Warning! This post may be highly inflammatory to your “cloudy” vision of computing.
My partner Mihaela Lica and I discussed the cloud earlier today, and she aptly pointed out; “There is a time and a place for everything and this is particularly true of computing in the cloud.” Cloud computing has come under fire lately for several important reasons. To be coldly clinical, for most applications the cloud is far less secure, slower, and it is not conducive of stability and viability, at least not yet. I know, I am an advocate too, but it just isn’t, like it or not.
Head in the Clouds Thinking
Over the last several weeks I have beta tested any number of startups which represent what we might call “refined walled garden” approaches to social interaction. Typically, and walled garden approach has met with great criticism from proponents of cloud computing. The dogma for many in the social networking, marketing and even technology spheres has been one of liberal damnation for anything not free, or akin to a desktop application. There are many reasons for this type rationale, but promoting Web business is by far the driving force behind cloud computing hype.
New Ideas Don’t Take Us Backward
FileRide is one of the betas I tested this week. It is a social community designed to operate from the desktop, making use of all the advantages of both the cloud and a user’s PC. Steve Jobs of Apple refers to such techniques as “a combined approach” is indicated for many apps. FileRide, rather than file sharing, suggests a much more secure, and honestly, logical approach we can call – “social file interaction”. Operating from the desktop, with inherent speed and security, FileRide has many other implications as well. It is important to place new desktop innovation within a current contextual picture of the overall Internet market.
Tip of the Trend Iceberg
- Coghead Dies – Coghead was designed for small business and now their users will have an Excel file or worse to replace an interface and an application. Imagine the time that went into creating these apps, the time it will take to extract, and the time lost. On a larger scale, such a collapse could be catastrophic. And now, other cloud solutions are clamoring to scarf up Coghead’s already bruised clientele – brilliant.
- Gmail strands 100 million – I cannot tell you how many “cloudy” comments I got when trying to suggest the implications of this recent outage. It was the “scope” of the outage, more than the “type” of service that was important here. Imagine 100 million businesses being down for 3 hours.
- Facebook, MySpace and sex offenders – A touchy subject for many, but for parents, perhaps the quintessential concern, their kid’s well being. All I can say on Facebook is “finally”. After the world, including me, hammered them for dragging their feet, they addressed the issue. For cloud advocates, the it boils down to this: “Is there something you hold dear that deserves the utmost privacy and security?”
- Adobe attacks – While possible primarily due to “socialization” of a flash file from an attacker, the point here is, localized platforms are less likely to contribute than the wider social strata of the cloud. The bottom line is, if Adobe is susceptible, social networks and other cloud elements are at least contributory.
As good a definition for cloud computing as there is (via InformationWeek) also outlines my opinion of wide spread use of online resources for many applications. As Oracle CEO Larry Ellison called the business end of it – idiocy, crap, gibberish and crazy. While this is excessive in many regards, it is true that any business that put proprietary information on someone else’s service had better have some rock solid assurances.
So What’s Your Problem?
You want the world to live in the clouds where misty eyed dreams of vast riches and unlimited potential abound. More precisely, you have some vested interest in promoting other people to do as you do, or am I wrong? Any investigation of popular dogma such as Web 2.0 or cloud computing can be enlightened by simply following the money.
Ask yourself this question if you ever wonder if you have been “hyped” into a philosophy; “Who will benefit the most from this happening?” As far as SaaS or cloud computing are concerned, Google will benefit first – they coined the term. Then a whole tier of other business entities tied into the tech world, and finally – maybe- the end user.
I mention FileRide in particular because I noticed certain resistance to this desktop solution coming from many in my own network. All of them smart people who, by some mystical means, have become convinced that to criticize anything about cloud computing is to threaten their very existence. These same people download the StumbleUpon tool bar, allow Facebook applications to run their lives, add Firefox plug-ins like eating cotton candy. In general, once people “think” they like something, they adopt it like any of it as they would a child. Why not our old desktop app then?
FileRide (or an application like it, maybe the Flock browser even) can essentially do anything and everything all the other social applications can, except faster and safer. So why has so much negativity been heaped on top of desktop applications?
Traffic numbers have been used to usurp billions from investors these last few years. Twitter and Facebook are the best examples of money being thrown at raw traffic, but the underlying problem for most people I know, is in their marketing and advertising strategy. Anyone who uses Twitter realizes that everyone on it is selling something. No big secret right?
The problem is in the chaos and “scattergun” approach to it. What is the value of looking at a chat room with scrolling links rolling by at the speed of light? Marketing needs a better vehicle than television or Twitter for any number of reasons, but mostly because the Web is not television, but it can be better! Behaviorally targeted advertising is second only to “word of mouth” (which is the ultimate contextual medium), and platforms similar to the FileRide one provide a multitude of advantages over purely cloud driven apps. The bottom line for any social network from a user of marketing perspective – minimizing the chaos.
Castle Walls and Camelot
Now, if you want an ethereal, warm and Fuzzy feeling about the future of computing, please allow me to paint a picture for you (note – you will not see this variant on TechCrunch). Imagine the cloud correctly inhabited with relevant information and ecommerce sites designed to do what they do best, educate and sell respectively. Now, imagine social interaction done from P2P via very powerful applications on people’s desktops. Now let’s take the example of FileRide to its next logical step, with FileRide (or Flock user in a refined variant) a user can do anything any cloud application can do, but more safely and when used in combination, as cheaply.
The list of things an application like FileRide can do is virtually limitless when used in conjunction with the real cloud – the one up there where I suggested selling and educating. The immense database we call the Internet, combined with its inherent communication ability, and operated from the desktop with super powerful applications – is Camelot.
Everyone gripes about the limitations of a walled garden. There are no limitations that matter if people can go outside, but be safe and resourceful from behind huge castle walls. Many businesses can thrive in the cloud, and more will be viable in the years to come, but selling remote storage and apps on a scale as techdom has done (for all the wrong reasons) borders on idiocy. There is a better way to market, a better way to communicate, d0and a better way of thinking. Taking bait “hook-line-and-sinker” is not better for anyone.