You can’t play Godfinger any more. It’s gone. ngmoco, the developer, removed the game (plus a couple of others) from app stores during February – and it’ll stop working all together at the end of this month. The raw economics of mobile gaming. But what happens to games that are packaged as apps when they’re discontinued? Looks like they disappear completely, as Jared Nelson points out on TouchArcade. No shoebox of carts under the bed, no stack of dusty DVDs, no folder of neglected binaries. Gone. Absent from the record.
The closed nature of mobile platforms means you can’t capture a binary for the archives and, unless the Library of Congress has an archiving scheme I don’t know about, this piece of intellectual labour will be removed from the record for good come April, leaving a tiny but perceptible hole in the timeline. This isn’t even a DRM story. It’s just about the mechanics of distributing entertainment in the app era. Is it important? Should we just accept it: the ruthless logic of 21st Century digital creation? Or are we going to be freaking out in fifty years when we realise we’ve built a one-way conveyor-belt to oblivion for digital work and we’re all going “what were they actually DOING back in the early twenty-first Century? They seem to have left no trace.”
I love this 1965 image from NASA’s archive. The caption reads:
Gemini Water Egress Training. Astronauts John Young and Gus Grissom are pictured during water egress training in a large indoor pool at Ellington Air Force Base, Texas. Young is seated on top of the Gemini capsule while Grissom is in the water with a life raft. Waiting in the rear, Frankie “bow-tie” Kornacki, Grissom’s bookmaker, patiently awaits payment for a string of bad college football bets. Grissom prolongs training, suggesting “another go-round”, hoping to avoid the expected unpleasantness
Click the image for a bigger version.
The semantic web is a powerful thing but it’s… well… semantic. Trying to imagine the net in the future, it becomes obvious that we’re going to need a temporal web too. Living, as we do, in the first moments of the web’s existence, we haven’t needed to think much about time. It’s as if everything that’s taken place so far all happened in a single, cataclysmic moment.
Once the web’s lifespan starts to stretch – across generations and centuries – we’re going to need an accessible historic record. Something that’s ‘online’ (as in ‘not offline in a tape library’) and preferably ‘inline’ (continuous with the current content). In this article for The Guardian I visualise this as a ‘giant rewind knob for the web’.
My example is the war in Iraq. Imagine the benefits to humanity in the future of being able to rewind to any point in the rolling popular history we call blogging and take a snapshot of the state of the war and opinion about it. More to the point, with so much information, conversation and collaboration moving onto the net, imagine a future without it.
In the article I also wonder if we, in the UK, shouldn’t be pressing the BBC to take on this task. Lots of people think the BBC’s proper role on the net should be to boost connection and participation (and there is some ambitious work going on already). Perhaps, as well as promoting communication, the Beeb ought also to be promoting recollection.
(Maybe the techies out there can tell me if this kind of work is already going on. I’m pretty sure Kahle’s Way Back Machine is going in the right direction but it’s a long way from being fine-grained enough and it certainly can’t present historic content ‘inline’)