)

Yeah, but you'll stop getting paychecks and he'll move your desk down to the basement. While you're down there, we've got a little insect problem. Could you take care of that? That'd be great.

Re:Look on the brightside (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17400514)

gah. hit the wrong mod button. this should clear it out

NOT fixed (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17400110)

The "fixed" link did NOT say the problem was fixed, only that it was contained to "around 60" users. The article implied the root problem was "fixed" but that doesn't count.

The article's "fix" was to "do whatever we could to restore as much of the users' accounts as we could. We've also reached out to the people who were affected to apologize and to work with them to restore the email from any personal backup they might have."

Unless they were able to fully restore all email at their end, it's not a fix.

will it ever be possible... (1)

ducatier (669395) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400112)

Will anyone ever need more than 128kb? If we stopped development because of "What if's" we would never advance. Fortunatly Google fixed the mistake and continued on improving thier product.

duh (1)

rs79 (71822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400116)

"will it ever be possible to truly move to an 'online desktop'?""

Probably for a while, but that's stupid. Server functions will migrate to your desktop. Many of us have already done this. The rest of you folks are called "Windows users".

Yes. No. Maybe. (4, Insightful)

captnitro (160231) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400118)

Will it ever be possible to do away with desktop solutions like Outlook and Thunderbird? Given the nature of the internet, will it ever be possible to truly move to an 'online desktop'?


Absolutely. But that doesn't necessarily make it a good (or bad) idea.

Personally, I don't like the idea of my entire digital "memoirs" being elsewhere where anything can happen to them. Now, it's not a rational fear -- Google has a datacenter, and I'm tapping this out on a five-year-old Athlon T-bird (newer HDs, however). But if something goes wrong here, I have full control. I know the routines for extracting data off of a dead drive. They've spent money to ensure that the likelihood of failure is much, much lower than my old little desktop, but if something goes wrong there, I have no control. Again, not a rational fear -- they're much more skilled than I am at recovering my data. But they're also not going to stay up until 3am just for old e-mails to my family from when I was a freshman in college.

I think one of the things I dislike about Web 2.0 most of all is the fact that all my data is elsewhere. There's a lot to be said for ownership and control. I have no problem with distributed applications, but I want my crucial data no more than 100 feet away.

Gmail users are amateurs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17400124)

Pfft... real men use /usr/bin/mail with mbox [wikipedia.org]. Without file locking. And on an NFS share.

I for one... (4, Insightful)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400146)

will probably never move to an online desktop. (bet you were expecting something about overlords)

(1) I don't want my personal data on another person or groups computer, especially without an option of having my own baackup of all my data. Even with the latter, I'd be leary, but the latter hasn't even happened yet in many cases, so I'm not expecting it to happen soon.

(2) An online storehouse like that would be a hackers dream. I'm not likely to have anything majorly secure on my system, but nonethelless, I'd rather remain a small unimportant target (my PC), than a large glowing beacon of temptation (remote server housing a lot of people's data).

(3) Occasionally ISPs have trouble. I've not seen this with my ISP yet, but I've known a lot of people who have had 4-24 hour downtimes. I don't want to loose access to my documents/data if that ever happens with my ISP.

(4) I don't have to deal with slower (compared to hard drive access) network connections and stressed servers making things slow when I'm using my computer.

(5) If I'm travelling around, and using my notebook, I don't want to have to worry about my documents not being available when I go somewhere that may not have internet access. Kein danke.

I understand 4 can be handled, and so can parts of 2, but I am really *not* keen on using an online desktop except for thnings that are naturally net-dependant anyway (such as email).

Re:I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17400578)

If I'm travelling around, and using my notebook, I don't want to have to worry about my documents not being available when I go somewhere that may not have internet access. Kein danke.

Wow, did NASA pick you for an upcoming Moon/Mars mission? Because that's about the only way you're going to go somewhere with no possibility of internet access at all.

Bring me back some cool rocks, pretty please?

This incident shows jack squat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17400166)

How about a poignant writeup of somebody who's hard drive failed and who hadn't made any backups and who thus lost all of their email and contacts?

The fact of the matter is, data is data, and it's always vulnerable to loss. Frankly, Google does a better job backing up and insuring things than most, but even they aren't perfect. You'd be a fool to trust important information to be in one place alone. Redunancy and backups are key, "web apps" or no.

Onsite backup (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400216)

People with desktops need offsite backup to preserve their data. People with web apps need onsite backup, or "othersite" backup. This is certainly one of the reasons I don't like the web app thing so much. It's no big deal for me to ZIP or tar-gzip my desktop data, and transfer it someplace. Pulling down data from some of these web apps in a standard format is less straightforward. So. These things really ought to have a "download all your data" option. Not sure what format you'd want to use. For Gmail, maybe Berkely DB format would be sufficient.

Re:Onsite backup (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400648)

hese things really ought to have a "download all your data" option. Not sure what format you'd want to use. For Gmail, maybe Berkely DB format would be sufficient.

It makes more sense to export your mail in mbox format, which is apprehendable by a wide range of tools. Who stores mail in a berkeley db file? The ideal solution of course is for them to sell you backups of your own data. Oh sure, they should let you download it for free, it's your data, but for a few extra bucks they can mail you a DVD-R, which has high latency but killer bandwidth...

Two Things... (3, Insightful)

localman (111171) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400238)

First, this loss of data by Google doesn't say much about the online vs. desktop storage debate. Chances are that less people have lost email through this recent gmail foul-up than who lost their email because their own computer crashed. It's just that now there's someone to point the finger at.

Aside from that, though, I don't see that online will replace desktop in the foreseeable future -- there's too many things that are cumbersome to do online (like music and video editing) and way too many things that I wouldn't want in someone else's hands. The former might be fixed when we get consistent gigabit broadband (though maybe not if video quality and speed expectation continues to increase), but the latter, I don't know. There's certain things I create that I want to keep to myself.

Cheers.

If we don't define "online" as "not mine", yes. (5, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400244)

Given the nature of the internet, will it ever be possible to truly move to an 'online desktop'?"

Sure - As long as the server lives in my home office.

A decade ago I actually had such a setup for a few years, until my ISP decided to actually enforce the vague and arguably impossible "no servers" rule in their TOS. My email went to my home machine, which I could check by SSH'ing in from anywhere in the world. If I needed a file, I could tunnel in, mount a share off my home fileserver, and do whatever I wanted.

XP has actually made that more doable, in that Remote Desktop works pretty damned well even over slow connections. So now I have access to GUI-only information as well (yeah yeah, I used to do VNC or remote X desktops, but even over a broadband connection those crawl, and don't (directly) support sharing any non-GUI resources such as files, printers, and sound).


The problem here comes from our ISPs, who want to sell us something then have us never use it, whether our already meagre upstream bandwidth, or unwritten but strictly enforced monthly caps (*cough* Verizon *cough*). Never forget, in the heat of all the debate on the subject, that "net neutrality" only applies to big companies who view us as consumers of content. We small-scale end users have never enjoyed neutrality.

So to answer the question - We can truly move to an "online" desktop just as soon as enough of us force the ISPs to let us use the bandwidth we pay for however the hell we want. Not before.

Re:If we don't define "online" as "not mine", yes. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400572)

XP has actually made that more doable, in that Remote Desktop works pretty damned well even over slow connections. So now I have access to GUI-only information as well (yeah yeah, I used to do VNC or remote X desktops, but even over a broadband connection those crawl, and don't (directly) support sharing any non-GUI resources such as files, printers, and sound).

FWIW you can use FreeNX to get an X connection that is around the same level of efficiency as RDC.

It doesn't get you resource sharing, as you point out. You would need to use an encrypting tunnel, esd (or similar), nfs (or similar) and cups to get the same level of functionality. That would be a great idea for an open source project, though; integrating all of those tools to provide the same stuff that RDC gives you.

The problem here comes from our ISPs, who want to sell us something then have us never use it

Not just that, but the ISPs want to enforce a client-server model on our peer-to-peer internet, because they don't want to pay to send traffic.

I use both (1)

joekampf (715059) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400260)

I use both. I use a local email client that uses POP3 and SMTP with GMail. I have all of my mail still on GMail, and I also have it locally. Sometimes it is nice to be able to google my email when I have searches to make. But I much prefer to use an email client and have all of my email available to me offline. Joe

Yes ... and no. Need synchronization. (2, Interesting)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400308)

I think it's absolutely possible. But I think a synchronizing system like .Mac uses makes more sense. In the event that you are unable to connect to the internet service (you're down / they're down / ...) you still have everything from your last synchronization. And this also provides even more backups of your important data.

Re:Yes ... and no. Need synchronization. (1)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400608)

I know the Lotus Notes haters are going to be all over this, but this is exactly how Lotus Notes works, as well.

Happened to me in Feb 2005 (1)

freelunch (258011) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400332)

Back in Feb '05, I discovered all of my January mail disappeared. Gmail support was completely f'n useless. They couldn't/wouldn't share any info about how it might have happened.. At that time I was mostly testing gmail but now I have crud in there I'd like to retain.. I was hoping these problems were behind them.

Their final reply before completely ignoring me:

> Hello,
>
> Thank you for your reply.
>
> We have completed a thorough investigation of your Gmail account, and can
> confirm that a technical problem did not cause the behavior you reported.
> We apologize for any inconvenience you might have experienced.
>
> Sincerely,
>
> The Gmail Team

Our company uses Gmail, works great for us (1)

sco_robinso (749990) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400416)

I'm a network admin for a company of about 45 people. We recently moved from a hosted exchange service (costing us about $700us a month), to gmail for your domain, and it works great.
 
Given how many people loose all their email per year on services like Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, etc, the chances of anything happening are almost slim to none. Sure, bad things can happen, but bad things can happen with any type of email system you use. Not to mention, saving us almost $10,000US per year is a big plus, and a fraction of that can go towards occasionally backing up gmail (via POP download).

Personally, I think this is a whole lot of hype about nothing. And as people have said, it's 'BETA'. Anyone who chooses to use it and rely on it should be aware of the risks. At my company, we are keenly aware that at any point in time, we could get an email from Google saying 'We're discontinuing GAFYD, your email service will be shit down in 24 hours'. However, all risks considered, we're willing to mitigate that chance in foresight of google doing very well, which it is.

Not necessary to replace... (2, Insightful)

Warbringer87 (969664) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400436)

It isn't necessary to completely move to an 'online' desktop. Desktops as we know them now have their place, they have their own significant advantages, and I am sure that with time we will all be using both. A lot of people can't imagine an "online desktop," but the next batch of netizens will probably already be accustomed to the idea, and will use it, alongside a traditional desktop OS, be it a linux distro, Mac's OS, or Windows. As for losing all yours emails, shit happens. Anything you have any use for should be: a) copied to own harddrive b) if important enough, printed out

this is where I start to worry (1)

mseidl (828824) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400496)

The online OS will never really take off, IMHO... Browser apps are slow.

But, while I use gmail, and didn't have any issues... -

I'm leery about one company having all my data.

You KNOW google is a massive data center with all of our personal information.

Who says they can't bought? Or the government can't twist google's arm?

And why do I want marketing execs knowing when I use my computer and how exactly I use it.

PRIVACY is my number one concern. Which is probably why I'll stop using gmail. It's a great service, don't get me wrong, and the google products are functional and work well. I will continue to use privoxy/tor and try to find a more anonymous email server. Or, ignore email all together and go back to tin cans and a string.

WTF ?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17400538)

Dude please stop smoking crack. You will tell me that you never heard of someone who lost his HD? I say bullshit.

Lost Documents and the Future of Client Apps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17400558)

"Recently some people lost all their files on their hard drives. The problem seems to be contained and fixed, but this incident shows how far are we in terms of decentralizing all document storage to devicees like personal computers. Will it ever be possible to do away with mainframe solutions? Given the nature of the desktop computer, will it ever be possible to truly move to a 'desktop desktop'?"

Online emails (1)

Goondra (855859) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400574)

I am not in favor of putting any of my information "online". I don't move around nor do I need access to my information from remote locations. I have over 15 years of back emails that I maintain on my machine for reference and search. I want "control" over my information. I do not want it in the hands of someone else.

WTF wrong with desktop solutions? (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400582)

Will it ever be possible to do away with desktop solutions like Outlook and Thunderbird?

WTF is wrong with a desktop solution? Our client systems are every bit as powerful as the servers, so why can't we use some of that power to provide a responsive and consistant user interface? Quad core laptops are coming, but to hear the way you guys speak, all the processing power should only be used for rendering crappy flash animations.

Don't replace the desktop with a browser. Replace it with a better desktop.

No, thanks (1)

GamblerZG (866389) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400634)

And all the people who rave about gmail being as secure as your PC blatantly ignore the fact that IMAP emails are stored _both_ on your PC and the server. And you don't have to watch ads. And you can use a multitude of features of your email client.

its kinda like flying (1)

SolusSD (680489) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400770)

Its safer to fly than it is to drive, but if the plane crashes your almost certainly going to die. Having google handle your mail and address books is certainly safer than storing them on your personal computer (most windows users I know reload their system almost every year), but when google loses your information-- your not getting it back.

Slow news day. (2)

Lethyos (408045) | more than 7 years ago | (#17400794)

Amazing! It turns out that there is a risk that data might be lost when the systems storing it fail. Indded, this is a remarkable revelation.

People need to get real. There is no magic with any service. Faults occur and mistakes are made. If anything, your data is safer with Google than anyone else because they know how to properly deal with huge volumes of data and how to preserve it correctly. Many service providers and most home users have no clue how to survive data loss and client applications that store mails on your disk do little to improve reliability in the absense of redundancy and backups.

To tangentally plug Apple, I am looking forward to Time Machine on Mac OS X 10.5 which uses the copy-on-write features of ZFS to provide incremental backups.

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