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The Death of Files


opaque resized 600Fred Wilson wrote a piece on his blog this week titled "There Will Be No Files In The Cloud."  It's based on his observations around music sharing and how he didn't need to download any actual files in the process of blogging about a song between various sites. 

Fred's really referring to the notion that many web services provide streaming, inline access to content so end-users no longer need files.  With Google Docs users pass links around to interact with documents rather than traditional email attachments.  Netflix streams movies; one doesn't really download files to watch a movie.  Spotify and Rhapsody stream music; again no files are exposed to the user to listen to a song.

I have been observing a similar case in a world that's almost completely devoid of files.  Mobile devices are lacking something most people are accustomed to on desktop and laptop operating systems:  a file system exposed to the end-user.   

The iPad and iPhone have no exposed file system that the user interacts with to save and open content.  Eveything happens within the context of an app that makes the notion of files opaque. You may be interacting with files, but it's more abstract than it was before. 

There's a similar trend happening with applications in the enterprise.  Applications are making files opaque by using object storage platforms on the back-end. Users are interacting with content in less file-oriented ways. 

One of the reasons this is happening is that the user interaction is much better when it's simpler.  And simple interaction is certainly required on small screen mobile applications.  As a user, I don't need to actually know (nor do I care) where images taken from my camera are physically stored locally.  I know they're on my phone --- I just need to know which app manages them. 

Lucky for us, these mobile and web applications that abstract the interaction with files still need infrastructure to actually store, replicate, and protect the content in the cloud regardless of how it's presented on the front-end.  And object storage using RESTful web services is likely the route that most of the applications will take in the future. 

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