Dreaming of Clouds

“Cloud Computing,”Sam Johnston, 2009. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.

If anything, the rush to provide content in the cloud is beginning to speed up.

On March 29th, Amazon announced its Cloud Drive service, focusing on storage of MP3 audio files, which can be streamed from the web with Amazon’s Cloud Player. Cloud Drive is able to store any digital files.

On May 10th, Google released a similar product: Google Music.

The blogosphere is full of speculation about when Apple will release iCloud, it’s much expected, audio streaming service. Many Apple reporters think that iCloud will be rolled out during the Apple Worldwide Developers’ Conference, starting on June 6th.

As the performance of wireless networks increases, the cloud becomes more attractive. More and more people are using portable devices (iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets). These devices often combine minimal storage with built-in internet connections, and that adds up to a compelling argument for file storage in the cloud, with access to anything, but minimal local storage requirements.

Apple’s reported goal with iCloud is to allow people to play their songs without first having to upload them. Apple’s service would replicate your list of songs on its servers, and stream them from a common source when you wanted them. (Both Google and Amazon require you to spend hours and hours, or days, uploading your music library.)

Unfortunately, in the  genealogy realm, there is no massive media conglomerate who owns archival electronic records of your data.

Wait … what about Ancestry and FamilySearch? These folks have archival quality digital images of original records. When I log into Ancestry, it knows which documents I have put in my shoebox. It has all the metadata about the 1930 census record for my father and his family. Yes, I can download it, and yes, I can navigate to it in the context of an Ancestry Family Tree, or in the context of a software package where I have attached this image….

But why can’t I easily tag this image with my own personal metadata (as on Footnote.com), and see the tags other people use (as on Delicious.com), and why can’t I search my “personal document collection” for text (delivered via Optical Character Recognition, or in the context of a textual document) or for metadata?

Why can’t I search through my entire genealogical image collection, without having it on my local system, with the search running in the cloud?

Why indeed!