Storify is a very popular service to turn what people post on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,,, into compelling “stories” that can be embedded in any web page. I believe that its annunced death can teach something to all platform cooperatives.
Platform Cooperativism is defined as “concrete near-future alternative to the extractive sharing economy…rooted in democratic ownership”. Any “cooperatively-owned, democratically-governed business that uses a protocol, website or mobile app to facilitate the sale of goods and services” is a Platform cooperative.
The coming (May 2018) “End of Life” of Storify, which I only discovered this morning, has a side that platform cooperative advocates may have overlooked so far.
Storify may very well be/have been a digital platform cooperative.
The same thing that will happen to Storify next May “can” (translation: “surely WILL, sooner or later”) happen to any platform cooperative. That is no news, of course. Cooperatives, projects, businesses, communities… they all END, at some point, like any other human endeavour.
The point I want to highlight is that the average life expectancy of cooperatives, or projects in general, is shorter than that of human beings. Often much shorter.
Storify is leaving its users with just a manual, procedure to “limit” the damage because, throughout its whole history, giving its users anything durable beyond its own life was never part of its design, or strategy.
Platform cooperatives have different goals, and reasons to exist. They don’t need to lock-in their members, or ignore what is best in the long term for them. What the death of Storify teaches to all platform cooperatives and their (potential) members is very clear;
- all platform cooperatives should plan from the beginning to give all their members the easiest and less “destructive” exit procedure that is technically possible
- all people considering joining any platform cooperative, or choosing among similar cooperatives should evaluate them also on how good that procedure is
Important corollary for all PERSONAL services
What if the service offered by a platform cooperative is personal hosting of email, files, or any other strictly personal content or data? In my opinion, in almost of cases like this any “exit procedure” must include wrapping all those services under one, unique personal web domain name for each member. That is the only way to guarantee that everything belonging to each member, from their email address to e.g. blog posts, or picture galleries, will remain available exactly as before, if the platform coop shuts down, or the member just decides to leave it.
Shameless plug: giving each person their own permanent domain name is, exactly for the reasons above, a core part of my own proposal for a really usable, integrated alternative to Facebook, Gmail and similar services.