I was originally told this by an antique photo collector about 5 years ago, give or take. She was literally afraid that in the future collecting photos might become impossible. Her reasoning was that lots of people collect photos; fewer collect negatives, and fewer yet of the negatives are ever printed. There’s next to no hope of future photo collectors going through old hard drives to look for your pictures. All the stuff stored online is mostly stored by a company, Yahoo for Flickr, Amazon/Apple/Microsoft/Google have a lot of cloud stuff, etc. But if they up and quit or go out of business, or just decide to no longer offer that free service, you have little to no recourse, especially if you’re deceased. Well now internet pioneer Vint Cerf shares that opinion. (via petapixel.com) I agree with the photo aspect of what he says but I don’t know if I buy the looming “Digital Dark Age” he posits. There are very few formats that were widely used that are now dead. Some of the earliest digital images I saw maybe around 1990 were GIFs and any browser can read a gif. CDs came out in 1983 and any optical drive can read them (of course who knows how long optical formats will last). As far as data goes, ascii has bee around since the 1960s so anything saved as a txt file should last as long as the media it sits on. Still for film and digital shooters, hard copy is a great offline backup. It’s an actual artifact you can leave for future humans.