So, via TUAW I heard about Jungle Disk which is the first application I have seen to make use of the Amazon S3 file storage service and last night I downloaded it and had a play.
The good news is that there is massive potential here and even with the current beta release of the software I was able to upload 1,000 or so small files from my Mac and then download them onto my Windows PC without any major issues. So that is cross platform, encrypted, fully redundant file storage backed by a financially stable company for $0.15 per Gb per month. A cheap, cross platform iDisk? Good stuff.
There are plenty of rough edges in both stability and usability here (it crashed both on the Mac and on the PC) but it is beta software and so I am not going criticise that. No the main issue I have is that of the sign up process, and this could be as much Amazon’s fault as Jungle Disk’s. To use the application you have to have an account with the Amazon S3 service and it sends you over to this page on the Amazon site to register. Unfortunately the sign up pages are targeted completely at developers aiming to develop against the web service rather than consumers. After signing up, you get shown how to download the WSDL (and no consumer should ever need to see those letters next to each other) and the sign up e-mail starts with:
Greetings from Amazon Web Services,
Thank you for signing up for Amazon S3. You can now build innovative and entrepreneurial applications using this and other AWS web services.
Who else can picture the confusion of someone attempting to replace iDisk with this? :)
This disconnect comes because I am fairly sure that Jungle Disk are not utilising S3 in the way that Amazon originally intended. Doing a little research in the S3 developer guide I am pretty sure that the boys and girls in Seattle intended Jungle Disk to own and operate one single S3 account as a file store for all of the files used by any of their users rather than have everyone sign up for an original account. That will work very well for some applications but isn’t what Jungle are trying to do just as valid? I like the idea of having my data protected by a different security key than my virtual neighbours. So, the solution? Either provide a consumer friendly sign up or provide an API to your account creation process so that I can still have my own account but it looks like a Jungle Disk account.
However this is going to be a cracking little utility that needs some work but shows a lot of promise. Am I going to use it now? No, but I will be keeping an eye on it.
One final thing, I don’t really understand how Jungle Disk are making any money on this. The software is free, the data storage and transfers are paid directly to Amazon with no cut taken by Jungle Disk. It looks like a referrer ID is getting passed to Amazon if you sign up with S3 from the Jungle Disk web site but that is a very sparse revenue generation model. I hope they have a plan :)
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