Instead of cardboard boxes full of jumbled printed photos shot on film, digital photography and the Internet mean online storage of billions of photos. Storing all of those photos is usually free to the user, but there is a cost. Particularly, the large majority of those photos are never viewed again after they’ve been uploaded for a few weeks. Our expectations, even on free sites, is to be able to retrieve any of those photos. That was reasonable when social media was new. Unfortunately, years, and soon decades, of digital files will be stored. That storage takes energy. Facebook and others are building data centers just for the old data. They are effectively multi-million dollar archives of forgotten content. These sites are being built for efficiency, partly through sophisticated environmental engineering, partly from sophisticated strategies about which information to keep active, and which information to keep on powered-off machines.The end result is a large carbon footprint and millions of dollars spent on forgotten photos. This probably can’t go on forever, in which case, at some point, our free services may become fee services.
(Click on the photo for the link.)