Cloud storage and cloud computing will increasingly be a fact of life. While I still create plenty of so-called static web pages for clients (which means I develop the content more or less on the desktop and then upload it to the web), back in 2004, I took my first web database driven e-commerce client — I guess I should call that cloud-commerce, eh?
Of course, I still developed the code that would control and direct the database interactions on my desktop — but that code allowed my clients to add and remove content from the virtual catalog component of their site without intervention from me and, of course, allowed their customers to shop and manage their own transactions.
Naturally, we’re all pretty familiar with the e-commerce model that began developing in the mid and late 90s with the rise of large online retailers who needed methods of managing their online catalogs that didn’t rely on coders creating a separate page for each item. (Indeed, the e-commerce client I took on back in 2004 had had such a system, with hundreds of items ‘locked’ to the ‘hard-code’ of individual web pages. It had become a nightmare to maintain, as you might imagine.)
Two developments signaled an evolutionary trend that would eventually allow just plain folks to develop content in the cloud — although, of course, back in the late 90s, the coders and geeks who developed and implemented the bright new ideas of the web had little use for the buzz-word factories of the marketing departments and PR flacks.
The first of those were social or community websites that encouraged users to contribute their own content. In fact, the social aspect of the internet was one of the first trends to evolve as the internet increasingly connected computers in different locations, starting when the first two nodes were connected on September 29, 1969, forming ARPANET.
At first the evolving Internet was the province of academic and government.
But with the rise of personal computers and transmission of data over phone lines (which itself had its roots in the wire photo — first successfully accomplished in 1921 by Western Union), new, less formal collaborative and social forms developed in the form of message lists and then user interfaces that wrapped around simple group messaging, presenting those messages in formats soon dubbed bulletin boards. [Hello, vBulletin! ]
For a long time, of course, limited by early technologies and bandwidth restrictions of voice telephone lines appropriated for data transmission via modems that translated ones and zeros into blips and bleeps.
The public internet as we know it more or less began in 1988-89, but online communities like the old Compuserve had existed for many years by then, the parent company founded in 1969 as Compu-Serv Network, Inc. The web interconnection system using the internet backbone was developed in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee. Over the next years, web browsers evolved rapidly, adding the capability of incorporating image and other multimedia content early on — but bandwidth restrictions usually kept images low resolution and tiny for some years.
Still, the ability to create more than simple web content was limited for internet end-users, unless they were willing to become coders. But the ability granted by early community sites to upload images and later audio files were important milestones.
One of the most revolutionary sites of the 90s, in many ways, was the original Mp3.com, which used the sort of data-driven interfaces originally growing out of early community sites to allow musicians to upload their work as well as to create and restyle their own individual web pages hosted within the site. One of the most popular features of Mp3.com was its conjoining of a basic bulletin board with the content pages, forming a set of community forums that was used for self-promotion as well as music discussions — and a whole lot of socializing — and, of course, as the Mp3.com veterans among us here at HC probably well remember, lots of flame wars.
The other cloud precursor was blogging software.
Blogs (web logs) had been around since early in the 90s, originally conceived as a way of pointing others to interesting content on the evolving web. But for much of the 90s, they were the province of those who had enough of a grasp of web coding to create their own static (hard-coded) web pages. Conventions evolved rapidly, including chronological internal linking systems, at first simply links to previous entries, typically at the bottom of each new entry.
But it didn’t take long for bloggers to realize that there must be a good way of automating and standardizing the conventions of their individual blogs.
The first blogging softwares were desktop applications, basically special purpose web editors that allowed simple automation of format and linking. But as online database technologies rapidly matured, the merits of taking that content creation up onto the web itself, quickly became apparent.
With increasingly user friendly user interfaces, blogging took off. Of course, much of the content was standard Me2 Generation stuff, what cute thing my cat did today, idle thoughts, and, of course political rants — but the original purpose of blogs — pointing to other content, thrived as well.
In the 2000s, we saw a conjoining of social/community sites with blog features and content, forming the nascent social media scene.
Once the desktop (or laptop — and now smartphone) became merely a portal to the web (a thin client in geek speak) instead of the engine of content which would then be uploaded — we were pretty much dealing with the cloud.
So online content creation and online storage of that content — as well as other data — have been around for a pretty long time.
But it took some marketing guy — just who is subject to fairly intense debate — to come up with a buzz phrase name that would stick. Probably the earliest use goes back to 1997, when NetCentric attempted to trademark the phrase “cloud computing.” By 1999, they had abandoned the term. Still, it had been introduced into the sea of geek mind.
In 2006, Eric Schmidt of Google used the phrase cloud computing to describe their approach to SaaS (Software as a Service). [see John Willis' Who Coined The Phrase Cloud Computing?']
The rest is history.