Myspace accidentally deleted from the web over 50 million files uploaded on the platform by its users between 2003 and 2015, and it opens up larger questions about the preservation of data as the internet grows.
A banner on Myspace website read: “As a result of a server migration project, any photos, videos, and audio files you uploaded more than three years ago, may no longer be available on or from MySpace.”
The laconic banner, posted on a grey background, has now been removed: a volatile reminder that storing data on free third-party services implies some risk.
Some estimate that up to 50 million songs from 2003 to 2015 have been lost. Reddit users had been mentioning problems with music files uploaded between 2003 and 2015 since roughly one year. Myspace initially stated that the problems were to be attributed to the media players, but eventually confessed that the files had been corrupted during a data transfer between servers. Most of the photos, videos and music files uploaded within those years are irrecoverable.
The lost files affect approximately 14 million artists registered on Myspace, who uploaded almost 50 million songs in 12 years, at a time when the platform was a favorite among users and artists especially. The platform lost many users to Facebook and Twitter, however many artists of the Myspace generation like Lily Allen, Arctic Monkeys, and Yeasayer had their songs stored on it.
The company advised artists and users to find the original material and files to make physical copies. On Twitter, web expert Andy Baio declared himself skeptical and is advancing the hypothesis that what happened wasn’t an accident:
“I’m deeply skeptical this was an accident. Flagrant incompetence may be bad PR, but it still sounds better than “we can’t be bothered with the effort and cost of migrating and hosting 50 million old MP3s.”
The internet grows at a rate of 70 terabytes per second. It leaks and loses data at an impressive rate as well, with terabytes of data going offline and disappearing forever. Storage, preservation, and manipulation of data – in other words keeping it accessible in the future – is very demanding and expensive in terms of time, money and equipment.
Budgeting models predict a cost of $2.50 per gigabyte over a 10-year time to preserve files, corresponding to $625.000 for the files Myspace failed to preserve.