Blog » Post

Portable clouds

It's been a while since the web had an obvious frontier—a widely shared "next" for the web. Web 2.0 suggested a "next" that was too much "already," and we ended up with a catch phrase kind-of getting in the way of important debates about what we can do "next" with the web.

So, I've been sketching a blog post or two about "what's next," with some of my own ideas that I hope will garner some comments, as I am especially curious what you see as the frontier.

But, first off, I wanted to do this quick post to give a name and definition to one of the frontiers I've been thinking about a lot:

Portable Clouds

"Portable clouds" is a name for the idea that the "cloud" of the Internet is / can be made portable by copying portions of it onto your local networks, desktops and portable devices. Another way to say this is: really great replication and caching of the web.

There has been some obviously important developments in this area like Google Gears and the Web Storage and Offline Web Applications specs for HTML 5. And, one could imagine that, between Gears and those specs, the "really great caching" frontier is pretty well mapped out.

But, part of why I am thinking in terms of "portable clouds" is that there's a more uncharted (and, I think, interesting) frontier where these "really great caches" are outside of the web browser. And, neither Gears nor the HTML 5 specs imagine anything about a cached web outside of one browser at a time.

To put it in a bit more broad context: the web is always about interconnections, and efforts like Offline Web Applications don't add new potentials for interconnections (the "offline" copy of the web is locked inside the browser—a "dead end" in that sense). Portable Clouds is about extending the interconnections more onto your local network, desktop or device.

The really interesting thing to me is in that truism / paradox of the web: a web page is a web page. And, in the case of Portable Clouds, the seemingly slight but significant tweak is that a local copy of a web page is a web page.

So, some might dismiss that in terms of either: web pages aren't that interesting, or in terms of: a local web page isn't more interesting than a web page on the World Wide Web. But, I think, to the first objection: another frontier of the web right now is making more and more interesting web pages with significant functionality in the page itself (via Javascript, obviously—e.g., a Google Doc is just a web page, or the Magnature WaxMP3 music player is just a web page).

Can local web pages be as, or even more, interesting than those on the World Wide Web? I think there are some interesting potentials beyond simply having a web application work "offline." For example, putting aside the fact this too is locked in a single browser (by a single vendor!), look at Opera Unite.

And, in terms of all of the ideas of the "web desktop" that is in the cloud, I have a hunch that it could develop in a more interesting way if the cloud could be portable / local as well as remote. I certainly have some ideas, like a web page-based replacement for the entire iTunes ecosystem (local / remote media player, local / remote media library, distribution formats, sharing, etc.).


So, more on all of this later. For now, I just wanted to suggest this name / idea of Portable Clouds. Definitely curious what you think about this.

Blog Archives

Next post: Twitter vs the blog

Prev post: Apple and the individual media industry