We're spending more of our lives online than ever before, so it only makes sense that more of our deaths will be there, too. Websites like 1000Memories provide the means to share photos, memories, and the legacy of a loved one after they pass on. Unsatisfied with how established social networks handle someone's passing, the founders of 1000Memories aim at making online mourning more meaningful and focused on the deceased. Unlike many of their competitors in this morbid but emerging field, 1000Memories charges nothing for its use. Not only that, but they've pledged to maintain the records you share on their site in perpetuity. The virtual tombstones you create may last forever, leveraging modern technology to achieve an ancient human goal: honoring our dead. Watch two of the founders of 1000Memories discuss their plans with TechCrunch in the video below.
Right now, the information you share online enters a sort of limbo when you die. As we've discussed before, every social networking site and internet business has its own way of dealing with deceased users. For those who must endure the loss of a loved one, managing all those different accounts can be a burden. Customized obituary or memorial pages offer an alternative to trying to preserve someone's legacy across the spectrum of websites. Friends and family can come together in one space. They share photos, relate favorite memories, and even work together to fund projects and other endeavors in the name of the dead. 1000Memories provides its services for free, which is considerably cheaper than the alternatives: Legacy (~$37/year), Memory-of ($50/ year or $95 one time fee), Remembered Forever ($98 one time fee of which 5% is donated to charity), Virtual-Memorial (~$55 one time fee). Not charging for their hosting means that 1000Memories will have to find an alternative revenue stream. That's something they address (sort of) in the following video:
Just as traditional print media has shifted and expanded as it's made its way online (think hyperlinks and social networking), so will obituaries. Sites like 1000Memories will create a sort of Obituaries 2.0 if you will. They'll have all the expected information, the shared thoughts on someone's passing. But with this emotional weight, these sites will also have the social gravity to pull in information people may not have been able to share up to this point. Old photos, old letters, old postcards (like the one above) can be scanned in. Unique physical items digitized to be accessible to everyone who misses their departed loved one. Most social networks can let you spread recent information, but memorial sites are aimed at encompassing someone's entire life.
For the founders of 1000Memories, that difference is important. According to their blog, they formed the new company after their own personal losses. The site is a response to the current state of online confusion that surrounds someone's passing. Where as Facebook does a great job providing ways for people to connect, 1000Memories emphasizes the face and presence of the person. The layout puts the deceased front and center. It's clear that this isn't a social network that is adapted to handle a dead user, it's a memorial that is adapted to take advantage of social networking.
There are so many burgeoning sites aimed at honoring the dead that it's hard to say if 1000Memories will be any more or less successful than its competitors. Its design choices - big bold pictures, simple tabs for navigation - feel right, and it's commitment to being free is huge. These aspects could (and likely will) be copied by others who are looking to form a respectful and warming tribute to their departed. As they do, sites like 1000Memories will develop more than just a sentimental importance - they will keep people alive forever. I've always believed that we achieve a sort of immortality by surviving in the memories of those who knew us. Now that those memories can be preserved online it looks like we'll all be floating around for much longer than we expected.