Remember back in the day when if you moved houses you needed to get a new telephone number, even if you stayed in the same city? Remember all those times you switched Internet service providers and needed get a new email address? In both cases we were victim to a close coupling of identifier (phone number, email address) with identified (us). Fortunately these are well on their way to becoming de-coupled; there’s a reason I’m @rukavina.net and not @myisp.net.
I think it’s time to start worrying about the same sort of thing for our remote media storage: as we pour our photos into Flickr and our video into YouTube, we’re also ceding the address of our media to someone else. My photos are @flickr, not @rukavina.
There’s some recognition in other digital domains that this is a Good Thing: FeedBurner, for example, has an upsell called MyBrand that, for $2.99/month, lets you have your RSS feed like at feeds.yourdomain.com rather than @feedburner.com.
But this photo of mine (mine!) is @flickr, not @me. And as I blog it and email it and gradually insert it into the digital nervous system of the planet it becomes harder and harder to decouple from Brand Flickr.
So I think that we have to start thinking about how to separate the process of storing something from its publicly exposed URL. I can still use Flickr (or anything else) as a photo storage, indexing, tagging system, but I want to be able to assign my media an address that I own, one that I can re-point when and if I move the “physical” storage of the photos.
We already know how to do this — look at the DNS system as an example of a system without “identifier-identified lock in” as an example.
The nice thing about Flickr et al is that they expose the programatic side of their services with a rich API; as such, it should be easy not only to layer my own URLs over my photos (and, indeed, store them in more than one place). Perhaps that’s the next project?