Binary Elysium

Hey there! My name is Casey. I'm a software developer, nomad, language lover, and coffee fiend.

Life in the Cloud

23 March 2008

Internet technology is seeing an overall trend towards increased connectivity (always on), information sharing (openness), and most importantly, data existing in “the Cloud” (anywhere access). This is a fascinating prospect, because no one can tell what the results will be.

Exempli Gratia: The Amazon Kindle. At the core this device does something that many devices have done before, that is, it offers always on transparent connectivity, but it took this commonplace technology and applied it to an entirely different market.

Wait just a second – taking a technology to another market happens all the time, so why is this case special? Because the Kindle did not just take an existing technology. It took a technology and gave users access to the Cloud.

With the Kindle you have access to books, newspapers, blogs, Wikipedia, and the internet in general, all without connecting to a computer. You can buy books through the Kindle store and while they are sent to your device Amazon keeps a copy of everything you purchase (subscriptions, books, magazines) in the Cloud. Not only that but the Kindle automatically sends your notes, annotations, clippings, and bookmarks in the Cloud.

But this post isn’t supposed to be Kindle advertisement.

What the Kindle lacks is openness. Being wrapped in layers of DRM forces the Kindle into not sharing nicely with others. Openness will be crucial to life in the Cloud.

What is this Cloud thing anyway?

Many people are already accustomed to the idea of a global village facilitated through the internet. In fact, Herbert Marshall McLuhan used the term “global village” way back in his 1962 book The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man ((Courtesy of wikipedia The Gutenberg Galaxy)). He discusses how the traditional space-time communication barriers between humans topple with the invention of an electronic mass media. This creates a world where there are virtually no limits, and people can exchange ideas, share knowledge, and provide services on an global scale. Sound familiar? The internet has enabled all of these feats, however so far there is a very physical limit to our interactions within this global village.

Playing off the village metaphor, this physical limit could be analogized as personal houses in the cyber-village. At your metaphorical house is everything important to you. You have

  • a closet full of email
  • stacks of MP3s and movies
  • filing cabinets full of documents from your first 9th grade paper
  • your finances
  • your latest business model

Not to mention the room dedicated to your photo albums and the basement/workshop with toolboxes containing:

  • word processors
  • media players
  • text editors
  • photo editing tools

In real life, of course, this house is your computer. Rather, it is probably a couple of computers: at work, home, or in your pocket. The thought of losing your virtual house to any number of possible disasters (e.g., theft, crackers, disk corruption) is devastating. The dread is a consequence of the technology shift. An information technology shift from the analog to the digital, from physical to abstract. Technology is making another shift towards an age of truly ubiquitous information storage and retrieval.

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