One rather morbid consequence of sharing our lives online is the digital trail we leave behind when we die.
It’s not an idea that comes readily to the Facebook generation, but managing the profiles and blog posts left behind upon death may become a growing necessity. A Swedish startup called MyWebWill is trying to address the problem by storing passwords and people’s wishes, so that their online identities can be shut down or handed over to friends and family when they pass away.
The idea is to create a central hub, where you can plan what will happen with your web presence across all social networks and games. You can bequeath World of Warcraft armor to a friend, prepare a final tweet or automatically send an e-mail to all your Gmail contacts.
I sat down with founders Lisa Granberg and Elin Tybring in Stockholm this week and made a short video of them explaining the service below.
MyWebWill will work on a “freemium” model. The free version will simply deactivate all your accounts and then the paid version can add more customization. The user can decide if they want to clear their Facebook wall or if they want a specific final Facebook profile photo, for example.
Users with paid accounts can opt for an annual fee of 199 Swedish kronor or about $27, or a lifetime fee of 1495 kronor or about $205. When you sign up for MyWebWill, the company will store your passwords and remind you once a year to keep them updated.
Granberg said the service can tell if a person has passed away with two methods. In places like Sweden and Germany, there is a national registry that keeps track of all people living in the country and MyWebWill will cross-check their database against the national ones weekly. In countries like the U.S., they’ll need two people to act as verifiers. When you sign up, you’ll provide contact information for the verifiers and MyWebWill will contact them through e-mail explaining the service and their responsibilities. They’ll also e-mail them about once a year as a reminder to check if the person is still alive. The company will launch in private beta next month and the project is being bootstrapped by Granberg and Tybring.
Managing your online identity for posterity is definitely a growing market opportunity. (Facebook recently began offering memorialized profiles for members of its social network who have passed away.)
But MyWebWill may need to finesse the prices more to get a larger number of people to convert to the paid model. Plus it’s hard to pay for a service that may not be needed until years from now, so they’ll probably have to study how life insurance is marketed and sold. That said, there are probably people out there who are extremely conscious of their own mortality and willing to shell out for such a service.
myWebwill – in english! from Lisa Granberg on Vimeo.
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