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Actually, Omnidrive is cooler than what I said previously

Actually, Omnidrive is cooler than what I said previously

A PR person sent me a wrong link, and I reviewed an old version of Omnidrive. Instead of covering the upcoming release, which will make its public debut on Tuesday, I covered the version that's been in private beta for most of this year. CEO Nik Cubrilovic gave me a call to clear this up and to walk me through the upcoming rev of Omnidrive. I'm glad he did, because it's a much more important product than the one now in use.

The beta of Omnidrive that will be unveiled at the Web 2.0 conference next week is not just an online storage service. It's also a system that integrates the files you've stored on various Web services into one virtual drive, which you can access from your own computer's desktop (or from its Web interface). The service will launch with hooks into Flickr and Zoho, and the Omnidrive team is working on integrating it into other services. The 1.0 release of the service is scheduled for January.

Omnidrive will make it possible to work with online files as if they were on your own PC. When you're done with the file, any changes will be saved back to the online source. So, for example, if you have a folder pointing at your Flickr photos, you'll be able to edit a picture in Photoshop on your PC and not have to worry about transferring it back to Flickr--it will happen automatically. Likewise, if you have a folder pointing to your Zoho Write files, anything you create or edit in the online Zoho application will show up on your Omnidrive, and you'll be able to work with it just like a local file.

Omnidrive technology could also mean that people building new online applications won't have to write uploaders. They'll just hook into Omnidrive. So if you want to use some hot new video editor, instead of uploading your file to that particular service, you'd just specify the file's Omnidrive path.

Omnidrive isn't the only company working on this. Microsoft (Live Drive), Google (GDrive), and Amazon (S3) are all working on integrated network storage. Omnidrive is a small Australian company and can hardly win this battle alone, so it's working the politics in standards bodies to come up with a solution that everyone will be able to use.

Regardless of which standard or company wins out, this is going to be an enormously important shift for Web applications. (Ideally, there will be one online storage standard and not multiple competing systems, but realistically, it's going to be a mess for a while.) Integrated online storage should encourage the development of better applications by removing the need for every company to invent and invest in its own storage and access technology. It will also make it easier for you and me to try out new apps and to manage our online data.