Every time I see a story about unplanned and/or unauthorized ways of using legitimate services, it strikes me how blind must some people be. It's not about TOS, it's not about advertisement, it's not about e-mail storage. In my eyes it's more and more about mobility.
Here's my two-word pet theory on why USA economy managed to grow faster than EU economy: JOB MOBILITY. The knowledge that you can always say enough and move on to some job that rewards you more in a way that matters to you personaly. Many employers in EU demand and value employee loyalty above anything else. They frown upon any person that has changed jobs more than... let's see... two times, cosidering it a sign of unreliability.
And what does all of this have to do with GMail and 1GiB mail storage places? Single, but crucial point: MOBILITY. In this case not just job mobility, but rather an information mobility. It seems to me that more and more people are using more and more different computers in different places. Work/home being just one part of the equation. More and more people are mobile on the road and would like the benefits of haing all the data accessible all the time.
One of the hardest processes to explain to less-than-brilliant computer users is concept of synchronization. Process that gives them more or less same view and version of their data wherever they are. It seems that, in their eyes at least, the solution to the problem happens to be extremely simple: give me disk/e-mail combo that I can access from anywhere and anytime. These GMail applications are perhaps the most powerful indication that this just might be the case.
In this case it's not about information wants to be free. It's all about I want to be free to access all of my information. If I travel a lot and have many presentations to deliver on the road, why not use gmailfs for storing my presentations? Notebooks can be stolen, CD-ROMs can be fried on sunlight, luggage can be lost, ... Need I continue enumerating all the horror stories that can & will happen to you? Maybe Joe in the office just finished new calculations for some meeting and send it to me with my mail. Unfortunately for some weird reason (VPN/NAT incompatibility, limited outgoing ports, no access to webmail, ...) you can not read your personal mail from company server, but you can still access web based e-mail services.
Head honchos in corporations should take a note here: it's nice to have strong security policies in place, but they are an obsticle when they prevent your employees from conducting business. People try to do their work with minimum hassle possible, so they are always keen on embracing any technology that will help them keep the hassle down. One way is to ignore the need to access all the data all the time and place policies that make using gmailfs-like solutions reason for dismissal. The other way is to embrace the changing needs of workforce and try to address concerns arising from using such services.
Perhaps Google will one day offer this file/e-mail combo solution. Perhaps with even more than 1GiB of space. I can only hope that people will see this for what it is: information storage. With this service, companies could probably sign-in to have their employees use the service to their advantage. Corporations could probably buy Google-boxes doing the same just for their corporation. Google will probably provide obstacles for intruders to snoop on traffic (SSL/TLS) without the need for some expensive VPN solution. After all, if it is THAT SECRET, what do you need it outside the company.
One could say, yes, the future is here. Unfortunately too much hinges on just a few cabals that are know to find illegal use in every new concept or technology. They have too much political power and much too much legal cannons to be ignored and dispensed with. Just like CD-R can be used to make a backup, so it can be used to copy an album. Disk can be used to store databases, or it can be used to store porn. There will always be people abusing the tools and technology. How about *hint, hint* we make the cabals deal with them, while we do what we do best: invent new tools.
--- To boldly invent more hot water ---