We've started to get used to the idea that once something's on the Internet, it's there forever. An ancient photo on Facebook? An awkward tweet from a few years back? They can be dug up, for better or worse. But this year, Snapchat, the app that deletes photos shortly after they appear, pointed to a new way of thinking: Its popularity shows that an "erasable Internet" is something many people might prefer, writes Farhad Manjoo in the Wall Street Journal, calling Snapchat "the most important technology of 2013."
"If the Snapchat model takes off—if other sites and services began to promote the idea of erasability as a competitive feature—the Internet would look very different," Manjoo writes. "It would be a more private network ... But it also might be a less useful Internet, a network on which you couldn't look up an old photo every time you felt nostalgic, or where computers wouldn't always feed you suggestions based on your history." Indeed, online features we're used to—Google spell-checking, Facebook friend suggestions—depend on the data collected by these companies; free, targeted-ad-based services might not be viable if our data were erased. "We might not have to pick." Perhaps someday, "we'll have a Forever Internet and an Erasable Internet living side by side," Manjoo notes. Click for his full piece.