Things change at different rates. Bandwidth, for instance, is all over the place. At the net’s core – in the trenches between ISPs and data centres – aggregate bandwidth in the last decade has multiplied by… ooh… a million? Up the path to your house, though, it’s barely doubled. What have you got, right now? 56K? Pathetic. Even ADSL gives you barely twenty times what you got from Demon in 1993. Meanwhile, your hard drive is filling up with bigger and bigger files – 3MB for a 6MPixel JPEG, 50MB per album for MP3s, 4GB for a DVD movie, 60GB for an hour of DV – but the tools we use for moving these enormous files around are as old as the hills and either inadequate (email) or inaccessible (ftp). We need new tools.
So I’m testing Creo’s Tokens – a tool for moving huge files around machine-to-machine without having to set up ftp accounts or worry about email attachment quotas and other annoyances. It works on the Adobe Acrobat model – if you want to create and send big files you buy a product called Token Creator (analagous to the Acrobat authoring tools).
You drag-and-drop your files onto the Creator app which makes a pair of new files: a ‘bundle’ which contains the original data (compressed and mashed into a single file) and a ‘token’ which is a tiny pointer designed to be sent in email. Recipients need to download a free app called Token Redeemer (analagous to the Acrobat Reader but with a slightly more religious name). Once you’ve got the Redeemer installed, double-clicking on a token starts a direct transfer from the Creator’s machine. Bingo. Creators can time-limit their tokens so that storage-eating bundles disappear automatically after a few days or weeks.
There’s a server app for people who intend to distribute lots of files and if a firewall gets in the way of a smooth transfer Creo’s own server cuts in and relays the file via http (a service Creators pay for).
I like the product and I certainly have a use for it (mostly swapping Laurel & Hardy MP3s with my friend Paul). I can also imagine lots of cool new uses once it becomes more widespread. I’m worried about the business model, though. Creators pay $49 to play which doesn’t seem unreasonable until you examine the product’s likely uses. If it’s strictly a business product then charging to create is fine, but if, as I suspect, there’s a ready audience among consumers swapping those big media files it’s hard to imagine it taking off.
The model already has three tiers: Redeemer (free), Creator ($49) and Server ($395). Adding a free Creator (perhaps limited to n transfers per month or with the relay service switched off) would jump start the creation of tokens and that might be enough to get the product onto the web adoption curve properly. With creation choked off, though, getting to critical mass is going to be take a long time and cost a lot of money.