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The Intangible Future and the Rise of the Internet File System
Guest Contributor Daniel Arthursson
AUG 21, 2015 20:05 PM
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The Intangible Future and the Rise of the Internet File System
by Daniel Arthursson
Technology – cloud technology in particular – is slowly replacing the tangible items in our daily life and transforming how we conduct business.
Just a few years ago, we still printed out our photos, bought music on CDs, and movies on DVDs. Books, magazines, and newspapers were all printed on paper. Most people had external hard drives for backup and transferring files. We owned our media and entertainment and had full control over our real and digital lives. Does anyone remember holding up a map while driving, looking up a number in a phonebook, or using an encyclopedia? It feels awfully far away and almost unimaginable.
In more and more businesses today, physical objects are no longer at the center of innovation and differentiation. Google is the world’s largest “encyclopedia” but has created none of the content it makes available. Spotify and Apple don’t run recording studios but are the world’s largest music providers.
Computer programs and files have moved from physical discs or drives to the cloud. Our information is scattered across the Internet, existing on platforms and servers run by both multinational corporations and small startups (who are only in the game because they don’t need to maintain expensive, physical infrastructure).
We are so focused on our experience in the present that we totally forget the bigger picture and the long-term sustainability of our new consumption patterns. What happens if the startup goes away or if the multinational corporation has a change of strategy and closes the service you use? What happens if you die? Is your data stored in a format usable and accessible by other services? Can you download all your content? What happens with your playlists and music that you collected for the last five years if Spotify goes away? My generation can always go back to CDs from our youth to experience past memories. What will happen with today’s digital kids that never owned their music or movies?
Moving to an Internet File System – versus using local hard drives or having data stored across multiple Software as a Service (SaaS) providers – may provide the answer to the questions above and benefit everyone. This is a way for users to share files across corporate intranets and the Internet. Having synced, shared folders available in the cloud allows for unlimited access from a home computer or even from mobile devices anywhere in the world with Internet access.
With this technology, professional system administrators would have the ability to safeguard your data, and make sure it is backed up on demand, and transcoded for future types of devices and operating systems. It would move data from a local island on your devices and Internet services into a central place controlled by the user. It could even transfer control of select portions of the data to next of kin if the worst happens. Data would always be accessible wherever you are and would decouple the data from all physical hardware, devices, and services. An Internet File System could also allow you to have a digital archive of music, books, and movies consumed throughout your life.
This reality requires, however, new types of hardware and a currently unseen openness of Internet services, including streaming services, to allow you to use a third-party storage in the cloud like an Internet File System. With today’s widespread Internet connectivity, and certainly the connectivity of tomorrow, there is no need for each individual or business to take care of its storage. Storage will become a consumable commodity just like electricity.
Many of today’s cloud storage services are not designed to be an Internet File System, but rather a syncing vehicle between your device’s local storage. Everything in the cloud is simply mirrored to each device, without any capability to store data in the cloud only — or power your computer from the cloud.
One single provider of the Internet File System, of course, would be too powerful and risk our privacy. We can only hope that several services will emerge, giving people and businesses a choice of brand, location, and jurisdiction for their digital life. Nevertheless, it is inevitable that the Internet File System can come as a replacement for what is now a scattered world for digital media.
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