Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

iCloud’s Reliability and Trustworthiness

In introducing Time Machine at WWDC 2006, Scott Forstall made a really great point about how he doesn’t want to lose his most precious memories:

When I look on my Mac, I find these pictures of my kids that, to me, are absolutely priceless. In fact, I have thousands of these photos. If I were to lose a single one of these photos, it would be awful. But if I were to lose all of these photos because my hard drive died, I’d be devastated. I never, ever, want to lose these photos.

Forstall then talks about how Time Machine solves this by automatically backing up all your photos, along with everything else you keep on your hard drive. And that sounds great for eight years ago.

But it’s 2014 now; everything has migrated to “the cloud”. Sure, if you’re a bit controlling, you might feel a little uncomfortable that you don’t have the backups right next to you. What you lose in control, though, you gain in redundancy and offsite goodness.

If this is implemented well, it feels flawless and enables users to trust their most precious memories to it. But iCloud is so flawed so much of the time that nobody should realistically trust it. And that’s a problem in 2014.

Nate Boateng just experienced this first-hand by simply signing out of his iCloud account on his phone. Luckily, he has many copies of these photos; if he didn’t, he’d probably be crushed.

With Time Machine, you get the feeling that people at Apple truly use it to recover files when they accidentally overwrite them. It was like Scott Forstall wanted the feature so bad because something like the hypothetical situation he spoke about actually happened to him. But iCloud is the sort of product that comes across as though it’s something Apple knows it needs to have, but they’re not really that invested in it. I’m sure there are people at the company who actually care, but it comes across as lackadaisical and weak. I’m not certain anyone at Apple would entrust their photo library solely to iCloud.