Synchronisation: the solution

Joel Spolsky is a bit worked up about the fact that companies seem to always be releasing new 'synchronisation' products. Where all your documents are available anywhere in the world.

I do believe though that synchronisation is just waiting for someone to do it well. Take a look at 'flickr' for example. There's two reasons it's popular: It's easy to use, and it's not a hassle to use it. There were hundreds of "photo sharing websites" before flickr, but it took someone to do it well before it became popular.

I can't count the number of people I've seen who email documents to themselves, thus using email as their "shared storage" solution. Start writing a document at work, and need to edit it at home? Easy. Email it to yourself. And it has the added advantage of having a version history. Accidentally delete a paragraph? That's fine, just open the document from the email again. Or yesterday's email.

Microsoft's decided to try to tackle the synchronisation problem again. But I'm pretty sure it's going to fail; and for one reason: it's too complicated. It simply tries to do too much.

You have to go and download the "Live Mesh software" for your PC. With this, you get an instant messaging client, News, and some "Mesh Bar".

But the crazy thing is that Microsoft already has the technology to do most of what people want, and it's already in Windows. It's been there since Windows 2000.

Windows has the ability to browse and explore WebDav folders, all without installing any software; it's just difficult to find, and a bit complicated for most users. The main problem with installing software is that it probably won't work in a corporate environment. Most users don't have administrative rights to their work pc.

Here's a solution to the synchronisation problem:

  • Sign up to some website that's webdav enabled. Get 5GB for free or something.
  • Download and run a .exe file that creates an icon for you in 'My network places'

And that's it. No installing software, works on a corporate desktop -- and you can access all your files from a web browser too.