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Oh, Come On, You Never Go Offline

Posted by davidvc on June 1, 2007 at 9:40 PM PDT

I keep hearing this from the technorati: why is everyone so worried about offline? We're always online, and if we're not, we soon will be. My distinguished colleague Tim Bray seems to be of this ilk: what is this offline of which we speak, he says.

To which I respectfully say, piffle :)

Rather than compose something all over again, I'll quote my comment to his blog here

You should count yourself very lucky indeed if you're always online. Not the case for me as a two-hour-each-way train/bus commuter. And I've noticed that at most conferences (which I know you go to a lot :)), you're lucky to get a good connection because of so many geeks trying to read email and blog up a storm. In the last three years I have yet to go to a conference that has had good, solid WiFi. And don't get me started about hotels.

But more importantly, "always-on-the-net" is so not the case for many many people on the globe. They either have an intermittent connection, a poor connection, or no connection.

When I was doing some computer service in a village near Mumbai, we had a local Exchange server connecting/reconnecting/reconnecting all night with the Internet trying to send/receive a drip-drip-drip of a message or two before losing the connection again.

That was before a rat bit through the phone cable somewhere, and we had to take the server on a rickshaw once a day down to the next village to synch up the emails.

On a lucky tram-to-airport ride in Portland with Tim O'Reilly a few years ago, Tim told me of a similar "moto-mail" in South America [1], where a motorcycle with a server on it would tootle around to each village, people would run up with their computers and "synch" with the moto-server, and then once he got back to the city he'd do a massive send/receive. I bet those villagers wouldn't mind a little offline support for Google Reader and GMail...

[1] Actually, for the sake of accuracy re-thinking our conversation, I'm not sure of the developing country in which this took place.