Miruna Codeanu

Google After Death

In espresso on April 12, 2013 at 6:49 am

Google launches Google After Death, a tool that enables users to decide what becomes of their online life after they die or become incapacitated. Google started announcing its users about its latest feature.  The user can choose an “inactive account manager” to direct the information on Google services to or delete the accounts after being asleep for a long period of time. This is very much like establishing an executor for your online will.

Only a few days ago rememberum.com was launchin a promotional example featuring a memorial for Steve Jobs, basically an online grave. But there’s more to life and there’s more to your online life: text information, pictures, check ins, blogs, thoughts, opinions, debates, acquaintances, friends, there’s an online person and of course reputation management for this person. One day you die, we all do, and what happens to this online reputation and to the gathered information. In the offline world: people find out from other people that their friend/acquaintance/relative is no longer among us. In the online world, online people ask Google, but most of the times Google can’t tell you if a person is alive or not and the online life remains suspended. Problem is that it needs that we’re used to the life that has an end., and so, in accordance, the online life has to end at once with the offline life. 

Google Afterdeath is just one of the many services that are needed as management tools for online lives. However, the service that would most urgently need this is the most popular: Facebook. Sure, millennials won’t be reaching death age any time soon, but the age span for Facebook users is increasing. Also, millennials aren’t aging but death doesn’t always occure due to the natural causes. A few years ago, when Facebook wasn’t by far as popular as it is now, a student with a Facebook profile died. So there was a Facebook mourn organized for her.  Most of the time people are shocked by the transfer of offline lives in the online world. I keep saying it: there’s nothing wrong, it’s not a sign that the world is going to end, it’s not a sign that we’re going to abandon offline life, it is pure mimics, mimicking the offline life into the online world, because believe or not, as long as you exist an internet user there’s an online life for you. As long as your offline life ends, your online life has an end too. As long as your friends and family mourn you, online friends will mourn too. As long as you have an offline grave, you will probably have an account on rememberum.com soon enough too. Death ends our offline life and it puts an end through a legal paper, so should your online life. Gmail enables to decide upon your online information via Google After Death, Facebook will probably soon enough modify the layout of profile for people that are no longer among us and transform them into memorials.

For now, Google After Death seems like a tool to differentiate Google from other social services. Google, as the most popular search engine on the market, needs to clean and organize its information in order to keep its position as a market leader.  There’s plenty irrelevant information on Google: outdated websites, outdate information, outdated profiles, etc. and Google will probably, soon enough, find a way to deal with these graveyards of online information, as they affect the relevancy of Google search results. The “www” is a world that happens fast, and it seemed, by now that i needed no cemeteries, but by the saying “live fast die young”, it may be that information dies out rather fast in the online world and it needs its archive, its place in the graveyard. So, start up – ers, the internet needs cemeteries!

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