The Death of a Web Service

I have talked endlessly on this blog about the emerging
world of web services where you can easily build really useful applications by
patching together a bunch of open web services.

In fact this blog is a perfect example of that world. I started with Typepad, then got Feedburner,
Adsense, Bloglet, del.icio.us, Flickr, Amazon, Indeed, Bitty Browser, LibSyn,
and probably a few more web services. Together, they provide to me, and hopefully you, a really useful
application.

But what happens when one of these web services dies?

I’ve been thinking a bit about that this weekend as Bloglet
has been acting really flaky.

Bloglet is the “subscribe by email” service that I offer on
the upper left hand column of this blog.

As of this morning, I have 996 email subscribers to this
blog.

Over the past couple years, Bloglet has been flaky from time
to time, but it always comes back. I
hope that happens again, but what if it doesn’t?

I can’t strand 1000 email subscribers, many of whom think of
this blog as a daily email newsletter because that is how they get it.

In fact a friend of ours sent me an email today asking "where are the blogs?"  That might seem funny to you, but it wasn’t to me and it wasn’t to her.

The RSS advocates will say, “let them learn RSS”. But I don’t think that’s the right
answer.

The right answer is to find a new email subscription web
service and that’s what I will do if Bloglet in fact is dead.

But how do I get my 996 email addresses out of Bloglet?

I guess I could page through all 50 pages of my subscription
lists in Bloglet and cut and paste them into Excel and then I’ve got an email
file that I can deliver to some other service.

But I’ve got this nagging concern that I am going to hard
code 996 email addresses into some new web service.

And that is not a happy thought.

So, here is my short list of Web Services Rules To Live and Die
By

  • Allow the users to easily get all of their data out of a web service anytime they want.
  • Don’t hold users captive and let them remove themselves from the service.
  • Always shut down a service that users rely on in an orderly and professional fashion.

Of course these rules have another benefit which is they allow users to leave if they are unhappy as well.  It’s harder to get users to join if they get the sense that leaving is going to be hard.  So this policy is the best for everyone involved.

If you have any other suggestions for the Web Services Rules to Live and Die By, please send them my way or leave them in the comments.