I’m tired of downloading stuff. Are you?

I’ve just stopped to think how much I’ve downloaded today. It’s more than I would like. I’m tired of downloading stuff. Are you?

My downloads folder (in reality there are several, one for each browser I have to use) is constantly in need of a cleanup. It’s full of files; application forms, course content, reference materials. It’s all there. My very own entirely flat repository of everything I have ever looked at.

Why is it still necessary that in order for me to progress with most tasks, I have to download content?

The advance of technology, particularly that related to the delivery of materials through a now highly accessible Internet has been remarkable over recent years, leading to noticeable changes in practice. So what’s the real problem in presenting all these materials online, for me to read in situ? Publishing online (really publishing, not just attaching one or more files to a page) isn’t happening widely yet. Sure, there are some instances where it’s reasonably successful and new devices – particularly smart phones and tablet computers – are starting to encourage this form of publishing. In all too many cases though, it’s still all about the download.

We approach a phase in the existence of the Internet where the idea of file sharing has moved beyond illegal practices involving music and pirated software or other media. Mainstream debate over access to files has now moved away from sources of illegal sharing, and toward ‘the cloud’. But consider how the majority of users have been educated to this point; carefully instructed in the cumbersome methods of attaching files to email or saving to a document management system. This being tolerated despite all the resulting confusion and errors when the attachment identified as being too large send, might have a virus, or won’t fit in the recipients mailbox or allocated storage area. Will these users be open to change? And if so, when?

What I really want to do, is login to the website / VLE / CMS or other resource knowing that I don’t have to download anything before I can consume any content. That’s what I went there for after all – the content, not the file (or files) in which it was packaged. Is it really necessary to download content any more? The question remains that despite all the technological developments, why are habits like uploading and downloading files still so persistent?