I have an affinity for technologies that go beyond established limits. Be it audio, video, communication or whatever.
One of my pet ideals is what I’ll refer to as Infinite Persistence. I don’t actually believe in infinity, but the ideal is there.
The idea of the Internet was to create a network resilient of nuclear attack. Information would always find a path around destroyed nodes. The network was ressilient to failure. The communications channel was persistent.
Now, what about data storage? For me it’s not enough that I can always reach someone. I also want to be able to always be able to reach my data! In short, I want my data to be persistent. True persistence without redundancy is not reliable. Therefore I want the data to be mirrored. I can’t rely on one file to survive. I can’t rely on one partition to survive. I can’t rely on one harddisk to survive. I can’t rely on a RAID setup to survive. I need the data to be simultaneously present in geographically distinct locations.
One way to achieve some level of that persistence is Peer to Peer (P2P) networks. They allow files to be uniquely identified (using hash functions) and mirroed. This is great. But is it reliable in itself? I think Peer to Peer networks are the future in some shape or form, but I’m not trusting any current implementation that I know of. In particular I’m not trusting the lifespan of the network or the redundancy of my data. Redundancy often relies on shared interest. Someone else shares interest in a file, therefore that individual creates a mirror for the file. That mirror may have a short lifespan, right down to the duration of the file transfer. It’s not something I’m ready to trust.
Another instance of persistence is name persistence. The DNS system is very unreliable. Names come and go. Names are not fixed and can be reused for very different purposes. The system is commercial and no name can be guaranteed to be owned by one indiviual for any long time. That is not reliable. That is not able to support the Infinite Persistence ideal.
This blog post was triggered by, but not solely inspired by (since it has been on my mind for years), my encounter with Gmail. I just love Google and the Google services. But I have one problem with Google, and other email providers. They are not reliable. They are not a reliable means of storage and therefore not support the Infinite Persistence ideal.
The problem is that Gmail erases mails and/or accounts after some n days of inactivity. This is not acceptable to me. I will continue to use Gmail for the time being, but I’m convinced that if Gmail does not offer temporal unbounded storage, if not spatially, to the extent realistic, it will not survive in the long run. Someone will come along and offer permanent accounts that do not require users to login every n days.
End of story.