Space Ramblings

Moore’s Law vs YouTube’s Law

On his blog Ed Felten predicts that pretty soon storage we’ll hit the point where all the music ever created can fit on your MP3 player.

Last week I spoke on a panel called “The Paradise of Infinite Storage”, at the “Pop [Music] and Policy” conference at McGill University in Montreal. The panel’s title referred to an interesting fact: sometime in the next decade, we’ll see a $100 device that fits in your pocket and holds all of the music ever recorded by humanity.

Interesting though of course the real challenge with MP3 players for a while now, has not been storage so much as interface. You can store thousands of songs on your MP3 player but can you find them in order to play them? That’s the real challenge and that’s why Apple is pioneering interfaces like the iPod Touch. The larger storage becomes and the more multidimensional a player gets, the more of an issue this will be.

This is a simple consequence of Moore’s Law which, in one of its variants, holds that the amount of data storage available at a fixed size and price roughly doubles every eighteen months. Extrapolate that trend and, depending on your precise assumptions, you’ll find the magic date falls somewhere between 2011 and 2019. From then on, storage capacity might as well be infinite, at least as far as music is concerned.

Maybe but the flip side of that is another law, call it YouTube’s Law or maybe Geocities’ Law or Gmail’s Law, which is that internet users and humans in general are capable of creating content to fill and exceed any space available. In other words while storage may climb, the ability of a few billion humans to record, remix and create music shouldn’t be underestimated either.

Of course no one in their right mind would want to have more than a fraction of amateur generated content but the human ability to create may give Moore’s Law more of a run for its money than Ed Felten is counting on.

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