June 17th, 2006

Data Storage Is the Key to the Web App Revolution

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The future of Web 2.0 and the web app revolution will hinge on one critical issue — where the data is stored. The advantages of hosted, instantly upgraded, never-have-to-install applications on the web are obvious and many — anyone who has ever struggled with software installation and upgrading knows this intuitively.

But there is a downside that is less obvious to the average person and that is starting to get increasing attention — most web apps, like Gmail and Flickr, require storing your data on somebody else’s servers. This is convenient and saves a lot local disk space, but it puts the security of your data beyond your control and, worse, it puts the ownership of your data potentially beyond your control.

Marshall Kirkpatrick Mike Arrington shined a spotlight on this issue with respect to photo storage — it turns out the while Flickr will let you share your photos with the world, it won’t let you share those photos with competing web photo apps like upstart Zooomr:

Tate from Zooomr says that the exports are a cost of doing business, that Web 2.0 is where “the roach motel stops” and that Zooomr will always make it easy for their customers to take their data elsewhere. That’s easy to say when you’re the underdog, but the issue does lead to some questions about data portability and web services. Day one of the post-Gates era seems like a good time to consider such questions.

There’s also a NYT article on the web app revolution that raises data storage as one of the key barriers to adoption:

And you must be comfortable with the idea that your addresses, your correspondence and your documents don’t reside on your hard drive in your computer in your home. They are stored at sites controlled by a giant company.

And this is just the consumer side of the issue. Inside the enterprise, the issue becomes more acute — most companies are not going to want their critical data stored outside the corporate firewall — this is the biggest barrier to Google competing with Microsoft for control of business applications. And this is a potential advantage of Microsoft’s stated strategy of making its Live web apps an extension of existing client and server software — the data can still be stored where it has always been stored.

It strikes me that there is a huge opportunity here to create a single point of secure online storage that can be accessed from any web app. The open architecture principles of Web 2.0 (APIs, etc.) would seem to make this approach obvious.

Gdrive perhaps?

UPDATE

I corresponded with Nick Carr on this issue, and he makes some good points about data security:

Companies have long allowed payroll data (pretty sensitive stuff) to sit on service providers’ servers, and lots of them are doing the same with customer data (also extremely sensitive) through, eg, Salesforce.com. On the consumer side, given individuals’ cluelessness about security and even backups, it’s probably considerably safer for most people to stick their data on an outside company’s servers than to keep it on their own hard drives.

On the corporate side, the outsourcing of data storage depends to some degree on the future of data security legislation. On the consumer side, granted that most people would do better outsourcing the securing of their data, but perceived control, even at the expense of actual security, is also a powerful force.

Nick also comments, “I’m a big advocate of web apps, but that NYT piece today could have been written by Google’s PR department.” Indeed.

Regarding my mis-attribution of the TechCrunch post to Mike Arrington instead of Marshall Kirkpatrick, it’s interesting how easy it was to make that mistake — that’s what happens when the brand becomes synonymous with a person.

Comments (16 Responses so far)

  1. thing about clued in companies born of the web (Yahoo, Google) unlike those born of the PC era (Apple, Microsoft) is that they listen and adapt quickly. Of course this doesn’t answer a lot of the hard questions that people are asking with respect todata storage on the cloud in this brave new world but unfortunately we are all ankle-biters when it comes to the really big questions here, and only the big guys can help make the right policy decisions about what should happen in the grand scheme. As more people

  2. Data Storage Is the Key to the Web App Revolution –Good stance, however I believe Data Management is the core issue.? Let’s take for example the Flickr, Zooomr, Yahoo Photos and Google Picassa issue. All of these gallery providers have interesting and unique feature sets. Each of them have

  3. 11. [IMG Copy this] Publishing 2.0 » Data Storage Is the Key to the Web App Revolution

  4. ITmedia に書いた Web 2.0の世界は大企業が有利? との意見と真っ向から対立する。現実のネットビジネスがどちらの方向に進むのかは興味深い。Data Storage Is the Key to the Web App Revolution は、Zooomr にアイデアを得て書かれたもの。この記事で言う Web 2.0 とは、O’Reilly 的な定義による Folksonomy や CGM の話ではなく、Google Spreadsheets のような AJAX

  5. that any commercial vendor who wants a commercial key, MUST also provide clean, clear, open APIs – going in BOTH directions – from their system. That seems not only fair but smart. Now regarding WHERE a user’s data is stored, this is the old ‘data storage in the clouds debate’ – rehashed.  Antonio Rodrieguez points out that it’s completely reasonable to leave an end-user’s photos in Flickr, [via Doc] while accompalishing the tasks (in Tabblo’s case – hard copy printing

  6. thing about clued in companies born of the web (Yahoo, Google) unlike those born of the PC era (Apple, Microsoft) is that they listen and adapt quickly. Of course this doesn’t answer a lot of the hard questions that people are asking with respect todata storage on the cloud in this brave new world but unfortunately we are all ankle-biters when it comes to the really big questions here, and only the big guys can help make the right policy decisions about what should happen in the grand scheme. As more people

  7. and this is then experienced on an individual level creating waves of feedback from the emergent system, back to the component parts. From this we have to look at where these cultural changes around us are leading. For one, they are leading tolegitimate worries of security over our the data that make up our deterritorialized selves. The issue over ownership of these data, who gets to see its aggregate and individual effects in the end lead to the questions of who controls our networked, distributed selves and how do

  8. thing about clued in companies born of the web (Yahoo, Google) unlike those born of the PC era (Apple, Microsoft) is that they listen and adapt quickly. Of course this doesn’t answer a lot of the hard questions that people are asking with respect todata storage on the cloud in this brave new world but unfortunately we are all ankle-biters when it comes to the really big questions here, and only the big guys can help make the right policy decisions about what should happen in the grand scheme. As more people

  9. Original post: Data Storage Is the Key to the Web App Revolution by at Google Blog Search: storage Pages: Start 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

  10. Just a quick correction: Marshall Krkpatrick wrote the article on Techcrunch, not Mike Arrington.

  11. Thanks for picking-up this topic, Scott.

    I hope that the the point that I’m making now echos far beyond Zooomr & Flickr. I think that the entire nature of ‘Web 2.0′ is to be open and allow users a choice on where they want to take their data. Flickr already has the API in place and promotes users rights. I am willing to open-up my API to them as well, to be fair.

    So what’s the big deal? I don’t know exactly — I think that in Today’s world, opening-up your API is just another cost of doing business, especially when it comes to your users.

    Kristopher Tate
    cto & founder — bluebridge tech / zooomr

  12. The other question that should be asked is, are the members of these Web 2.0 sites treated as content creators or users? In that, should they retain copyright and ownership of anything they upload, or when they sign up for the service, do they give all these rights away? Obviously, I’m thinking if the Web 2.0 concept is truly “open” none of these companies should see any of the content they have on their servers truly their own in the first place. And they ought to be treating their users with respect as content creators, because they depend on them to exist as a site.

  13. [...] Also on this sunny Saturday (in SF, don’t know about DC), Scott Karp pitched in with Data Storage Is the Key to the Web App Revolution, where he quotes a correspondence with Nick Carr about how enterprises already depend on external storage and applications (Salesforce.com is only the most prominent example, mentioned by Carr). Karp adds On the consumer side, granted that most people would do better outsourcing the securing of their data, but perceived control, even at the expense of actual security, is also a powerful force. [...]

  14. [...] Now regarding WHERE a user’s data is stored, this is the old ‘data storage in the clouds debate’ – rehashed.  Antonio Rodrieguez points out that it’s completely reasonable to leave an end-user’s photos in Flickr, [via Doc] while accompalishing the tasks (in Tabblo’s case – hard copy printing) – at hand. [...]

  15. [...] Yet another data point demonstrating that (i) the technology Borg (resistance is futile) – the Google, Yahoos, Microsoft’s etc. of the world – have learned from Bubble 1.0 that getting in early is the least insane approach to staying ahead of the curve, and (ii) the role for VCs in Bubble 2.0 is very different from the role they played the first time around: news from Techcrunch that Zooomr is in discussions concerning an exit, valued at … hmmm … well … something. (Looks like the hubbub (why is Flickr afraid of Zooomr, etc.) Zooomr recently created over access to Flickr’s API did the job.) Call it more than its young founders (and 99.9% of the world’s population) have ever seen in one place at one time, and less than would need a VP’s signoff on the deal for the acquiror. [...]

  16. If safe storage of your critical data is paramount, then try a trusted service like IBackup (www.ibackup.com). If you fear you have to fight copyright charged against you or the content is vulnerable to third party access, then offsite storage is the best for you.

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    All backups and restores with IBackup have128-bit SSL encryption on transmission. It also supports backups for UNIX and Linux based computers using rsync, the open source utility. IBackup accounts are compatible with most FTP clients on most platforms providing a powerful flexible tool to transfer files. So think about the disaster scenario that can severely impact your business and devise the best data storage and recovery plan on offer. IBackup undoubtedly gives great value for money.

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