a glob of nerdishness

February 14, 2009

Why sync still stinks

written by natevw @ 5:24 pm

Antonio Rodriguez, of the excellent Tabblo service fame, asks “Why does sync still suck?” without giving an answer. Sync is going to become more and more important as we use more software on more devices from more places. I’m a little hesitant to say this, because a) it might be only true for us nerds in our gadget-filled bubbles and b) Internet access may soon become completely ubiquitous for said nerds. But if the nerds ever figure out sync they’ll be really eager to share it with the rest of the world.

It’s frustrating that sync really belongs in the operating system, or even in standards above the operating system level, but for various reasons even where it is present it’s tough to really justify the extra pain of working with it. Apple does have a system framework (Sync Services) that is available to third party developers, but it is not designed to handle large chunks of media. It can’t be used to sync with iPhones, and MobileMe’s continuing bad reputation gives it a bad stigma as well. Maybe Microsoft has their own solution, but it probably has its own problems and certainly wouldn’t be compatible with Apple’s, or Google’s…

To answer Antonio’s question: Sync still stinks because file formats still stink and file system models still stink. And, in practice, the web hasn’t solved many of the underlying problems either. Standard formats lead to stagnation, proprietary solutions lead to fragmentation. File systems are stagnant, and file formats are usually fragmented. I’m very interested to learn how these difficulties can be overcome, but after so many years of not solving these problems, I don’t expect it will be easy.