Unlimited storage in online apps

Although I liked Bill Burnham’s post about the “storage explosion” I think he forgot one thing in one of his last posts. In “YahooMail, Storage, and the Battle For Personal Data” he explains the announcement of unlimited e-mail storage for free by Yahoo! is the indication of two trends: for him, the obvious one is that storage is cheap and the less-obvious trend is that there will be a battle to control the user data in such “web applications”.

IMHO, he (probably unintentionally) forgot to mention one important question for me: will the user agree to let big companies manage/control/look at their (personal/private/whatever) data? And will the user still have the control of their own data?

First, imagine one day without internet connection? It could already be difficult now; it will be even more difficult when you’ll not be able to access your data (Firefox3 and its support for offline applications could be the beginning of a solution). Second, by putting your data in online applications like webmail, online wordprocessor, spreadsheet, etc., the user is giving these companies control over their data. Who read service, privacy and IP policies? Everyone should, nearly no one does (and GooDiff is there to help ;-)). Moreover, everything is free today (or advertisement-based, to be precise), will it still be free tomorrow? Will the features you enjoy today still be there in 1 or 2 years? Finally, in the off-line computer world, you are not locked-in anymore by big companies and proprietary file formats. While it is possible to save your data from big web applications on your hard disk (and sometimes in standardized formats), you are not able to easily/automatically retrieve your data from most of these “Web2.0” toys. I’ll end up this early post by a quotation from Peter Rip’s blog (emphasis is mine):

Much of the “easy” innovation seems to have been wrung out of the Web 2.0 wave. […] Now the hard work begins, again. The next wave of innovation isn’t going to be as easy. […] Now the hard part is moving from Web-as-Digital-Printing-Press to true Web-as-Platform. To make the Web a platform there has to [be] a level of content and services interoperability that really doesn’t exist today.