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the network is the disk drive

Sean McGrath: "XML is not - repeat NOT - a 'file format' in the sense that most people use the phrase 'file format'."

Here's his article. Of course he's right. XML is a specification for formats, not a file format itself. It has high-level semantics for defining specific semantics.

But, in any case, when so much of the data we consume flows across the network without ever settling in a well-defined filesystem location, the idea of a "file" stops being so important methinks. Even on the desktop side we are thinking more and more in terms of pieces of information, emails, IMs, webpages--not files.

I am reminded of a short-term backup system someone once described to me: every number of hours a backup would be created, then sent out through SMTP to the company's subsidiary in Australia, where another program would pick it up and then, through direct streaming, send it back. At any point in time there were a number of copies flowing through the system--and if something happened and you needed a certain copy for a certain date, all you had to do was wait for the right piece of data to circle back to you, and you were done (there's a case where a super-fast network would actually be a liability). The same could be easily done today through a couple of daemons and webservices running on top of apache--Rather than Sun's "The network is the computer" it would be "The network is the disk drive".

I forget what my point was.

Ah yes: "A keyboard! How quaint!" (That's Scotty speaking for all out there not fully up to date on your Star Trek arcana).

Let us all put the quaint notion of files and formats behind us and think about where that may take us...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on June 23 2005 at 1:09 PM

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