As a 21st century netzien, you’ve got plenty of choices when it comes to low cost cloud services. Generally, you pick a favorite provider or two and centralize your world around them. For me, that means: Google Voice, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Music & Dropbox for file syncing and sharing. Over in the yahoo cloud I use Flickr for photo storage and sharing. I’ve done enough of the Dropbox bonus activities that I have 7.x GB of space I can access from my phone, laptops, web browsers, and so on. It’s been sufficient for the last few years, but I’m starting to bump up against the size limitations.
Between the above services, I have 100% of my cloud data locked into three providers.
The headlines as of late have given me cause to take another view of the world, and I started thinking about how I could extract myself from the web of Google’s information store. Alternatives abound, but there’s significant work to be done to get there.
I could reproduce Google Voice functionality with a mixed bag of services or even a paid subscription to SendHub. I could easily port my personal e-mail out of google to a provider that provides IMAP or ActiveSync functionality, possibly even cheaply. Calendaring and other services usually come along with the basic functionality.
Generally, solutions are out there. Google hyper-commoditized the free e-mail market and forced the world to accept multi-gigabyte mailboxes. If you are willing to be part of the advertising machine, there are plenty of gratis top tier providers for many of these services.
It’s ok. The product is you.
Cloud file storage on the other hand presents a different sort of problem. It feels really open – there’s always a copy of all of my data somewhere, and more than likely everywhere I want it. So getting my data out is no problem. What Dropbox and its kin (Google Drive, MS Skydrive, Box, iCloud, etc) provide is unique and sticky. It feels secure. It feels like mine, and it is. Sort of.
Dropbox has taken it a step further recently, by providing a rich set of API’s for cross platform syncing via the Dropbox Platform. Features include a Datastore API, a Sync API & drop-ins for Chooser & Saver. It’s a brilliant move to Dropbox enable thousands of the applications we use every day. With +175 Million users out there, developers are certain to jump on the integration.
Developers win, Dropbox wins, Users win.
Or do we?
When I start to see API’s providing open access to cloud based services, I generally think it’s a good idea. I mean what harm could come? But at second glance, its apparent that there’s no standard in place. A developer can’t simply write an application that’s tied to Dropbox Datastore and give the user their choice of Datastore providers. The same goes for the remainder of the API’s. There are no alternatives. Dropbox has enlisted developers and users who want integrated Dropbox functionality into their lock-in army.
Its not evil, its just good business.