Picture This: Hosted Lifebits in the Personal Cloud

Consider the last photo you took of a spouse, a child, or a friend. It will likely enter your personal cloud in one or more of these ways:

These first-generation cloud services are convenient and wonderful. But in the long run we'll want them to do more. Here are some other services I can envision.


I have a shoebox full of photos of my grandparents. If I don't lose the shoebox, and if my house doesn't burn down, those photos are more likely to be seen by my (future) grandchildren than many of the photos of the current generation of my family. Why? Photos taken during the first dozen years of the digital photography era are scattered across a motley assortment of hard drives that may never spin again, unlabeled optical discs, and websites both personal and public. The best archival medium would still be print but few of these photos have been printed.

I want a service that will consolidate my digital photos and take care of them for generations to come, migrating them to new media and formats as the old ones go extinct.

Access control and auditing

Some photos I want to make public, others I want to share only with friends and family. Today the latter choice works only in social network silos. If the group I want to share with spans several of those, I've got to figure out who's using which service, post to each, and then try to understand the combined scopes of visibility. And I can't audit any kind of access, whether public or restricted.

I want a service that will enable me to define an access group, such as friends and family, independently of any silo. I want to share photos once to that group. And I want to be able to audit access to the photos.

Object identity

For some kinds of digital artifacts today, notably academic journal articles, we mint digital object identifiers. A DOI is a durable name that resolves to potentially many URLs. It's what you cite when you want to refer to the article itself, rather than to one of various URLs that may be served from different places.

I want a service that will mint unique and durable identifiers for objects in my personal cloud, and resolve them to whatever storage services I happen to use.

The big picture

It's not just photos. I want the same for my whole expanding set of digital objects, including medical and financial records, commercial transactions, personal correspondence, home energy use data, you name it. I want all of my lifebits to be hosted in the cloud under my control. Is that feasible? Technically there are huge challenges, but they're good ones, the kind that will spawn new businesses. The key point is that these will be businesses. Nobody can put me in charge of my personal cloud, in the ways I want, for free. I'll need to pay for that service. Today it's not available at any price. When it is available, and at the right price, I'll be the first to sign up.