Digital “Storage” of our Digital “Stuff”
First of a Series of Blog Posts from Maremel’s White Paper: Opening Pandora’s Digital Box
“Storage”: An interesting word in the context of “digital stuff.” Like the word “collect,” storage implies that it is our “digital stuff,” that we have ownership rights to it.
Storage, as a social metaphor, brings with it context from our daily, physical lives. It may bring to mind Public Storage units, areas under overpasses where we put the detritus of our lives: mom’s sofa, the wagon wheel coffee table that we fight over, or three rooms of furniture as we downsize homes. Storage bears echoes of George Carlin’s 1986 comedy routine about stuff to hold our stuff in.
He detailed how we have stuff everywhere and have some stuff that is more important than other stuff, which we want to keep with us always. Our digital stuff holds many of those same traits: we have digital stuff all over the place, some is more important, and some we want to keep with us always as well.
Email has become a “gateway drug” for the cloud, training users to expect abundance of digital storage. Digital storage was framed for many years as precious, to be used wisely. Previously, companies chastised their employees about using too much e-mail space through automated warning messages. Expectations have escalated since 2 MB in free email storage was offered by Hotmail in 1996. Yahoo started at 4 MB in 1997, and Gmail started its beta with 1 GB in 2004. Yahoo joined in with unlimited storage in 2007, and Google upped the game soon after with its “Infinity Plus One” storage plan, which has grown individual storage now to more than 7 GB for free unlimited storage for Gmail[i]. Hotmail has since moved to “ever-growing,” nearly unlimited storage, continuing to change social norms about digital storage expectations.
Entire business ecosystems have sprung up, dealing with sharing, backup, and cloud storage. These tools have shifted home and business users to consider storage issues such as ubiquity, mobility, sharing, multiple devices, and permanence. Despite these roving ambitions, most people’s work and social habits have not kept up. Products have launched to help us filter and gather our email, though the majority of users still let the content swamp us out and push into unfiltered folders.
2011 was a year of many media “cloud” storage toolset launches, with more solutions to this “problem” on the horizon. Cloud-based content storage now reaches into consumer lives as well as business services. Digital media is a growing percentage of our personal digital storage. As a digital culture, we also are rethinking storage as to digital media.
This transition brings with it a series of questions about this “problem,” and about the relationships between the consumer and cloud-based media storage in the future:
- What are the problems that companies and consumers are trying to solve with cloud-based media storage?
- Is this time a transition while we are in changing habits of mobility, sharing, and recommendation with tablets and smartphones?
- Is it a transition, with different trajectories for our existing digital stuff and entirely new behaviors with new acquisitions and our own digital media creations?
- How might this transition drive permanent changes in our concepts of content ownership, collection, and storage?
- How will this change our willingness to pay for storage and to pay a premium for ownership?
Further, playing off of the George Carlin riff on stuff drives two related questions:
- What do I expect from the stuff I need to manage my digital stuff?
- Is the nature of stuff itself changing?
The music and book media sectors have been facing these issues head-on. Their company leaders have been forced to rethink what the context and containers for our media content mean in an environment of abundance. They have been rethinking books and music in a terrain of fluid data and scarcer time. Other sectors, including video and even education, may find ideas from looking to other media platforms and sectors for pain points, challenges, and new business models.
This blog post from Maremel’s white paper will continue in three steps:
- Drivers that are accelerating cloud-based consumer media storage,
- Challenges to be met as Pandora’s Box opens, and
- Opportunities that lay beneath, beyond the popular discussions about content in the cloud.
[i] Now adding 3.3 MB each day to the limit, per Google.