There Will Be No Files In The Cloud

I've spent a bunch of time talking to entrepreneurs who are building companies in and around the cloud storage space. It's not a space I like very much because I don't think we'll be using files in the cloud. Now Dropbox is a brilliant company and an amazing service and they are doing very well, but will we need a service like Dropbox when everything is in the cloud? I don't think so.

I was in DJ Woooo's Dance/Electro Turntable room last week. I heard a remix track that was super fun. I hit the button to send the track to Rdio. I went to Rdio and listened to it a few times. Then I went to SoundCloud, found the track and then reblogged it into Tumblr. Not once in that experience did I have to touch a file. If Turntable and Rdio had good links into SoundCloud (I'm sure they will in time), I would not even have had to do any searching. It would have been click this, click that, click this and I would have been done. That's how I think things are going to work when everything is in the cloud.

This is why I love Google Docs so much. I just create a document and email a link. Nobody downloads anything. There are no attachments in the email. Just a link. Just like the web, following links, getting shit done. I love it.

That's the future. I'm pretty sure of it. Mobile is a bit of a complicating factor because we are still stuck with downloadable software and unreliable and slow internet connections. But I think we'll fix all of that in good time.

So if you are working in the cloud storage space, I think you've got a bit of a conundrum. The reality of the market today is that people use files. You need to support that use case, enhance it, and make people's lives easier. But over time, that use case will go away. And what people will want is a service that doesn't have files as the atomic unit. And how do you elegantly morph from a file centric model to a document centric model? It won't be easy, I'm sure of that.


Comments (Archived):

  1. scottythebody

    This is totally right on. I’m working now to drive my org toward “next gen” concepts around documents, and one of the biggest things I’m trying to achieve is get out of the mindset of files. It’s simply information, and the promise of the web — whether you’re using a web interface (HTML) or an app (iPhone/Android) is that it shouldn’t matter what tool you use.The Microsoft monopoly perpetuated the awful file-based metaphors for too long — even to the point of using “compatibility” with your own information as a club to sell more Office suites. IT departments let this fly by standardizing on tools rather than information structures.

    1. fredwilson

      i am trying so hard to rid my life of downloadable software and filesi’m getting there and it is a wonderful place to be

      1. rpaulsingh

        These conversations make a wrong assumption that unlimited free bandwidth will always be here. We have let duopolies on the carrier side prevail and when we start paying for bandwidth usage, this nirvana of everything in the cloud will seem far fetched.

        1. Alex Murphy

          Why do you think that we will pay “more” for bandwidth than we do today?

        2. Guest

          I don;t think anyone is making that assumption. Nowhere is it posited that cloud computing is predicated in free, unlimited bandwidth.You pay for your internet access, and then have all your info, dodument, content and services in the cloud. They are not mutually exclusive.

      2. Alex Murphy

        What is the most “intense” application you do “in” the cloud?

      3. leigh

        do ipad apps count?

      4. Andrew Niesen

        +1 Fred.I think mobile devices (in contrast to what you say in your post) are actually accelerating the obselesence of the “file” as we know it. When you think about it, you don’t really have a “file system” (in the 

        1. Andrew Niesen

          …traditional UI sense) on an iPhone. Instead, you have a list of documents – regardless of content type – that you can access, email, etc. As services like iCloud begin syncing that content, the “file” within the UI will become far less important, but links to the content in the cloud will become far more common.The biggest challenge will be the paradigm shift required in the workplace. I was the CEO of a cloud-based computing company, and we were acquired by a more traditional manufacturing company last year. During the acquisition, attempted to collaborate on all of the legal and financial documents using Google Docs. That went over like a lead balloon. I still get emails with Word doc attachments that contain text – that could just be in the body of the email. Craziness!(Sorry about the premature post submission here!)

  2. Dave W Baldwin

    Agreed.  To me, the ‘cloud’ concept has really been more of a useful marketing tool (possibly) related to the consumer having everything around them when you show the phone/tab/television.Otherwise, the importance of connection rises to the top once again.

  3. Milan Mody

    Good post Fred , one of the reasons I follow You is that You are so honest in spite of some of your companies directly competing with Google, You praise them where there are good.My company is gone totally Google ,the only problem is that our business associates are still with MS office , since in India You dont need any licenses , just buy the pirated cd for 2 dollars and You are good to go 😛

    1. Dennis Buizert

      sOX will love you for that lol.

  4. William Mougayar

    But behind that Google Doc, there is a hidden “file” somewhere. You were insulated from working with it at the atomic level. Rather, you’re manipulating the documents. So, someone still has to do files in the background, but not the user, right? But the concept of moving content around without downloading, opening attachments or uploading is a liberating one. I recently sent a media briefing doc as a DropBox link whereas I would have attached a 1.2 MB file otherwise. It felt good to know that the recipient won’t be damning me for sending a big attachment. 

    1. Fernando Gutierrez

      I use that feature in Dropbox all the time. I guess I could also upload the file to google docs and then send a link, but then you have the file in two places and I hate that.

    2. Alex Murphy

      The future is the D drive and dropbox will will win.  It just works and it is not limited to a single platform, it already works everywhere.

      1. William Mougayar

        In addition to DropBox, I also use SugarSync which I like.

  5. saranyan

    Well, we can think of it as “what is the next step in making the perceived size and management of anything simpler.” Books became ebooks; may well reduce to links. Music files, like you say, have vanished from being a file to a link. Documents are a link. In the case of Mobile, the future maybe remote installs where you don’t have to download stuff. Maybe, you can load different preconfigured VMs with a click and the installs go away. That might be one way of migrating towards a document centric model for mobile platforms.

  6. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    I donno what is the real meaning of the post.We do all the time in our office for the last 4-5 years … put the document,ppt,xl on the server or even in our own puter and send only the LAN link. How is this different from that? instead of file being in our local puter it is going to sit somewhere in a cooled-chilled-server may be across the  globe and the link gets around. But ultimately if someone has to see the doc/page/ppt/xl/  he/she has to download right?Forgive my ignorance … Am i missing something here? (totally is it?).

    1. fredwilson

      you are still using applications and opening files

      1. Charlie Crystle

        well wait. So am I, using Google Docs. I think we might need to work on the semantics here. Being able to pass files by reference doesn’t get rid of a dependency on an application to render them. Ultimately, though, there will be a massive proliferation of MongoDB/CouchDB databases, where every object has a url, and each object could reference other objects, indices, media, etc, and ‘files’ of all kinds will be assembled on the fly based on context and conditionals. For now, though, I need more coffee.

  7. Michael Lewkowitz

    It gets easier to morph if you’re organized around purpose as opposed to artifacts. That’s my bet.

  8. csertoglu

    @fredwilson i can imagine specialized use cases for dropbox type containers, such as data rooms, etc., but i generally agree.

  9. Ben Popper

    I recently reformatted my hard drive and did a clean install of Windows to try and extend the useful life of my old laptop and delay the purchase of a new one. I had set aside some time to put all my old files – pictures, videos, music and text docs – onto the laptop. All of this stuff was backed up both online and on an external hard drive. But after booting up Chrome, syncing with my bookmarks and web apps, going into my Google docs and flipping on a playlist via Spotify, I realized that I didn’t need any files on my laptop anymore. It was very liberating. 

    1. fredwilson

      i know the feeling. it is great

    2. Boogie

      I suggest you STILL keep an up to date personal copy on an external hard drive. You never know when Google has an error which deletes all your data – it has happened( with Gmail) and it will happen again. This is why I believe files will be around for a long while. It’s still all your eggs in one basket, even if a giant, distributed, Google basket.

      1. Aaron Klein

        That’s what Backupify is for… (not my company, just a satisfied user)

    3. Merlin U Ward

      Chrome OS is certainly the future of the PC experience. With the power and potential of G+, your phone, pc and browser experience will have an AMAZING social layer as well! 

  10. ErikSchwartz

    We’re turning a network architecture issue into a consumer branding issue.If google started caching all your google docs documents on your local machine it would not change the user experience one iota, you’d never know.If boxee got really smart AI and started pre-caching content it thought you would like locally it would not change the user experience (except you’d be pleased because it never glitches while caching). What do you think a streaming buffer is other than a partial local copy meant to cover network anomalies?I don’t think the end user cares one bit if the music they’re listening to is on a local disk, a CDN’s disk, iTunes disk. The “file free” world you speak of has much less to do with cloud storage and much more to do with common naming and fingerprinting schemes. The copy of the song you heard on turntable was different than the copy you heard on Rdio, was different than the copy you found on soundcloud. Common naming was what tied them together not cloud storage. If you had a copy of the same song on your hard drive using the same common naming then that copy could be a seamlessly integrated as the others.

    1. fredwilson

      i agree with you but how the consumer sees all of this is critical

      1. ErikSchwartz

        Which consumer?People you and I know see it as critical.I’m not sure we’re typical.

        1. awaldstein

          Erik, you are right that the broad based consumer doesn’t care about the cloud, caching or network architecture.But the fact that potentially you will never loose a file, never have to recreate your contacts when your phone drops in the bathtub, that you can with your friends, build a Canvas like collage together from any computer or phone….matters big time.I agree, marketing the infrastructure, the ‘cloud’ is nuts.The consumer cares about what they can do. The freedom and empowerment. Marketing the lifestyle changes that this empowers is I think huge if conceived and done correctly.

          1. JLM

            Brilliant point.Damn few people really understand how their MB or BMW engine works, they are all into the performance, comfort and styling.The cloud and how it deals with info is irrelevant to the product in the eyes of the consumer.

          2. awaldstein

            Thanks.When we think about building a product or a campaign, we use social design to find a platform that will enable the behavior of the consumer to find expression and make the experience and the product better.The cloud I think will become a powerful toolbox for design as well. It’s a monster of capabilities and in the hands of the most marketing adept, will change the game on ease of use, security and collective creativity.

          3. Aaron Klein

            Totally agree and I think this is true even today. For the average consumer, seeing the word “cloud” in marketing generally means “it automagically happens over the internet.”

          4. JLM

            @aaronklein:disqus  No doubt that the “cloud” is a bit spooky and perhaps rightly so.  I love the reaction I get from my accounting folks when I threaten to put everything “in the cloud” and they launch into the security mantra, etc.It is coming and it will work and it will trim costs and enhance convenience.I can’t wait until it is embraced completely by guys who have to secure info.Gratuitous picture of my car.  Cause I love it.  Vanity, don’t you know?

          5. ShanaC

            @aaronklein:disqus  Maybe we need a better, broader definition of the internet then?

          6. ErikSchwartz

            I totally agree, the consumer wants features and they don’t care what architecture it takes to implement them. Frankly that’s why I think statements like “it’s all going to be streaming” are short sighted. The consumer does not care if it’s streamed or not. They care that when they press the button the media starts right away and doesn’t have hiccups. Sometimes that will be streamed from the source. Sometimes it will be cached at the ISP, sometimes it will be cached on a server in the home, and sometimes it will be cached on the device itself.There’s a HUGE opportunity in making those distinctions transparent to the end user because they simply do not care, and optimizing the network resources is something people who operate networks will pay big money for. Especially because media consumption is so peaky.

          7. PhilipSugar

            On this we completely agree.Right now the consumer doesn’t care if their content is cached at Level3 or Akami or others.I have always said that is going to go down to the device because you have two issues peak bandwidth consumption and overall available bandwidth.

          8. awaldstein

            I’m getting an education here and I appreciate it. Thanks.The thing that intrigues me about the cloud potentially is that while you won’t market the infrastructure as a feature, it will provide a resource to deliver a better (less ‘peaky’) overall experience (as per you above) and…and this is where the marketer in me gets juiced…new experiences potentially that can be drawn from the flexibility of the cloud and built into cool and useful and fun stuff that is additive to both reliability and what we have today.

          9. ShanaC

            Ok – that ISP caching comment is interesting – because it shows where the money can come from.  No ISP is going to just cache willy-nilly – so will ISPs become branded and more like personalized versions of cable?

          10. Clyde F. Smith

            I think the only marketing that works with the term “cloud” is marketing that emphasizes what it will enable people to do.  And that will only work if they think of those things when they hear the word cloud.On a related note, recently I saw a new social network advertising itself as the place where one could meet all of one’s social networking needs.But nobody needs to social network.  They need to connect with friends, family, business contacts.  They need information and entertainment.  etc.

      2. Art Holland

        Consumers are pretty much there, they get that everything and anything is a link away. Mobile apps are really a momentary diversion until html5 catches up. iCloud, which was designed as a pure lockin strategy, has people managing what they want/need to sync onto which device instead of managing files (though you stil get to manage apps). The browser prevails.

      3. Jen Brinewait

        Consumer sentiment is essential.And with more hacking, virus action, etc. people/biz will not keep sensitive files/data in the cloud.You ask any company, artist, private person if they have been attacked in the last few years… and most will say yes.

    2. leigh

      Having had a startup similar to dropbox – a big mistake we made is the distinction between cloud and desktop.  People don’t get that.  In fact, many people don’t even make a distinction between desktop, browser, operating system or google!  People just want what they want when they want it.  Ubiquitous access and convenience.  Focusing on that, as conceptual as it sounds, is where the future is.  



      2. awaldstein

        Well said. I always add ‘how they want it’ to that statement “People just want what they want when they want it…how they want it.”

    3. ShanaC

      One question I have because of Chrome – what if the machine itself didn’t matter – because you logged in anywhere to anything – then what should this cacheing experience look like?



  11. RichardF

    Love the idea….although you might have had trouble trying to do that yesterday when EC2 US-East-1 went down 🙂

  12. Sebastian Wain

    But from the information security point of view we are not there yet. Your files can’t be really encrypted on Google Docs or in other common service. This is feasible if the encryption/decryption is done on the client side (i.e: javascript) but you’ll loose some sharing properties if you want the different parties to communicate. May be a future p2p in html5 is part of the solution.There are some companies working on client side security on the browser and I think there are opportunities in this area.

    1. fredwilson

      sounds like it. i’m not a security investor. but if i were, i’d be all over this

    2. Dennis Buizert

      Finally someone with sense. People tend to think only about the simple things, but totally forget security becomes a major issue when using the cloud. And also the decryption could a major issue if the encryption is weak. So we need higher broadband for it to work. Especially on mobile phones I assume.I am just a junior information security guy, but basic knowledge and love to know more about this. Do you happen to have a book or website on this certain subject? 

      1. Sebastian Wain

        Thanks Dennis, there are a lot of people with sense but many web trends move faster and security adds friction to startups.The “classical” book on cryptography is Applied Cryptography by Bruce Schneier and a Handbook of Applied Cryptography is available for free but it’s not for an amateur audience. It’s always good to check the Cryptography FAQ

        1. Dennis Buizert

          I think I have read a good part of it in the past. Maybe I should pick it up again. 

        2. Malibuss66

          It’s more serious then that.  If they have your files they control your business.  If they didn’t want you to be in business they could just increase their rate, or start raising the latency time.  Remember you don’t own the files at this point, they do.  It is their decision what is done with them.

          1. Sebastian Wain

            Yes, that’s truth and is always part of a serious discussion around the cloud. I think every business must have backups of their information.

          2. Malibuss66

            So then we are back to files ans infrastructure and most of the benefits brought by the cloud are defeated.

  13. feddkraft

    Well, some pieces of software like some media players previously tried to save me from the concept of files, showing me some dictionaries, genre- and artist ordered lists etc, and I couldn’t quite understand how to make it work as I want. Call me a geek, but when I have a file or a stream, I should have ability to decide myself which software or service I should open/consume it with.It might be nice for the service businesses, to introduce the higher level of abstraction, closer to business and farther from technology, but it should be done very carefully and cleanly so that the user wouldn’t regret that he lost control over his information to gain comfort. Like in iPhone.

  14. DonRyan

    I think you may be out on the bleeding edge here. Outside of the tech community, files make people very comfortable. They are not comfortable with their stuff (for lack of a better word) being out on some ethereal plane. Maybe in the future but not the near future. 

    1. awaldstein

      I’m not certain…There is a security and an access issue but I think they can be addressed.How many people do the following:-back up anything on their laptops or phones?-curse when they loose everything and have to recreate it yet again?-ever downloaded their Facebook or Flickr photo files?I think the opportunity for a huge shift is in front of us. We’ve already made a big jump towards it by assuming that we can build services and apps that are premised on the fact that we are always connected even though we’re not yet.

      1. Mike

        Since I spent 10 minutes explaining to a family member the other day that it’s impossible her “facebook had a virus”, and another 30 minutes assuring my inlaws that paypal is secure enough to handle credit card transactions, I’m inclined to agree with DonRyan.Keep in mind that the largest global email provider is hotmail!

        1. awaldstein

          True..not arguing here.You just make a choice when building and positioning a product who you build it for and how you market it.In most cases, I’d choose the opposite point of view. For two reasons: 1) I firmly believe that once you understand the key value and benefit, if it touches a true core behavior, dramatic change can happen if marketed correctly and 2) every minute in a globally defined market, the numbers are tilting towards the largest part of the population neither caring nor knowing about these legacy concerns.The market tells us whether we are right quick enough of course.I’d just prefer to invest in what I believe to be tomorrow’s need rather than today’s reality. Seems like a safer bet to me.

          1. Dave W Baldwin

            Have to back Arnold on this one.Insofar as the security/ownership rules related to the cloud of today (monolith) there is a way to do it that would be fun to market.

  15. Dennis Buizert

    Storing in the cloud brings several issues. 1) What happens if you have no connection?2) What happens when your service stops?3) Where is the data stored, how is it stored, who has access, what laws apply?These just a few to think off when going completely into the air. 

    1. Malibuss66

      4) What security auditing process is in place5) When they have all your files, do they not controll your business at that point?  What stops them from deciding to charge more for different files?  What stops them from doubling their rate year over year?  What stops them from charging your competitor half of what they charge you?  Remember, you don’t have the files so they are locked in.



        1. LE

          Many people that support some of these things are “wet behind the ears” or haven’t been around the block basically.  Same people that think that banks will continue to charge nothing for electronic bill payment (they will mail a check and absorb the postage and all the costs for free) forever.  (That being said I think the bill payment is great and will have no problem paying for the service when they start charging.)Some of these xaas companies out there are great. Unfortunately the ability to move your operations off those platforms is extremely difficult if not impossible once you’ve built everything around them. Even pulling colocated servers to a new data center is a pain.

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


        2. andyidsinga

          devices will become part of the cloud and will be always on and always connected. the client aint dead and it will look more and more like a part of the web …as it should 🙂

    2. Fernando Gutierrez

      The issue of where data is stored and which law applies is huge. In countries where legislation is restrictive regarding consumer data transfers (most Europe) many companies don’t adopt cloud services for fear of breaking the law.

      1. Dennis Buizert

        I think there is also a lot of legislation that don’t allow using cloud services as they are out of date. I think sOX is one of them. Not 100% sure, but I do know for a fact that laws are always behind by 5-10 years. And when they do adopt it, its done at a daughter company or a at long trusted partner. Like T-Mobile does with T-Systems in example. 

        1. Fernando Gutierrez

          I agree, laws are always a number of years behind and most times nothing bad will happen if you use new technologies with common sense and care, but the risk of that not being true is what businesses can’t afford. You can’t trust a judge –who himself doesn’t understand a lot about the issue– to decide if you’ve been breaking the law for the last five years.

      2. ShanaC

        Actually, there is a bigger issue – do you trust outside providers with your data, period?  Beyond the law aspect – do you trust your data provider to not move against you (they have your data) – and what of their relationships with people in similar businesses as you?

        1. Fernando Gutierrez

          I fully trust no one and no solution is perfect. But I trust my outside providers more than myself to keep data secure.Not all providers are equally reliable. My lineup is Google, Dropbox and Evernote. They’ve saved me more than once. I wrote about it a couple years ago when my laptop charged died while traveling and could work from another laptop within minutes the other hand, I’ve also had bad experieces. Recently I lost some info I had on when users outside the US were locked out. But this is a beta service and I would never expect same reliability than from stablished services I pay for. I also wrote about it must admit, however, that if I were someone like Fred, managing sensible information about competitors of my providers, I could get a bit paranoid from time to time 🙂

          1. ShanaC

            Right, and his lack of paranoia sort of surprises me. Then again, I have a theory that one datapoint isn’t helpful, only a deluge is.

    3. JLM

      I am with you, Brother, and I feel your discomfort and pain.This year I made a decision that my IT folks had to provide everyone — particularly including me — with uncompromised computer (VPN), tablet, smartphone access to our servers including all computer files, e-mail, etc from anywhere on the planet but in particular Austin, NYC, SF, my lake house, Steamboat Springs, Wrightsville Beach, Toms River, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Alabama — under pain of death.I had to spend a bit on servers, laptops, phones and therapy.It now works perfectly.I am now doing the same on video conferencing, jury is still sequestered.In the future, this will all be done in the cloud.

      1. markslater

        ouch. cloud JLM cloud.

        1. JLM

          SEC will not allow just yet but soon.  I agree more with you than you do with yourself.

      2. ShanaC

        JLM – shoot me an email shana dot carp at gmail – My dad specializes in video conferencing and the networking behind it.

  16. JLM

    Files are an extension of a comfort zone that comes from how business is conducted IN an office with physical information being “handled”.What you are describing is simply a relational data base in which the “file” is the relationship among documents based upon their content — the same logic for deciding what file to put something into in the first place.”All the real estate leases go in this file.”  and, “All the property files include the leases.”Organizing themes which may require duplication of the same document because of the “file logic”.Like a lot of things, the wisdom is in understanding how the damn thing works.The file is in reality the “sort” — the common link among the docs.You could find the same info by inquiring for or sorting for “leases” and “property info” or some other parameter.  In some ways, keywords substitute for the sort logic even today when indexing documents on one’s computer.Everything is moving forward at an increasing rate of change but the logic itself is pretty damn simple.

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      Yes, and since in some ways you were describing the biological brain via different terms, it is a matter of keeping it simple.Very good!

  17. Jonathan Berkowitz

    I think there will be a significant period of time where we deal with multiple heuristics for our content and applications . Files will exist, locally and remotely.  “Streams” will exist and emotionally not ever feel like files (hulu).  Technologies like AirPlay help bridge the gap.  The “cloud” is also a gap-bridger to me – sometimes through apps like Dropbox or GoogleDocs and sometimes through robust CDNs.I also think it’s important to include the CableCo’s / Satellite providers (and the media companies that provide them content) in the discussion. Its still a major consumer interface to the digital world and the convergence of the “computer” and the “TV” is still very early in its evolution.  It’s natural for us to look at things like AppleTV, Boxee, etc. as part of life, but I think there’s still a ton of disruption we’ll see. I’m guessing, for quite some period of time, there’s a place and need for flexible digital lifestyle that allows consumer’s and businesses to self-select into their preferred operating models.

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      Well put.  I think it is hard for most to truly put their head around the television aspect.  When you have a family with the PC in one room, the phones/tablets all over and the WebTV in the main room, most activity will move toward that.The majority of files will involve streams and those streams will be temporary.  As @JLM:disqus refers to with KISS, the current DVR stores what you’ve recorded and you throw it away when done.  The real issue is interface involved to store medium term something brought up and/or send to the bigger storage in the PC (who’s storage will keep getting bigger).Otherwise, a lot of music is retrievable from numerous sources and those that heard something on their mobile just need to be able to send it to one side or the other to store for now, or forever.

  18. Charlie Crystle

    It’s all just data. It doesn’t matter where it resides, unless you 1) don’t have access to it or 2) have access to it but can’t handle it. Remember Bill Gates? 1995, Comdex. forward to 6:03…

    1. Malibuss66

      When someone removes your access to it or raises their rate for you to access it, it won’t be ‘all just data’ any more.

      1. Charlie Crystle

        which is another topic

  19. Nedim Tokman

     If we can integrate the tools required to create the documents into platforms like Dropbox, users would not have to use other sources to create and upload the files. I would love to see my Dropbox account be compatible with my iTunes account. =)

    1. Malibuss66

      This is exactly the post I made in my comment.  The nice thing about a file is any app can read it.  It is yours to use any application on.  Now we are allowing companies to make the decision for us what we can do with any given file, and it makes me very uncomfortable.

    2. Fernando Gutierrez

      It is. You can sync an iTunes library across several computers with Dropbox. It requires some work, but it can be done:

  20. Carl J. Mistlebauer

    Old technology guy here….In business, I hate files…everyone works on stuff and then it takes them forever to find anything again after they complete it and save it.  I am sure there are solutions to this problem out there but the reality is lots of people think they have job security if they are needed to find documents that only they can find.The issue of security is a BIG issue.  I ran into that brick wall when I attempted to recommend going with off site servers for our operating software.  The off site location was 1000% more secure and stable than our own server could ever hope to be and yet the idea of not having our data under our roof was just unheard of.  Just something about “possession” that comforts people….

    1. Malibuss66

      What happens when ‘off site company X’ decides to double their monthly rate?  Would your company have any choice at that point but to pay them?They don’t even have to charge everyone the same.  If there is a competing company that they like better then yours, they could crank up the cost on you to the point that it would be unprofitable to do business and there probably wouldn’t be a thing you could do about it.People really need to see the forest for the trees here.

      1. Carl J. Mistlebauer

        In our case the company hosting the server was the company that wrote the software…and we were having to switch to an IBM AS400; we would have still done full system and software back ups locally.  The reality is with IBM if you do not have a certified IBM specialist they will not support your hardware or software, so by going on our own we also had to send one IT person to IBM to get them certified ($17,000!!!!).

    2. JLM

      The problem is US.  I feel our pain.Old school was a good school.

  21. David Miller

    My previous company, AvidXchange, is in the business of managing how companies receive invoices from their vendors – think of it as online bill-pay for business – and a huge part of the business is getting vendors to send electronic files to the customer instead of paper invoices.  AvidXchange has gotten really good at it and most companies now get mostly electronic bills, some as high as 80%.  However, no one gets 0% of their bills electronically and no one probably ever will.There will always be some percentage of bills that come in through the mail, and I think there will always be some instances when we’ll have to touch a file.  I have no doubt it’ll be a declining percentage of files over time; it just won’t go to zero.So I expect services like Dropbox to be around and to thrive for a long time.  Ultimately, they may have to reinvent themselves as storage volumes decrease with a lower need to store files.

  22. kirklove

    Pimpin’ the portfolio companies. Biggie would be proud.The cloud is awesome. Google docs is killer. I still prefer some dedicated apps (like Sparrow for mail) but that’s because I’m a graphics whore. The web will catch up there, too.

  23. Dan Epstein

    Fred, do you still use Excel at all? Think I read about Fredsheets on Gotham Gal the other day.  Would love to see some of your favorite spreadsheets/Fredsheets if you’ve moved them to Google Docs and are up for sharing.

  24. Malibuss66

    There seems to be a very distinct and serious ‘gotcha’ to this kind of workflow.  The author uses a button (provided by turntable room?) to send the track to Rdio.  What if you didn’t want to use Rdio?  What if you wanted to use a competing service to Rdio? I fear we are entering a world where our workflow is governed entirely by business relationships.  I do not see how this could be considered functional at all.  Say goodbye to open formats such as .wav and .mp3.  If you have the track in a .wav file there would be literrally thousands of choices of app you could use on it.  In the case of this story there is just one.

  25. Jon Smirl

    Programmers have wrestled with the document vs file centric model for decades. Remember Microsoft OLE (object linking and embedding) from the late 1980’s?  It has been possible to make the transition to document centric now for about fifteen years. What has been stopping it is the sale of applications as discrete entities that get installed on to your local PC. Large software vendors have been very slow to abandon that model and have mercilessly exploited network effects to keep you paying for a 1980’s deployment model.To achieve the transition the cloud based document processing software has to be free. That is the only way to overcome the problem with network effects. You have to be able to send a link to the document to anyone and have that person be able to access the document. Everything collapses if the receiver gets a pop up saying pay $20 to see this document. Most entities in the software business have refused to make these applications available for free until very recently.On another point, caching vs cloud access. Linux is already effectively on the caching model. Every time I turn on my PC all of the applications/OS check for update and then ask to proceed. The doesn’t happen on Windows since release points are things you have to pay for. It is the revenue model that is causing WinNT, Win2000, WinXP, Win7, etc. not a technical reason.HTML5 fixes all of this. It allows for cached applications that automatically update when they are connected.  The concepts behind HTML5 have been known for decades. They are the reason Microsoft killed Netscape in order to preserve their OS and Office monopoly.

  26. Art Holland

    Apps and files are clearly well on their way to being replaced by cloud services. But lurking in the background is the fact that cloud service providers present risks to service consumers in the form of services that go down, get terminated or just change their T’s & C’s enough on a whim to become unusable. I want a service that back’s up my cloud services and converts them into standard data formats that I can download as files and use as close to forever as we can get in this business. I also would like to have that information be available in the cloud for my own reference purposes. Mildly shameful plug – I have that service:

  27. Djgarbis

    “And how do you elegantly morph from a file centric model to a document centric model? It won’t be easy, I’m sure of that.”What’s the difference ‘tween “files” and “documents”?

  28. daryn

    Files, documents, desktops – they’re all just metaphors. I grok your point – interfaces are the future, but ultimately there is some representation of data that will exist and be stored at a lower level, even if it isn’t directly referenced by consumers.I think standard file “formats” will still be a useful intermediatary when there isn’t a direct integration between services, as well as for archival purposes.

  29. Hrishi Mittal

    Netflix also had to start with DVDs. Files are the DVDs of Dropbox.

  30. Gregg Freishtat

    Agreed 100%.  I remember when Oracle launched the “NC” about a decade ago with the tag line “the network is the computer”.  That reality is almost here and indeed, the notion of “local storage” will not be something that exists in 5 years….  I use drop box to back up my music and photo’s now but can see a time when it just won’t have any utility.  (soon).Gregg FreishtatVertical Acuity

  31. sbmiller5

    I agree, but it’s definitely going to be a while.  As a heavy Excel user, Google Docs is really far behind my needs.

    1. David Clarke

      It does, however, have a spell checker, which might serve to quell your heaving!

      1. sbmiller5

        actually spell check wouldn’t catch that as heaving is a word, but thanks for the heads up

  32. EmilSt

    Click this, click that, click this… and we are actualy forming a path/pattern very similar to the binary one but instead of bits there are links. All our digital presence is resault of all our past clicks/links.It’s like programing, creating unique nets in the cloud. One day it could be mirror to our brain neuron nets. According to Singularity University (Google, Cisco are some of the corporate founders) one day those nets could imitate us or even make more, as written in Time magazine article “2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal”. (Sorry, I can’t paste link here)The cloud is killing waste in files, memory. Increases efficiency and speed. It’s doing for the Internet, what Airbnb could do for spaces, Zipcar or Getaround for cars…I think our culture is shifting from ownership to access. I prefer to have access to hundreds of songs, movies, spaces, cars (where I need them and when I need them), rather then owning tens of them and lose time managing them. Time is our most valuable ownership.

    1. JLM

      Your comment that “…our culture is shifting from ownership to access…” is a brilliant insight.This is happening in many ways.A perfect example of that is the very high end vacation property in which what one might have described as “time share” or “interval ownership” is now becoming a means to own a right to use multimillion dollar properties at a fraction of the cost to acquire.I am talking about $4MM ski places, villas in Tuscany and beach places on every exotic stretch of sand, sun and surf in the world.  Quite amazing.In addition, there is an arbitrage market above that in which the “vacancy” which expires worthless when not used is priced at a ‘space available otherwise unused recover cost pricing point’ which means that you have a considerable bargain element.I bought several of these — not inexpensive mind you priced at $xxx,xxx type dollars — and it is the greatest thing in the world.  Most important feature?   Your wife does not have to pick out furnishings, you don’t have to redecorate and you don’t have to keep any records.  It is heaven.Real estate access, si.  Real estate ownership, nyet.

      1. EmilSt

        Thanks.I litle bit different point of view from my friend who said:Just because I can eat in restaurants (cloud), doesn’t mean that I don’t need kitchen (hard drive) in my home.

    2. Dave W Baldwin

      Very well put!Hope that some readers today can start to seperate private from shared.  Everyone has done the HS Reunion thing and you talk about events from ‘your day’ in school.Nobody owns that memory.In the meantime, the bigger customer base (people) will put in storage devices that provide back up… some get the shit scared out of them on talk radio (your computer is going to ruin your life) purchasing whichever service… but in the end, most are going to just be excited as they realize they can buy off xxxbids and sell on xbay.

    3. Vitomir Jevremovic

      culture is also shifting toward complete absence of privacy. Maybe mankind would make that next step when we let go of all our needs for privacy and let all that information flow into the air or a “cloud”. that transormation could potentialy alter our perception of the universe itself.

      1. EmilSt

        I think we are moving towards complete transparency, which is not absence of privacy. Not only that I do not have any problem with that, I love that.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          “complete transparency… is not absence of privacy”What a profound and brilliant statement!

  33. Mike

    “But over time, that use case will go away.”If you had to guess, how far off are we from this?

  34. Darren Mason

    Great post Fred! I love the freedom Google Docs and Spotify bring in liberating me from files and apps in the traditional sense. One incredible leap in this area will be when people can have multiple identities (and related “files”) they store in the cloud. It drives me crazy to have a work laptop and a “home” laptop. Once everything is in the cloud, how great would it be to login/logout of different identities which retain your personalized experience and information!?!

  35. Adrian Palacios

    “Following links, getting shit done.”Can someone make this into a t-shirt? I love that line!

  36. Alex Murphy

    This is interesting, not sure I understand why you see such a gap.I use a macbook air, droid phone, and am a Google Fan boy!  Dropbox gives me access to files when I am online or offline.  I have 30GB in DB and have access to all of the files on my Droid, because the files are immediately available via download.  To me, cloud storage is not about “files” but about reliability and access.  I can get to any file in my DB on any device in the world.Graphic Design, Excel use beyond simple tables (and even with data entry) Presentations, and coding are still much easier on a local machine than through the web.  Yes, the browser will get better, but so will local apps.  As proc speeds go up, and the software gets better, it will likely continue to outperform the browser due to connectivity.  DB’s next act is likely a MS office killer.  Work on docs in the cloud, on your machine, on your phone, whether you are on iOS or WinTel or where ever!  If the first step for one of these services is storage as a step towards user acquisition but they have something more interesting as the next leg then that may be something worth a 2nd look.

  37. Jan Schultink

    For creative work: the cloud will store all those fonts, PDFs, images, videos as one big project that can be moved across devices and users without having to worry where to store everything, whether fonts are installed, etc. I would love when that time comes.

    1. JLM

      I have a graphics arts daughter at UGA who is graduating the 5-year program next year.  She has already done a bunch of that and doesn’t know any other way to go.She has become a band poster specialist and knocks out concert posters for the college tour bands on a days notice from anywhere cause all her stuff is in the cloud.

      1. Jan Schultink

        Congratus to your daughter!I still find it difficult to email a PowerPoint presentation with custom fonts and a video embed to someone without 3 back and forths to get it to work…

        1. KenHoinsky

          Powerpoint doesn’t support embedded fonts yet?

          1. Jan Schultink

            The PC version does, the Mac version does not for some reason, and that creates a problem since I design on a Mac. As soon as a Mac touches your file, there is no embedding anymore, even if later you save it via your (virtual) PC.

        2. JLM

          Haha, you cannot imagine how close to home that hits.  I like to do big tabloid sized mind dumps and send them to folks (Boardmembers) to explain where I am going and it is the most frustrating thing in the world.I just resort to DropBox and move on.

        3. Fernando Gutierrez

          Fonts are worst thing, also on the internet. My fiancee is an architect and I’m working on her portfolio website. It’s being terrible to try to do something similar to what she has in her files with so little (and boring) browser secure fonts.

      2. ShanaC

        Can you explain her setup in depth – I find with big files, I can’t.  And I am just curious about the fonts.(And congrats)

        1. JLM

          Not really.  She doesn’t know any other way.

    2. tommyboy

      I tried to work with co-workers on a shared dropbox drive for large graphics files (PS, PSD, AI, etc) and it did not work.  There was too much latency when saving files to use (like when you do command/control-s tons of times a day and dropbox is syncing with the network each time while the computers is generally having a hard time to keep up with these large files).  So we switched to subversion.  

      1. Jan Schultink

        Interesting, I will check this out

  38. Ivan Vecchiato

    This is the first discussion in which I clearly read an interpretation of “cloud” different from a beautified version of the old good FTP or a bunch of web services.Seeing things in this way makes sense and gives a real new meaning to the cloud.

  39. sigmaalgebra

    So, Fred, you are assuming and/or concluding that now, and/or the future will be, essentially each instance of digital ‘content’ with significant popular interest will have a URL (URI, whatever).GOOD!Our approach has been to work with such URLs only and never download, store, or upload the corresponding, actual file or ‘content’.We’ve taken this approach, that is, set aside working with the files, at least only initially and out of expediency. Now you are saying that our expediency is sufficient and in the future even necessary! Fine with us!For various reasons already explained well in comments on this thread, I have to suspect that still often people will want their own copy of the digital ‘instance’, data, file, document or whatever. Again, that has been fine with us — if they have not just the URL but also what it points to, good for them and no harm to us.But your expectation is good news: Working with just URLs, we have been concerned that maybe a lot of digital content would need more than just a URL or some such. But your conclusion is, instead, that for some huge fraction of content each instance will have a URL and, by implication from the context, a well defined, stable URL. Good!Thanks for your hard won insights as a leading edge, insightful user of the future of digital media!Amazing times.

    1. D. C. Toedt

      >  I have to suspect that still often people will want their own copy of the digital ‘instance’, data, file, document or whatever.That’s certainly going to be true in the legal world. Here’s a common example:  Very often, commercial contracts are drafted, negotiated, and revised entirely electronically (e.g., as Word documents). When it comes time for signature, each party prints and wet-ink signs a signature page, then scans the signed page into a PDF file and emails it to the other side as an attachment. The problem is this: If a lawsuit later comes to pass, one party or another might have to affirmatively demonstrate the “authenticity” of what that party claims is a true copy of the signed contract. With that in mind, each party is VERY likely to want its own “record” copy of the attachments. A cheap and simple way to keep a record copy of an electronically-exchanged contract is to just keep the emails with the attached PDF-file signature pages. This requires no additional investment, and doesn’t depend on a third-party document repository still being around when you need it.So yes, files attached to emails are likely to be around for a long time, at least for that particular edge case.

      1. ShanaC

        Honestly, I often thought the law industry is way too ready to have a  disruption through the way they produce and manage documents for basically the reasons you state…

    2. Mark Essel

      What you mention is why I enjoy replication to the core technologies like CouchDB. As a consumer I can subscribe to content and have a local copy of that content if I go offline (either by choice or not). Why should I keep downloading a multi gigabyte dataset if I’m going to repeatedly use it on local networks.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        There is a lot to computing, and with networked computing, still more, and with mobile computing, still more. And people, families, offices, companies, etc. with computing devices encounter still more issues.The corresponding toolbox needs more than one tool! Not even a Swiss army knife can ‘cut it’ all!You seem to be discussing a case of ‘personal caching’! Yup, there will be that!Caching keeps growing! Pawing around on some Microsoft sites looking for information on program to program communication to use within my server farm, I just found their BranchCache. So, apparently with Microsoft’s BranchCache, if Joe in the UGE branch office in Peoria downloads from UGE HQ in Midtown Manhattan the 4 GB HD video of the Monday morning talk to the worker bees by UGE CEO Howie B. Small and later that day Sam, also in the Peoria branch office, goes to download a copy, then Sam’s copy comes just from the copy in the BranchCache in the Peoria servers. Okay.Maybe as few as three full time people in Peoria will be able to do the system management and administration of BranchCache to save UGE the ten cents of networking cost for Sam’s download!Ten cents? Networking’s getting CHEAP. In practice now, can put 100 GBps on one wavelength and can put some dozens of such wavelengths on one long haul fiber, and one cable might have 144 such fibers. And what’s in prototype or ready to come to market has something over 1 Tbps per wavelength.As I outlined in…there is hope for much more data rate on wireless from existing spectrum allocations. Ah, each millisecond or so, use the fast Fourier transform and at each frequency, for n users, solve a system of n equations in n unknowns! Good that computing is fast and cheap, and it IS!For that ‘document’ out there, there are potentially several important issues. Fred’s post was for some usage where we take relatively simple approaches to the issues. We like that because we are doing the same, keeping only the URLs, and basically assuming that each URL points to a document or ‘digital content’ that is either frozen (static, unchanging) or has ‘meaning’ that is at most only slowly changing.But in principal, with all the possible issues, the “simple approaches” don’t have to work for everything: A document could be changed and users could want notifications of changes. A document could have an ‘owner’ who establishes ‘capabilities and ‘attribute control lists’ for others. A document could be ‘locked’ while changes are made. Changes on a document could be as in a ‘transaction’ on a data base complete with automatic deadlock detection and correction including the necessary ‘roll-back’ and ‘roll-forward’ for canceled, deadlocked transactions. Cached copies of the document could be ‘invalidated’ as the document changed. And on and on.Still, I believe that both Fred and we are on to something — that famous approach to engineering called the KISS method! Or, for ‘documents’ on the Internet, some simple solutions can cover a LOT of utility and much of the middle of the road.Also there is a long term, constant ‘tension’ involving clients, servers, networks, and administration! Over the years we’ve seen clients start out thin, grow fat, get thin again, etc., servers shrink, grow again, move to the cloud, shrink again, etc., and networks keep growing in both speed and complexity.One of the main issues is the cost in time and effort for ‘system administration and management’, yes, at the servers but also in the networks and now likely even for an affluent house with several teenagers and some dozens of computing devices!One issue used to be security; now a generalization of that issue is privacy.Then, what happens each few months is a new direction based on the new balance of these considerations of cost and utility for clients, servers, networks, and administration.E.g., if networks and servers are fast enough and cheap enough, then why bother with the administration cost of caching? When we settle on an answer, then server and storage costs fall, content sizes increase, and we have to consider caching again and entertain a “new direction”.Broadly our ‘business model’ tries to be relatively immune to these new directions each six months. So, we want to provide some high value that is difficult to duplicate or equal and that remains high for years even with the new directions. E.g., we’re not trying to get our value out of the latest directions; we just don’t want some such directions to hurt us seriously.But we are not fully immune! So, Fred’s post about documents in the cloud and “no files” on his clients pleased us because that is an example of where the latest new directions slightly empowers our business model instead of the usual, expected, and inevitable undercuts it!

  40. Charlie Crystle

    one more comment–I’m new to Rails. One thing I love about it is that when one of my developers adds a gem (component) that’s not on my machine, all I have to do is type ‘bundle install’ to stay up to date. I don’t even need to know gems are running (though it’s a bad idea not to know as a dev). The bundler just looks at what’s on the list, queries an index, finds the gem, downloads it in the background, and installs it. On Heroku, this is automatic. Just post your source code, it looks at it and gets whatever dependencies you have. There are a couple of things like this–that lack of need for a directory, an app, or knowledge of how to get things. Those walls can be taken down. Finally, I shouldn’t need a google docs account to read a document there, just the link to it. 

    1. kenberger

      That is an excellent point, Charlie.Rails is very much about the Cloud. Engine Yard (a RoR hosting service) changed a lot of their marketing towards that fact. So does my shop, to some extent.

    2. Mark Essel

      Props to gems. They’re a lovely construct. Great lesson I learned from gems in 2009: always minimize dependencies. Affects how I approach our c++ libraries at work now.

  41. frabcus

    Two interesting new technologies/protocols not mentioned that are very relevant to this…1. Web Intents. Solves the problem of the user not wanting a link to Rdio, but to Spotify, or there not being a SoundCloud link. Basically, it is like file associations for the web – an app version of it is already built into Android. If it takes off on the web, expect lots of startups to hook off it in interesting ways.… (it’s made by a Google guy based in Liverpool, UK where I am)2. Unhosted. The only potential game changer that I’ve seen for ages – it makes it possible to separate storage from applications, and decentralise the web properly. Gives you control of your data again – even though it isn’t in files any more. Also shows that client side encryption in Javascript is possible for security. Early days, but watch it and build startups on it:

  42. Esayas Gebremedhin

    The NOTION of files will be replaced by the NOTION of ideas. the web will be a representation of ideas and it won’t matter who CREATES them, who USES them, and who OWNS them! It’s like words: It’s everywhere and no one owns it.

  43. ZekeV

    For a second I thought Fred was describing Xanadu!  But then, even cloud data is composed of files.  The distinction I suppose is that the end user makes assertions about data in a way that is conceptually removed from discrete files (by sending a URL, or associating a tweet with an ongoing meme, or tagging a bit of text). The potential to find meaning within all these spontaneous assertions is in my view more interesting than just the ability to more efficiently share media files.

  44. Sagar Mohan

    While I agree in large part to your post Fred, I think there are different types of content that we as consumers treat differently.  Your example of the music experience makes sense as it’s public content that you’re consuming.  On the flip side though, personal digital pictures and video are a totally different paradigm.  While most of us would happily use photo sharing and video sharing sites to share this content, few will delete the original files from their desktops.  When online storage comes into play, these are very much files that we want to store offline.  I want to know that I can access my digital memories well into the future.  

    1. Xander Mahony

      Your images are safer in a constantly backed-up, secured data center than on your PC!

      1. Malibuss66

        Uhm, better pick the right provider then because they die all the time.  Also, everyone is forgetting that they own the files at that point and can charge you what they want for them.  “Want to see that 10-year old picture of Junior?  It was free but that is when you signed up.  Times are hard, it wlil now be $50.”That may be extreme but it will happen to some extent.  You have an entity owning your images who is there to make a profit off of you.  Nothing good can happen of that.

  45. Rick Bullotta

    A big yes and a smaller no.  I’m trying to leverage cloud storage as much as possible (I think iCloud might be very transformational if Apple rethinks its proposed pricing), but I am also a pragmatist.I think that the shadow costs of bandwidth and backbone reliability will eventually rear their ugly heads.  I don’t think that is it inherently wise to continue to work under the assumption of nearly free, unlimited capacity.  That party will come to an end eventually.  Nor should we expect the government to provide an entertainment infrastructure.  Education, news, community, yes – but public dollars shouldn’t be spent building a media delivery infrastructure, IMO.The other challenge we’re going to face is one of interoperability – I love the cross linking model (wasn’t the kinda the whole point of the web?) that would enable you to mash up all of this content…but it will be inherently a bit fragile. what’s a document?  how do i set permissions on it? what formats are supported? what do i need to view/consume it? issues such as a unified digital id for security purposes will have an impact as well.  ironically a monopolistic/concentrator approach ameliorates some of these concerns (e.g. Google, FB, LinkedIn, etc. are the entry point/aggregator, and everyone else effectively becomes an app provider).so many interconnected dependencies on making it a reality.

    1. Rick Bullotta

      To reinforce the point about the hidden costs of bandwidth/backbone being a risk:

      1. PhilipSugar

        You are completely right that you cannot assume the paradigm of point to point video transport via the net will always be cheap/free.  Video was always point to multi-point.  I.e. cable head-end, satellite, or broadcast tower.Will that change if the masses adopt?  I’m not sure.  I would say Netflix and AT&T’s recent experiences might say no, or might just be a bump in the road.Its relatively easy when you have the TechCrunch geeks adopting a product.  When the masses get Netflix or iPhones and start really using like geeks the system gets strained.

        1. ShanaC

          But you would see the growth in advance? So shouldn’t the infrastructure costs also be planned and paid down in advance?

          1. PhilipSugar

            No frankly its like having an all you can eat buffet, with only the technorati, knowing where the line is.  You can extrapolate, but when the giant mass of late adopters figure it out you run out of food really quickly.I’ll give you a personal example.  I had Netflix streaming.  When my wife, daughter, and nanny figured it out on the iPad, usage went from 5 hours a week to 10 hrs a day, keep it in the background, who cares, no charge take all of the king crab legs at the buffet.

          2. ShanaC

            As someone who has cooked large meals – it is called planning in advance and come with lots of sides. And hence the question – infrastructure build-outs should be happening, so why aren’t they?

          3. PhilipSugar

            You buying Shana?

          4. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          5. ShanaC

            But if we build it, we get out of the recession (jobcreation, infrastructure buildout, spending)…

          6. FAKE GRIMLOCK


        2. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. Mark Essel

            Netflix is pretty popular, doesn’t web video already consume a major chunk of the backpone, ie hasn’t it already happened?

  46. RacerRick

    I completely agree, Fred.Yet I’ll still be still stuck with Photoshop and Dreamweaver.  2 expensive products that I have on 3 different computers and use all the time that have large files that are stuck on my computer(s) and have to be constantly backed up/synced. 

  47. Xander Mahony

    It’s a lot like owning a scanner in 2004 when you just want to include a photo from Flickr in your Word Document.  Rarely useful.

  48. Dan Callahan

    A very thought-provoking post, Fred, as seen by all the comments!  Having spent some time at YouSendIt, I’ve been in a position to think this through.  As I see it, there are two considerations:- Availability of an enabling network that removes the pain of working with files online.  Yes, it will happen, but it’s going to be a slower process than you might imagine.- Factors which drive the choice of where content is created.  This is related to the first point (I can’t create a Google Doc if I can’t get the network support), but goes beyond it.  If I create a document on my laptop, then there’s extra work to move it off the laptop.  But you’re already seeing this, for instance via phones/cameras with a Facebook “share” button.I really like the notion of a link-centric vs. document-centric application experience.Dan

  49. rogerclark

    no shit

  50. kenberger

    +1 / BoAVCI can’t believe this post isn’t trending on techmeme and elsewhere now.It is 1 of the deeper concepts here in a while, and will be fun to point back to in a few years.

    1. fredwilson

      is now

  51. Ben Apple

    I’m currently living in China, and cloud storage sites all seem to be banned here.  What would the threat be?  Boxee, dropbox, google docs, all blocked.  I can at least understand blocking social media sites with content the government doesn’t want people to know.  But cloud storage?  You’d think China would want to encourage technological innovation and help turn some of these ideas into reality- it’s a shame that they seem to stifle progress this way.

    1. ShanaC

      once you’re in the cloud, you can more easily pass information – it seems this scares china and the information security people.

  52. jason wright

    Cloud computing and privacy. Google machine reads gmail emails. Does it machine read Google docs documents?Do cloud computing platforms allow the user to encrypt documents et.c. before storing?

  53. Chris Eberly

    One of the things that is slowing me down from using Google Docs exclusively is exactly the slow, unreliable internet connection problem. I am near reliable internet 90% of the time I need things, but the other 10% is when I often need documents the most (travelling, going to coffee shops, etc.). Once Google gets local storage working transparently I am sold, if only for tag-based organizing alone. Great post though.

  54. im2b_dl

    Fred I think the issue will be in sync, clocks, multiple pipes interface/interoperability that is simultaneous and synced… feeding layered “cubic” media.  The cloud won’t go away…it just will serve a more behind the curtain purpose. In media layering and platform story cubing (interactive transmedia) there will be need for a universal set of clocks and caches.

  55. d8qycmmhos

    I agree with the vision but I would be more nuanced as about the fact that it will be 100% true, at least before many years.It may depend of the type of file. For instance, in graphic design, you need Photoshop or InDesign files.It may also depend of the context. For legal stuff (contracts, term sheets, etc.), a file makes sense, as long as we do not have a standard for digital signature.Etc.

  56. EmilSt

    While files will probably exist in the clouds forever, we will be completely not aware of them like we are not for atoms or molecules. They are just one higher level then bits, code lines in the digital mater.As more of the humanity moves toward digital lives, the digital world will become more human. Get rid of files, live them to the ingeniers and probably you will get more chance to focus on real things.

    1. JLM

      Can you imagine the fun the OPP RESEARCH guys will have with this stuff 25 years from now?You will decide to run for office and every thing you ever touched will be detectable.Everything!

      1. EmilSt

        In 25 years I hope there will be no “democracy” as we know it. So that wouldn’t be an issue.Without research no one can even date today:)The problem is that ,still, mostly what they see is the painted picture (Facebook…). As it become more detailed, will ultimately become more true. The good part is that truth liberates:)

        1. JLM

          The sheer imperfection and messiness of democracy is its greatest secret.The Founding Fathers are still the smartest owls in the tree even though apparently they did not know anything about the Internet.

          1. EmilSt

            Some say we are only looking for the lost wisdom.However, I believe we are moving in good direction.We are set for inevitable surprises in energy and tehnology that will change some basic concepts like wealth, health, human relations and hopefully make that dream about old/new wisdom come true.

          2. Dave W Baldwin

            Also @JLM:disqus It is a matter of opening the minds, for most only see one path at a time not realizing the almost parallel ones that disrupt on their own.  Since the other disciplines are not truly parallel, they eventually merge enabling the more hyper.Over the past year, many participants in blogs like Fred’s have started to refer to larger geographical terms, which is good.  The building of walls is not an option.To paraphrase a quote, “I don’t care if the cat is white (democratic) or red (communist), I just want a damn cat that will catch the mouse…”   Chairman DengThe people around the world are striving to gain opportunity and as these social networks expand, the increase in avoiding censorship will prevail.  Will be quite a disruption. 

  57. NICCAI

    Content shifting instead of content syncing.  Discovery + Context + Memory

  58. ShanaC

    I keep thinking in the back of my head: for complex production (lets say making a custom animation film, your first short) will the cloud model hold?  I’m not so sure.  Although the cloud model is super useful for rendering – I’m not sure the act of making would be made easier by browser based tools – a local model still tends to work better.I have yet to hear of anyone building a web service on a browser somewhere, even though there are emulations of ruby, node.js, lots of stuff…

  59. Josh Rehman

    This is really about addressability. “Files” have an address that only works in the context of a single computer. A “link” is an address that works on all computers. This apparently small difference is really very powerful but it requires a trusted, always-on internet server to make it work.Files will always exist, even in a world with perfectly available and trusted servers, because the servers themselves will rely on files. They will also continue to exist on clients in an inversely proportional relation to how untrusted and unreliable servers are.You see the demise of files, Fred, because you have really high trust in servers and, for you, they are ultra-reliable. But in failing to see that other people’s experience is different, and will (reasonably) come to a different conclusion, you’ve missed something important.

  60. JLM

    Fred and all commentators, tell me where to send the tuition check.  Great conversation and education.

    1. Alex Murphy

      1. fredwilson


  61. Jeremy Zawodny

    Agreed.I was listening to a podcast recently where someone made the point that on Android, the iPhone, and iPad, you don’t ever navigate the filesystem.  Why?  Because you don’t need to.  The traditional filesystem was a broken model–it worked for “compter people” (barley) but not normal people.Simple being able to see recently edited (or played) stuff, as well as effective search is good enough for most cases.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, that’s what i wanted to say. you said it better. it’s nice to hear from you Jeremy. i loved your post on Mongo a while back. sounds like you are doing well.

    2. feddkraft

      Who are those people struggling to get ‘root access’ on devices then? assuming they dont want to install pirated apps

  62. Johnfurrier

    Way off base. I’ve been tracking this market of over 10yrs – you’re wet on this… cloud storage is massive… converged infrastructures last straw is storage….

    1. fredwilson

      saw your tweet where you called me an idiot. i appreciate that. this comment elaborates a bit more, but i really would love to know why you think i’m an idiot on this



  64. vakloo

    OK I dont get it, whats up with all this cloud nonsense? Its just a remote server, nothing

  65. Sam Beal

    files are the interface to the past. some people still need ‘download as pdf’otherwise you are almost correct.

  66. Sean

    A file is just a packaging format that enables interoperability between systems. If you stop liking GDocs and want move to the new hotness, you’ll start liking files again. In the meantime, stop trying to pretend this is some kind of paradigm shift.The web has always been a network of referenceable resources. Some (html) were natively renderable by your browser – others (PDF) have required downloadable readers. All that’s changing is that some resources now have html renderings instead of requiring a download.

  67. andyidsinga

    see also: web intents and activity streams

  68. chandra bose

    truly interesting stuff! yes Google docs are the best way to collaborate! appreciate your thoughts!!Sample Business Event Invitation Letter

  69. MikeSchinkel

    Fred, I’m usually in lock-step with your opinions, but I think you are off-base on this one.Just as TV didn’t kill radio and the web didn’t kill TV, files are here to stay for the foreseeable future. They may become less relevant to the average person, and thus they might not indicate a market large enough for a VC like you to be interested in, but files are still going to be critical and solving the file sync problem is really needed. For example, it’s really hard to web apps without using files. Here’s a great blog post that describes the situation I describe:…, what I find missing with Dropbox is a URL scheme that I could use to send URLs to files that I’ve shared with other people to the files in their DropBox.  For example, I would like to be able to monitor a file (i.e. CashFlow.xlsx) and every time it’s updated by someone who is sharing it with me (i.e. my bookkeeper) I’d get an email with a link to my local copy of that file.  (Why don’t I use Google Apps? I find their apps very annoying to use compared to using desktop equivalents.)

  70. touschner

    I think you’re right about files.  Once again, DHG anticipated this:…”27. Modern computing is based on an analogy between computers and file cabinets that is fundamentally wrong and affects nearly every move we make. (We store “files” on disks, write “records,” organize files into “folders” — file-cabinet language.) Computers are fundamentally unlike file cabinets because they can take action.30. If you have three pet dogs, give them names. If you have 10,000 head of cattle, don’t bother. Nowadays the idea of giving a name to every file on your computer is ridiculous.31. Our standard policy on file names has far-reaching consequences: doesn’t merely force us to make up names where no name is called for; also imposes strong limits on our handling of an important class of documents — ones that arrive from the outside world. A newly-arrived email message (for example) can’t stand on its own as a separate document — can’t show up alongside other files in searches, sit by itself on the desktop, be opened or printed independently; it has no name, so it must be buried on arrival inside some existing file (the mail file) that does have a name. The same holds for incoming photos and faxes, Web bookmarks, scanned images…32. You shouldn’t have to put files in directories. The directories should reach out and take them. If a file belongs in six directories, all six should reach out and grab it automatically, simultaneously.33. A file should be allowed to have no name, one name or many names. Many files should be allowed to share one name. A file should be allowed to be in no directory, one directory, or many directories. Many files should be allowed to share one directory. Of these eight possibilities, only three are legal and the other five are banned — for no good reason.”

  71. shortbaldman

    You’re assuming that you’re ALWAYS fully connected to the cloud. If you’re not, because you’re travelling internationally (or some other reason), then you might as well leave your computer at home instead of lugging around a dead-weight.The truth is that unless you have those files on-board, then you have nothing. Dropbox is good, up to a point. It also suffers from the problem that international-roaming data charges can make it too expensive to use. At least with dropbox you have your own local copy of the files available and can postpone the file-syncing till you can find a ‘free unlimited’ wifi in a coffee-shop somewhere.

  72. Simon Hunter

    agreed! nice post! 

  73. Nik Cubrilovic

    I left a similar comment in one of your earlier blog posts that I came to the same realization. Sync solutions are just a bridge between where we are now – with a desktop/web hybrid system, to where we will be in the near future – a full web system.The interesting thing is that now we all see what computing will look like in a few years with no files, where are the opportunities? The web needs an operating system, it needs applications and it needs everything that people do now, or did, on the old model except in the cloud.If you look at it like that, it becomes easy to spot where the gaps are, or will be, in the cloud model.

  74. gubatron

    Back in 2007 we were competing against dropbox with a service called MyBloop. We were offering unlimited storage + social networking and public file searches on top of the files. Our next step was to make the user account available as a drive so the user could use any software with the remote files, network speeds were not there yet at that point for the majority of our users. We didn’t think of our selves as a “backup” or “storage” company, our service had decently powerful visors for each file type.So, I think the next evolutionary space of companies like DropBox is to become your cloud drive (and I think DropBox does that already), when network speeds are faster than today’s local disks why not?Those companies are placed in a much better position to take that evolutionary step, and that step is not that hard to take, they just gotta be able to mount your account as a network drive on your device and you just use that network drive as if it were a local disk, it lives in the cloud.I think you need to revise your thinking on this one, if you’re working in the cloud storage space you have nothing to worry about because you’re a big part of that evolutionary step towards not having a hard drive on your PC. When the conditions are right  you’ll be better positioned than everyone else.As network speeds get better I believe we’ll be seeing companies like Dropbox trying to make deals with Tablet/Phone/PC manufacturers to include a “Dropbox” drive preinstalled, helping drive manufacturing costs down since devices wouldn’t need to have much storage in them, in that future, internet access everywhere will be a reality and it will also be very reliable.

    1. Fernando Gutierrez

      Those things are exactly what I would love Dropbox to do. They already have a nice web photo gallery funtionality. A relatively easy next one could be a player for the music/video I have stored there (though I guess there would be some copyright issues).

      1. gubatron

        As soon as we started getting traction we were on the Label’s radars (it was frustrating trying to deal with them, everything you said they would use it against us, what we thought was a invitation to talk was instead a meeting with a room full of attorneys, very intimidating shit) and then the crash of 2008 killed our investors will to continue funding the project.We’d be the kings today had we kept it going.This is how our audio player looked like…you could embed it on your own site, it had twitter integration, many podcasters and music bloggers were using our service at the time, I still get emails from people asking if we are ever coming back.Our goal was to be the YouTube of all files… oh the ambitions of having our own datacenters and what not.

        1. Fernando Gutierrez

          That looks awesome, thanks! too bad you couldn’t survive. It would be nice to have someone competing with that approach.

  75. Mark Essel

    There will always be files, even if they exist on remote systems synchronized without your concern.Banks are good for the majority of transactions, but some folks still prefer cold hard cash.

  76. The Heasman

    I agree. We’re moving towards an era where the consumer doesn’t need to see the “back-office” machinations of the computer, all they should see is what they need.However the end user should still have a choice. There are those who still prefer having control of the data they’re accessing. We’ve had spotify in the UK for more than 4 years now, and my flatmate refuses to try it out, despite his purchase of a new android phone that would allow him the luxury of using it. He is an audiophile who loves his flac quality sound and always gets the largest iPod he can because he is comfortable with the sound quality. When the bandwidth is wide enough to stream the quality music he prefers he may change his mind. However there is  still that mentality to “physically” have what we’re using and this may translate to a few of us with our computing experiences.Also file access allows people to twinker to ease their computing experience. I am happy to admit that I play Pokemon on emulator from time to time (I used to own the real game so its legal). However there was no method out there that allowed me to transfer my saves in the background from the emulator on my phone to the emulator on my laptop. With my file access I was able to set up the file to sync via Dropbox, and just needed to refresh dropbox on my phone each time I wanted to play it on there.That is a long example, but the point remains. My need was so niche that no company may have been able to address it if file access was in the background.

    1. Ciaran

      I agree. And, whilst it’s easy to crow, the collapse of Amazon’s cloud earlier this week (again), shows that actually owning stuff may not be cool, but it certainly has its benefits.

  77. RichardF

    so now you can link your last three posts with the amazon kindle cloud reader.  – awesome!

  78. Brandon Kessler

    Enlightening post Fred. Kind of like saying ‘In Life As A Service, there’s no need to mess with the bits.’

  79. Eric Friedman

    Playing around with the new OS X Lion makes this even more clear.  A few applications no longer have “save as” or even “save” – it just happens.  When the file system goes local to remote and saving becomes a thing of the past, people won’t miss the behavior, they will simply realized that it was cumbersome to do in the past.Edit a file? Of course it saved.OS X Lion is leading the behavior change (removal really) and I expect lots of apps to follow

  80. Andrew

    I love using the cloud, and I think the costs/benefits of the cloud vs local storage comes up about even. But one thing I don’t trust is other users (not companies) caring about their files as much as I might care about them. I’m talking about your [lack of] use of music files here.I have a music blog, and my vision for it is that it will be an ongoing playlist with an ever-growing, accessible archive. And for that, I don’t trust other people to keep the music up.Let’s say I like a track by my friend’s band. And he’s posted it to Soundcloud. That’s great for sharing it Twitter and Facebook, because people aren’t generally browsing those archives so the file only has to be there for a week or so. But if I post it on my music Tumblr today, I’m hoping I can come back to that entry in two years and listen to the song.But what if my friend has uploaded more than two hours of music to Soundcloud (the limits of a free account) and decided it wasn’t worth it to upgrade. That file is inaccessible (to me, at least). And now if someone comes to that entry on Tumblr, it’s blank noise.Same thing with if I decide to reblog a track you’ve shared. Maybe you decide to delete or move your Tumblr. Now that track is gone.That’s why I still get a file that I control. Then I add it to Dropbox and share it from there. Yes, Dropbox could disappear, or I could accidentally delete my files, but then at least I’d be aware of the issue. If someone else gets rid of a track that I’ve reposted I don’t know it’s gone until I stumble across it. I know this, because it’s happened in the past.I’m sure there’s some kind of solution to this (probably involving a paid service like Rdio) that will make access to music secure across platform, but for now I’m sticking with files in Dropbox– in the cloud.

  81. Matt Zimmerman

    The achilles’ heel of this future is that the corporations involved need to get along with each other, and agree to interoperate, even though their interests might conflict (e.g. if they are direct competitors).Until that problem goes away (and I’m not holding my breath) I think we will need to be able to get your data out of these services and into a place you control, not just move it around between them.

  82. Randall Bennett

    I think that’s the point of Dropbox though… I think they want to become that connector between services, though I’m uncertain how that’ll play out precisely. They want to become the place where you store all your “files” even if they’re not files. I’d prefer to send google docs out by link, but I’d also like a way to port them from Google Docs to other services w/o requiring every service be completely interoperable with each other’s APIs.Dropbox can become the central hub for any inter-app document transfer, cloud based or otherwise. It’s smart, and has a shot.

  83. raulmujica

    totally agree Fred — it’s easier for consumers to not worry about files, where to keep them and how to save them if they’re important to them — we’re doing this for family videos at

  84. Becky Fletcher Holloway

    If you love Google docs, you should check out DDC Radar ( A central repository whose files can be permissioned on a user-by-user basis, pre-defined filing structure, document abstracts that are key-word searchable, built-in workflow around key documents dates. Nothing to download there either with far more security than either Dropbox or Google docs.

  85. JeffreyJDavis

    * A rain drop is just a water drop that came from a cloud.* A document is just a file that came from a cloud.* A webapp is just an app hosted in a cloud and rendered in your browser* A cloud is just a storage drive which is physically outside your field of view, either across the room or across the world.  It’s not that much different than the hard drive buried inside the box under your desk, except that it is web accessible from multiple devices, not dedicated to one keyboard and monitor. That freedom is liberating, and once again Fred, your points are great.  I love google docs but I also love sugarsync and dropbox.  If you are one of the non-elite who spends a significant portion of their life where it’s totally sunny without a cloud in the sky (on an international flight, in a remote province of China or even a VPN-less province of China, within a deeply firewalled environment, on the beach or on a boat) you may feel that a 100% cloud based life is not practical.Local replicates are important too, and probably always will be, at least until bandwidth really is free and ubiquitous, like those naturally occurring clouds.  Rock on though, your posts are always thought provoking.

  86. robertcathey

    A distinction needs to be drawn between the public cloud (what most consumer see) and private cloud, where enterprises have control/custody as before but gain the lower OPEX benefits of more efficient resource usage and the agility of automated provisioning. 

  87. Rafi Kronzon

    Great post – completely agree that the concept of a “file” as a user -> application -> operating system interface won’t be around for much longer.Exposing end users to the logical separation of application and data – which had certain benefits including security, portability, etc.- was always questionable, and I think the large majority of users still don’t (and shouldn’t need to) understand the concept of a file system.Thechallenge for the SaaS industry in the near future will be to provide thoseabove benefits without exposing the user to them. In other words, how can Itransfer my music from Amazon Cloud Player to Spotify without seeing files?

  88. Raphael Pungin

    I think the title of the article is misleading. The files ARE in the cloud. That remix track in your example IS a file. Just because you never have to download it, does not mean that it is not a file. Also a document IS file (or a set of files). 

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, but from the point of the user, there are no files. that’s what i spend my time (and money) thinking about

      1. Alex Murphy

        That is your point of view, but I am not so sure that is how the “normals” really think.  There is an entire industry associated with files and paper etc that exists because the human way to store information is to put the information on a document, put the document in a file, put the file in a file drawer, with many drawers in a cabinet.  It is a logical way to structure information.It really is a matter of symantics to say that files won’t exist.  Google calls them documents or spreadsheets or presentations … fine, but these are simply types of a ____. Just insert whatever you want to in the blank.  I will call the “Freds”People care about their “Freds” and want to have access to them anywhere and anytime.  They want them regardless of whether or not they have a connection to the Internet.  They want to update them in Gdocs, on their mac, on their wintel machine, or on their Android phone.  The underlying point you were making is that cloud storage is not exciting.  I imagine that if someone has a service that creates extreme content portability of one’s “Freds” that you would be excited because that is a service that will be needed regardless of what network or tool is available / popular during the day. Do you agree?

        1. fredwilson

          Yes. I agree

  89. uJonesing

    Are you on crack? Those links you send people- what is it exactly that you think they’re a link to, magic? You’re sending people links to files. Contrary to your statement of “This is why I love Google Docs so much. I just create a document and email a link. Nobody downloads anything. There are no attachments in the email. Just a link. Just like the web, following links, getting shit done. I love it.”, what you’re actually sending them is a link to a file. As soon as they click that link, a download DOES take place within the browser to a cache for temporary files. And guess what that download is? A (HORROR!) file!Seriously, I can’t tell if you’re an idiot or just trolling. Your post makes about as much sense as claiming that your house is “clean” if you hide all of your trash under the carpet in the den.

    1. fredwilson

      i’m an idiot troll on crack!

  90. Laura Yecies

    Personally I find the Google Docs experience the exception that proves the rule so an interesting example for this post.  I find it very handy basic documents, great for collaboration but underpowered in terms of rich editing and features and I can’t use it anytime/anywhere.Now the idea of having links to all documents is compelling but you can get that with SugarSync (or DropBox, etc) so that alone is not a driver.I believe things will evolve at very different paces for UGC v. non-UGC like music.  We are on the verge of going fileless for music but very very far for photos.  In fact i’m not sure if this “no files in the cloud” can apply to photos – if it can I’m very curious how. What’s great about sync solutions is that you can have the accessibility and “linkability” of cloud with the control and rich features of client.

  91. Joseph K Antony

    Fred’s idea will take-off once Microsoft enables its Excel, Word and other applications to be fully integrated with the cloud. Serious users of Excel cannot take Google docs very seriously .

    1. Joseph K Antony

      Like I use Excel as a front end in High Frequency Trading. Just cannot imagine when Google Docs spreadsheet will ever the type of functionality which specialized users need and get it from Excel and other Microsoft products.

  92. Johan Swarts

    This doesn’t even make sense…

  93. Doug Smith

    The cost saving from moving a enterprise to the cloud would be huge. The biggest barrier is 1) the companies do not have the ability use virtual machines to their fullest extent 2) High-end software doesn’t work for cloud streaming Catia 5, CS5, AutoCad, Photoshop (Lack of Capabiltiy) 3) Agnostic access cloud content regardless of device (Limiting) 4) Cloud technology and services are compartmentalized and there is no one selling a full offering. (Fragmented)  The advantages reduction in IT spending by utilizing thin-clients that have internet connection and very little if any internal memory (Cost Savings). Design teams in engineering or architecture can utilize high-end software such as AutoCad or Solidworks in the Field (Productivity). Data is can be stored in redundant environments so computer or hard drive failures do not loss employees work (Data Security). Shameless plug I work for a B2B Cloud Commerce company that solves the barriers to the cloud and offers the aforementioned advantages to enterprise and consumer clients . The company was founded by the founder of one of largest data center and network providers and the CTO worked/built numerous cable software systems in Europe and Russia.

  94. mrclark411

    Dropbox and competitors will be the future. There’s no need to store my files all over the internet. Those are my files. They belong to me.When I want to post pictures on Flickr, I want to authorize Flickr to look at Dropbox for existing pictures or so it will store my pictures there when I upload. There is no need for Flickr to store pictures themselves.

  95. Prokofy

    My kids keep trying to make me throw out this big clunky CD player and even the CDs. They have all these files on their ipods from Youtube. I don’t approve. I have some i-tunes, but not very many. I only listen to a song when I’m prepared to give it my whole attention — if there is background music, I can’t think.I keep sneaking that CD player and my CDs back from the incinerator room because I think they will come in handy during the next blackout in New York City, or when all that cloud stuff collapses or is “down” all the time.P.S. I also still have a cupboard of what my daughter calls my “big CDs”. These are old 33 1/3 vinyl records.

  96. Donna Brewington White

    Your comment about Dropbox makes me think about the owners of railroad companies neglecting to ask the question, “What business are we in?” and focusing on the railroad business rather than the transportation business. Can’t help but wonder if that question might be part of the answer for a company like Dropbox.  But, then, again, maybe it truly is a shorter term solution for what is a currently a huge but perhaps shorter term need and at some point the founders will take all the experience and capital gained in their run with Dropbox and create a new solution to a new problem.

  97. Wen Tian

    I totally agree that we should gradually do away with files.After years of working in consulting, one skill I “learned” really well was coming up different ways of naming my Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. I would try to squeeze all sorts of meta information such as document title, client name, engagement date, last a few editors’ names, version (V1, V2, etc…) into the 255 characters limit of Windows filename.  I literally became my own document management system. Almost all consultants I knew (from analysts all the way up to managing directors) did this. We had EMC Documentum but people would literally use it only for archiving final deliverables. Personal computers have been around over 30 years and one of their original purposes was to help us manage our data. So why are we still spend so much time each day try to manage our files? Should the concept of files even exist for average users?In an ideal world, I would start typing and computer would figure out what I intend to do. A document would be a document and I’ll never have to worry about whether it’s from Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc… . The most important of all, I’ll never have to name or version a document artificially. All the meta information on a document would be updated continuously as I work on it. The computer can even analyze my facial expressions and the strength of my key strokes at the time to capture the mood I am in. When I need to bring up the document again, I would just tell the computer some words I could remember from the document and/or the mood I was in. If I need to extract a particular snapshot edit of a document, I can easily do so with a single mouse click. A user will never see a single file on a computer.

  98. Roham

    Very insightful post Fred, as usual. I do disagree somewhat.. I think especially with quasi-cloud services like Dropbox, the move to a fully cloud-based solution is many, many years away especially for enterprise. Even if I had a Chromebook with permanent 4g connectivity.. Having files local would be infinitely faster. Especially with large files, I’m afraid network speeds have a long way to go before really starting to match real-time. Isn’t Dropbox best of both worlds? Cloud flexibility/scale/power combined with local accessibility? 

  99. Roberto Valerio

    Well, as much as I understand your point I do not see any technical impact, just a naming convention that could change:”File” is only a term for a set of data. If you leave this on Google it will be stored in their databases, probably as a blob (binary large object) in a database. Still, it is a specific set of data. Exchanging your music between two music services? Well, could be done by API and may be wrapped in XML. But in the end all these representations of data have to be stored somehow. So what you call your “cloud storage” today is based on “files”. Soon it could be called “cloud repository” or “cloud database” and store any kind of “data sets”. Where is the technical difference? Only that more services will exchange your data directly, without your local storage as a gateway. And you will only have pointers to your personal data sets stored locally, not the data itself. Soon? I doubt it.

  100. rohandey


  101. Robert Augustin

    Just one question: what about privacy? Aren’t you worried about putting your ideas out there, where potentially any employee of the company could read them?Example Evernote. I’ve been struggling with using it for anything business related for a long time just because of this. And I’m not just talking about stuff of my own, this also concerns things you’d write down that’s related to a client. Say you signed an NDA, then you put down your ideas or notes in a cloud service. Some employee of said service happens to come across your notes and decides to act on it by launching their own thing. That’s obviously a worst-case scenario, but the question remains: how can you be sure that your stuff is safe if it’s ‘out there’?

  102. fredwilson

    i like function better than document toothat was the one word i struggled with in the post.i wrote it in a about five minutes as it has been rattling in my brain for over a weekbut i did stop and struggle with that one word

  103. Terry J Leach

    Yesterday I was noodling (thinking) about the implications of and your post help me label it. is  instance of cloud computing infrastructure between Amazon model of cloud computing infrastructure service and Google’s App Engine. Cloud computing infrastructure is morphing into an application-centric model.I have been trying to instill a “functional” way of thinking about cloud computing systems architecture to create something outside of the box that consumers would care about.

  104. JamesHRH

    I think the consumer cloud will require stonger brand skills than most startups or tech giants possess.’function’, on Madison Avenue, would be ‘brand attribute’ or ‘brand promise’ or ‘CVP – customer/consumer value proposition. They have 50+ years to build off of, when it comes to branding.The big winners in the consumer cloud will combine strong consumer insight / brand building skills with strong cloud execution skills. Seems obvious, but…….