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Files or Data Stores?

February 1, 2010 20:25:27.922

Gilad Bracha sees the iPhone and the iPad, and has decided that they portend the end of the filesystem as we know it:

Which brings us to the programmer experience. File APIs will disappear from client platforms (as in the web browser). So programmers will become accustomed to working with persistent object stores as provided by HTML 5, Air etc. And as they do, they will get less attached to files as code representation as well.

Well, not so fast. What's actually happening is that the end user experience (apps manage the file system for you on an application specific basis) is diverging from the developer experience (writing the code to make that "magic" possible. Take iTunes or iPhoto - I never really look at the way either application manages things. From my end user standpoint, there are two folders I don't need to pay attention to (Music and Pictures). Underneath all of that is a mass of files (raw photos, XML metadata, edited photos, etc). All of that stuff is stored in... files.

Heck, even if you think everything will end up in the cloud that won't change. The end user will end up seeing application defined portals into their data, while the back end will be some combination of application specific file storage, databases (etc) - all in a filesystem somewhere.

As to developers moving away from files - well. Anyone who uses a source code control tool is moving in that direction already. It happens to be the case that the simplest artifact to go into these tools is usually the file, but those files are increasingly organized into some kind of package structure that is more meaningful.

posted by James Robertson

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