Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Two Web Breakthroughs

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Apr 26, 1999

Posted to Jesse Berst's Anchor Desk 26 April 1999

Berst proposes that high-speed bandwidth will rapidly accelerate developments in remote file storage and online conferencing.

Regarding the former: people are unlikely to store their files on remote servers because people do not trust them. It's not that they think people will steal their data (though that is a possibility), it is because if the remote file storage crashes and burns, or becomes bankrupt, their data will be lost. Even if people store their data remotely, they will retain a copy on their own machine for back-up.

What is rather more likely is the development of personal web servers. High speed access, such as cable modem, ISDN or xDSL, requires that the user maintain a permanent connection to the internet. This makes it a lot easier for users to set up and access web servers located on their home of office desktop. So if they need to access their files on the road, they simply download the material from a secure directory.

Regarding the latter: here Berst is more accurate in his predictions, but less accurate in his application. Online videoconferencing has been around for several years. At the corporate level - where high speed access has been the norm for some time - it is an available technology. And while it has been used to some degree, instant messageing - using ICQ or even email - has become the widespread practise. These technologies prevail not because they are cheaper or even faster, but because they are easier. With the advent of build-in video cameras and one-step v-conferencing software, use will increase.

But where videoconferencing has taken off is in the personal domain. It is common knowledge that online video was used in a widespread manner first by the sex trade. Today, we see online video used as entertainment. Sites such as JenniCam showcase this technology at its best. Parents will use the technology to watch and listen to their children at daycare. Grandparents will use it to listen to their grandchildrens' very bad poetry recitals. Lovestruck teens will share a camera moment last thing at night and first thing in the morning.

Online videoconferencing is a slow, sedate means of communication. It is more of a Sunday afternoon thing than a Monday morning thing. It offers personal contact, but not so much so that it can replace the need to look someone in the eyes.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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