Thursday, October 15, 2015

Google Drive Hosting? Not anymore.

So, this has been a kick in the teeth...

"Beginning August 31st, 2015, web hosting in Google Drive for users and developers will be deprecated. You can continue to use this feature for a period of one year until August 31st, 2016, when we will discontinue serving content via[doc id].

In the time since we launched web hosting in Drive, a wide variety of public web content hosting services have emerged. After careful consideration, we have decided to discontinue this feature and focus on our core user experience."

This is enormously bad. Not just for me, for everyone. I don't know how to communicate what the knock-on effects could be, but this is probably the end of "free" file hosting on the internet. It's certainly a major problem for my Astromech project, which currently uses Google Drive for users to store and publish their 3D assets.

If you're happy with an entirely corporate internet landscape, where every byte is bought and paid for by someone and the prerequisite for getting published is a credit card, then welcome to the new world.

But to me, that's not what the internet was for. The people who built the 'net were scientists and students, educators and children, a segment of the population which pretty much by definition doesn't have any money. Just time, and passion, and knowledge.

Now if you think "hang on, there's still lots of free file hosting services", then remember that none of them want you serving files out the 'back end' to all an sundry, like a website does. Filenames are obfuscated. Relative paths are broken. Logins are required. On Amazon, a whole eight machines can access the data! Eight!

Sure there's and MediaFire, but they want the chance to put splash advertising in front of the download. That doesn't work for AJAX includes.

The keyword here is "direct links". That's what lets you copy a directory of HTML and images to a server and all the hyperlinks work as intended. So /doc.html can refer to /image.png and the server knows to get it from the same place just next-door. If you copy a directory to DropBox, for example, each file gets 'stored' in what seems like a different randomly named directory, (although the 'base' filename is there) And don't even _try_ pulling down the public directory list and extracting the file paths. They're heavily obfuscated.

What really concerns me is that once Google kick everyone off their free hosting, the 'parasites' will move on to DropBox or Amazon or OneDrive and work out how to gank those systems. Then they will fall like dominoes playing a game of hot potato. And the abusers won't stop, because they have a vested interest. Basically, all the porn will just shift to the next service, and the next. Or into hacked accounts, since they're now valuable for their storage space. (And the problem will get twice as hard to fix. It's easy to blow away sock-puppet accounts, not so easy when they're hijacking real ones.)

And you can bet that other services, like blogger, will have to clamp down on their file uploads too. Or go away entirely. Otherwise it's just Google playing whack-a-mole with itself.

What will vanish is all those little one-person technical sites that served a useful purpose, but had no revenue streams. $200 a year is a lot for a vanity site. They will all just quietly turn off August 16 next year, and it will be like GeoCities shutting down, all over again. Vast chunks of unique content will disappear. Individuals have no place anymore. The porn and cat videos and corporations will remain. Sort of like a neutron bomb for the internet.

So, thanks Google. You've finally gone off the rails from your core promise of "We want more and better internet for everyone!" and added the caveat "So long as you can pay." And you'll have to go back to downloading exabytes of data that you used to store 'locally'. Hope that works out for you.

I'm sorry, but monetizing our friendship means you ain't my friend anymore. You pretended, offered me some nice tools, and used my hard work as the bait for the corporate switch, And you gave a one-paragraph transparently fictitious reason for doing so. That's not something I forgive. If you're going to carelessly destroy months of work, then I - at least - deserve the real reason.

"After careful consideration, we have decided..." Fuck you, Google.

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