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!