A PLACE FOR MY STUFF**...ONLINE
I have been an avid Yahoo! user since it earliest days*. They just celebrated their tenth birthday this year, like many other venerable Internet companies, have come a long way.
They've been the tortoise that has continued to beat the hare, even as the "hare" continues to change. First AOL, then MSN, and now Google.
They continue to introduce some of the neatest things with utter lack of fanfare, something very unusual in the world of "cool" web companies.
Whereas other companies can get the world a twitter at the mere possibility that they MAY do something (will Google do their own browser/won't they?), Yahoo! quietly introduces new stuff that are as important in its strategic implications as anything that Google or Microsoft might do.
In recent days, they've introduced MyWeb (Beta), which is a neat and easy way to store stuff you find on the web, in a single place online, that can be retrieved from any computer anywhere.
Yesterday, I touched on their acquisition of Flickr, which in my eyes is one of the most successful, mainstream applications of tagging on the web to date.
So they DO do cool things.
But this post isn't about all that. It's more a rant on an experience this morning of a long-standing Yahoo! service, the Yahoo! Address Book.
After an email exchange with a new acquaintance this morning, I clicked the button to add her to my address book online. The system whirred for a few seconds, and came back with the message, (and I'm paraphrasing here, since I couldn't believe my eyes and didn't write down the exact message, but here's the gist of it):
"Sorry, you've reached the storage limit of your address book. Please delete entries to add more entries."
I looked up at the address bar in my browser to make sure I was looking at the right web site, thinking maybe for a minute, I was on MSN (sorry, couldn't help that...you guys are SO EASY to kid...)
But no, it was Yahoo! my Yahoo!...
...the Yahoo! I've used for years for my email, my bookmarks, my notebook, my calendar, my address book and in a rudimentary, roundabout fashion through Yahoo! mail, even data files (collectively referred to as STUFF for the rest of this post), FOR ONE KEY REASON, that most other big guys never got, but only Yahoo! got in its Yahooian wisdom.
"Let them store stuff online and they will come".
Now I'm paraphrasing there, but you get the idea. It's an idea so powerful, that even Google took it to heart, taking it to the NEXT LEVEL by offering near-infinite storage (TWO GIGABYTES and counting) of your email online in GMail (that is if you're cool to be invited, since it's still in Beta).
Both these companies intuitively understood that the future of computing is getting people to put all their STUFF online. Not in a specific PC or laptop, or PDA or phone where you then have to worry about syncing stuff and shuffling copies around from home to office and back again droll stuff like that...
No anxiety every time you move to a new computer and worry about transferring ALL your important STUFF to the new machine and not leaving anything REALLY important behind.
No, just dump it all online and you can get it anytime, from any computer.
But Google understood something before Yahoo! on the next derivation of this idea.
If you're going to ask people to put their STUFF online, give them enough room to hang them selves, umm, enough room so that they won't EVER, NEVER want to move any of that STUFF from any of those online applications TO ANY OTHER COMPETING service EVER AGAIN.
But here was Yahoo! saying I'd reached my address book limit. I mean even AOL didn't do that in the good old, bad days of consumer online services, at least that I noticed.
So I quickly logged into my address book and checked how many entries I had. Now keep in mind, that over the years as I moved from PDA to PDA, desktop personal information manager (PIM) to PIM, old computer to new computer, I got into the habit of exporting all incremental contacts from every platform onto Yahoo! as my keeper of OVERALL ROLODEX ONLINE as the backup in the internet sky (internet clouds are so passe, don't you think?).
I trusted that it would always be there if any of these things got hit by lightning or dumped into the pool by a kid mistaking the PDA for a Frisbee.
So I've got a lot of contacts online. Five thousand to be exact. And that apparently was the magic number that choked my Yahoo! Address Book.
Didn't think it would happen, not at Yahoo!
So I thought I'd share this traumatic experience with you all in case you had some words of solace and/or advice. Maybe another address book online that allows infinite storage.
Hmmmm, didn't Google say they just introduced Contacts online on their GMail service? Where exactly is that link to export stuff into it?
Perhaps Mighty Mouse Apple will do something with this idea...after all they do have that Apple .Mac online storage account thing, even though it currently has a limit of 250 megabytes and is relatively lame in its implementation (no universal access via PCs, Apples, PDAs, etc.)
Maybe I'll calm down, take a deep breath and see if Yahoo! the tortoise fixes this some time soon. It'd be nothing less than what I'd expect from them.
So moral from this rambling post? To borrow from Wired Magazine:
TIRED: Storing all Your Stuff on Individual PCs/laptops/PDAs/Phones and syncing 'em.
WIRED: Storing all you Stuff online with infinite storage, access, security, and share-ability...for free or near free.
P.S. There are economic and bandwidth limitation issues to unlimited storage and uploading/downloading that we do need to be mindful of, but they are manageable both technically and from a business model perspective over time...for more more on that, see my April post titled "ON TODAY'S BROADBAND LIMITATIONS".
* FULL DISCLOSURE: I was the lead research analyst for the Yahoo! IPO a decade ago.