I'd like to say that there is some cosmic reason why we think things we see on the internet will always be there. Something about our concept of object permanence or maybe how a magazine is printed, it's real and tangible so we just think the internet applies to the same rules. But I think it's just out of laziness. The same laziness that prevents us from backing up our computers is the same laziness that keeps us from saving that recipe that we saw online. Here are the most common scenarios that demonstrates the fleeting fancy of the web.
Free on the webThe craziest thing I've seen people do is put their precious thoughts and memories into free online sites expecting them to always be there. I've seen blog sites throw away old posts and photo sites deleting old pictures. There's nothing in any free site's policy that says they need to keep your uploaded assets there forever. All that storage on their end costs money and in bad economic times they might start pruning your files to cut costs. The next time you write a blog post, write it in Word, Pages, or Note Pad, save it on your computer and then copy and paste it to the web.
MobilityMobile phones are probably the most unstable of any computing environments. Most people think that they're backing up their phone by synchronizing it to the internet. You should still synchronize any mobile device to your home computer. The most shocking example of why you should do this was when the T-Mobile phone "Sidekick" went to synchronize itself to the web, and a glitch in the system wiped out all the data on the phones. All the major phone providers provide software to backup your phones to the desktop.
UnavailableIt's 5:00, they're coming at 7:00, you click on the bookmark for that dish you were going to make tonight, and the site is down for maintenance until tomorrow. Back to square one and another trip to the grocery store.
It doesn't do thatWe make the mistake thinking that the makers of internet applications think like we do. So what happens when you want to retrieve an old post that your friend made on Facebook? I search my old emails for information all the time, but most social networking sites aren't built around the idea of recalling old posts that contained information you didn't need...until right...now.
If it's important to you, keep a copy on your computer. Hard drives are huge, so you won't run out of space, and every major platform has an indexing system that will pull up any file quickly.