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The Internet

Are You Ready For the Digital Afterlife? 108

theodp writes "Dave Winer's call for Future-Safe Archives goes mainstream in Rob Walker's NY Times Magazine cover story on how the Internet can provide a certain kind of immortality to those who are prepared. To illustrate how digital afterlives might play out, Walker cites the case of 34-year-old writer Mac Tonnies, who updated his blog on Oct. 18, 2009, sent out some public tweets and private messages via Twitter, went to bed and died of cardiac arrhythmia. As word of his death spread via his own blog, Tonnies's small, but devoted audience rushed in to save his online identity. 'Finding solace in a Twitter feed may sound odd,' writes Walker, 'but the idea that Tonnies's friends would revisit and preserve such digital artifacts isn't so different from keeping postcards or other physical ephemera of a deceased friend or loved one.' Unfortunately, how long Mac Tonnies's digital afterlife will remain for his Web friends and parents is still a big question, since it's preserved in a hodge-podge of possibly gone-tomorrow online services for which no one has the passwords. Hoping to fill the need for digital-estate-planning services are companies like Legacy Locker, which are betting that people will increasingly want control over their digital afterlife. 'We're entering a world where we can all leave as much of a legacy as George Bush or Bill Clinton,' says filmmaker-and-friend-of-Tonnies Paul Kimball. 'Maybe that's the ultimate democratization. It gives all of us a chance at immortality.'"

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