Solution seeks problem, finds problem…

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.

2 thoughts on “Solution seeks problem, finds problem…

  1. Blah

    Won’t take off. A Token is basically a URL. BitTorrent URLs are just much more attractive. I mean I don’t actually care where which physical disk platter is serving up the document.

    What what would be nice would be some kind of method of encrypting big files automatically so that I wouldn’t care about have them dispersed around the network.

    Anyway, where is the bottleneck?? Its not hard drive space and it won’t be bandwidth. Most likely to be management …

  2. I agree with your take on FTP! Who wants to waste time setting up accounts and fooling around with security permissions and I have lost track of the number of times an email bounce back at me just because the receiver hasnt cleaned out HIS inbox in two weeks.
    There is a lot of competitors in this space, like Xdrive, WhaleMail, and FileCourier. I have been using a tool similar to Tokens called FileCourier (www.filecourier.com) over the last six months. I dragged the free trial out for two months and then finally had to put $5 into their pay-as-you go scheme (I am not ready to commit to one of the subscriptions yet, and besides I dont need to move gigabytes every month). Always on the lookout for something new (not to mention another free trial) so I gave Tokens a look.
    The one thing I really liked about Tokens was that the file didnt move from my PC until the receiver requested it, I think only Tokens and FileCourier are taking this approach and it means that I dont have to store MY private files on some GUYs shared fileserver. A real plus over XDrive (www.xdrive.com ) , Whalemail (www.whalemail.com) and all the other FTP wan-a-be killers. It also means that I dont have to constantly manage yet another drive, I have enough to do just keeping my own PC in order.
    The let down for me was the need for the receiver to have a redeemer (FileCourier, Xdrive and the others do not require the receive to install any software), and whats with the free trial lasting only seven days!. A real free trial lasts at least two months….

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