The file has been replaced with the platform, the service, the ecosystem. This is not to say that I’m proposing we lead an uprising against services. You can’t halt progress by clogging the internet pipes. I say this to mourn the loss of the innocence we had before capitalism inevitably invaded the internet. When we create now, our creations are part of an enormous system. Our contributions a tiny speck in an elastic database cluster. Rather than buying and collecting music, videos, or other cultural artifacts, we are exposed to the power hose: all culture, raging over us, for $12.99 a month (or $15.99 for HD) as long as we keep up our payments like good economic entities. When we stop paying, we’re left with nothing. No files. The service is revoked.
While I don’t see a problem with using services for media consumption, because collecting and consuming media is pretty effortless, I do find the trend of moving to services for work baffling. It violates basic principles of ownership: I wouldn’t write in a website’s text box anymore than I’d build a house on someone else’s land. Because I don’t like when things I put effort into can be taken away at any time.
It’s obvious why software vendors like these services, now you need their permission to access your data, so they can hold your data hostage to increase prices without adding value. But why users like them is a mystery: When polling users of the most popular web-based software of all-time, Google Docs, users actually preferred the rarely-praised Microsoft Word, and by a huge margin.