As time goes on, it becomes clear that this whole internet thing isn’t just a passing fad. Yet somehow, as popular as social networking has become around the world, no one has really managed to solve the problem of what happens to a person’s web presence when they die. Facebook deletes or memorializes the accounts of dead users (meaning that you can still post on their wall, but the account can’t be updated or even logged in to) but that doesn’t please everyone and there are a lot of questions about what should be done, especially when relatives want to update a dead person’s page as a tribute.
The India-based startup Creative Nature’s DepartedLife project hopes to solve this problem with what it calls “the world’s first social networking site for departed souls.” This isn’t actually true; there are a number of other sites like this including one created by Monster.com’s founder. But DepartedLife is definitely the first Asian social network for the dead that we have come across.
It’s not difficult to understand the impetus behind creating such a site, and founder Rahul Suri told us that the site was inspired by the death of his mother:
Gradually, grief gave way to a need for preserving my memory of her for my children – it was like I wanted to build an online monument to her. That was when I felt the need for a site like DepartedLife. I wanted my kids to know what their grandmother looked like and what I felt about her. And I’m sure many people feel the same way.
It’s a noble goal and there’s an increasing demand for it, as our social networking profiles say a great deal about who we are, and that’s all information our family and friends may be interested in after we’re gone.
Unfortunately, in its present beta iteration, DepartedLife doesn’t do much to separate itself from the pack. The site’s design is certainly functional but there’s nothing special about it, and you still have to create the profiles of loved-ones manually rather than directly importing information from a Facebook account (for example). That’s the kind of feature that would really set the site apart from the pack, but sadly, it’s not there yet.
The site does allow users themselves to log in via Facebook, but I’m not sure I would recommend it, as the app asks for permission to do almost everything, including log in as any Pages accounts you might have connected to your own. Obviously, you can opt-out of this, but why would it ask for that kind of permission in the first place? It could just be a bug, of course, but I’d be a bit wary of the Facebook login until it’s fixed.
So in the end, we’re featuring DepartedLife here not so much for what it is as for what it could be. A site that could pull information from Facebook and other social networking sites to automate the memorialization process but then still allow family members and friends to post updates could be very popular. When most startups are thinking about the targets for their services, they’re thinking mostly about people who are alive, but there is definitely space in Asia for services that allow users to memorialize their loved ones. Whether DepartedLife becomes one of those will depend on whether the startup is willing to rethink a lot about the way the site works now.
(Note: normally we’d include a screenshot of the site in a review like this, but it seemed a bit disrespectful to uses photos of the dead in a startup review, so we’ve just pulled an image from DepartedLife’s Facebook page instead).