I used to hoard programs. Or more specifically, installation programs. If you’re old enough, and a geek, you probably know what I’m talking about. When the web came along in the mid-90’s every geek’s computer I knew had a “downloads” directory full of stuff like:

  • netscape-install-1.2.7.zip
  • pkunzip.something.exe (or .sh)
  • ftp-tool.or-other.zip

I don’t have that anymore. If I want an application I download the latest version or use my update manager to get or update it.

My bookmarks in the browser window used to be full of stuff too. Every time I’d see an interesting page I would bookmark it into the long list of “WORN” URLs (“Write Once Read Never”). I then moved to del.icio.us, since it had better tags and meant I could get to them from anywhere. I don’t even bother doing that anymore either. Google is my friend.

And who still doesn’t have a music folder crammed full of mp3 files, bought, ripped, downloaded or otherwise acquired?

Why did we hoard all this stuff, why don’t we any longer, and what’s up with music?

We hoarded since the cost of downloading was high and we were afraid of losing it. But we learned over time for installation programs that they were always being updated and it was only getting quicker to re-download them. Easier and safer to offload the management of them to the internet. Need to re-install Firefox? Got to http://www.getfirefox.net . Or more probably, type it into Google, and have it remind you of the URL.

Segue into bookmarks. I hardly ever looked at my bookmarks, even on del.icio.us, and so have handed the job of finding stuff to the internet. The search engines are all good enough that if I want to show my kids the “Who’s on First” routine I do a four second search.

Music remains the hoarder’s treasure. A variety of reasons make it so. There is the obvious licencing issues, but more importantly music is more like applications than links or install programs. Something that costs a lot (in time) to download but that we want to use over and over again. Faster bandwidth can reduce this download cost, but there is still the issue of ownership. Unlike videos, the value of a piece of music goes up the more you listen to it, so renting it (even through subscription services) is something unattractive to us. If copyright laws restrict us in how we can access it, we want to control the music we do have, and that means having it sit on our metal.

We hoard two things: things we use infrequently but are hard to find or expensive to get; and things we use a lot. The first go away as the network and its services improve; the second are unlikely to.

Which is why I’m skeptical of user-targeted cloud services ever taking off.