‘Yahoo Ending’ lets Japan’s tech-savvy prepare for the inevitable

Most of us today have a digital footprint; text and emails sent and received, tweets, Instagram accounts, vines, cloud storage, etc. But when the unavoidable happens and we depart this world, what becomes of all that stuff? How can you see to it that your electronic presence is, like you, no more? Here’s one way; the Washington Post recently wrote about a new service being offered by Yahoo Japan called Yahoo Ending. Here’s an edited version of that article.

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Yahoo Japan is helping people get ready for the inevitable, offering “Yahoo Ending,” a service that, among other things, allows Japanese people to send e-mails to loved ones from beyond the grave. An animated video on Yahoo Japan’s Web site asks, “If today was the last day of your life, would you be ready for the journey?”

“Yahoo Japan’s job has been to solve social problems through the power of the Internet and to provide services from the cradle to the grave,” said Megumi Nakashima, a spokeswoman for the company. “We had services for the cradle part but not the grave part.”

The basic Ending service will deactivate users’ Yahoo accounts after their deaths. It also offers to delete documents, photos and videos from customers’ Yahoo Box online storage accounts and cancel subscription services linked to Yahoo Wallet.

The service is being portrayed as a way to address the kinds of problems encountered by families around the world who lack the passwords or legal authority necessary to close down the Facebook or other online accounts of relatives who have died.

The search-engine company will send an e-mail the user has prepared to as many as 200 addresses and open a “memorial space” bulletin board where people can leave online condolence messages. All this is being offered for $1.80 a month — which could work out to be a bargain or could become very expensive, depending on how long a Yahoo customer lives.

But how does Yahoo Japan know when a user is dead? When users register, they receive a booking number to share with someone they trust. When they die, that person calls a Yahoo Ending number and provides the booking number, and then the deceased’s funeral preferences are shared. The funeral home sends the cremation permit to Yahoo to trigger the sending of e-mails and the deletion of files.

The service might well find a market in Japan, with its rapidly aging society. About a quarter of the population is 65 or older. No word, though, on how many of them are tech-savvy.