Just for fun, I decided to experiment a bit with hosting some of the files from here through Amazon’s S3, which I’ve talked about before. First, this meant I had to create an S3 “bucket” to hold the files. Then I had to create a subdomain that redirects requests to S3. I chose “womb.atyp.us” because “wombatypus” is the punchline (as it were) of a children’s book we have involving a wombat and a platypus. It has nothing to do with wombs. Then I just had to upload the files and set their permissions, and voila! Here are the three videos from my previous post, hosted through S3: Counting Ears, Magnet Book, and Caterpillar. One interesting twist is that the files are also available via BitTorrent, just by tacking “?torrent” on the end, like this: Counting Ears, Magnet Book, and Caterpillar. Neat, huh?

There’s an interesting tradeoff here. Right now I have a hosting plan at eMax that gives me a certain amount of bandwidth. I’ve been using about 60% of that, so the other 40% is effectively free for now. By contrast, I pay for exactly what I use on Amazon, so as long as I’m below my current hosting-account limit hitting the pages through Amazon actually costs me extra. It’s literally pennies, so don’t think you’re going to send me to the poor-house that way. On the other hand, let’s say my traffic doubled. If I wanted to host everything at eMax, that would mean moving up to the next service level. The cost of hosting some files through S3 is probably less than the delta between the old and new service levels, and it’s definitely less than the extra-bandwidth charges I’d incur at eMax by staying at my current service level even though my traffic was higher. The S3 cost is even lower if people download through BitTorrent. Lastly, although I’ve had no complaints with availability at eMax, I’d be willing to bet that Amazon’s servers are even more reliable.

The upshot is that cheap hosting accounts are so cheap that it probably makes sense for most small personal websites to stay with them. It doesn’t take long, though, before the S3 alternative starts to seem rather appealing. I’m not there yet, but it wouldn’t take much for me to be, and I’m not exactly a net celebrity. On the other hand, S3 can only serve static files, so for blogs and such that rely on server-side scripts and databases and such it’s not an option at all. That’s why you can see the videos through S3, but not this page. What I think we’re likely to start seeing is more web hosts providing some level of integration with S3, so that the web host provides the computational and database resources but (some or all) files live on S3. Then there’s the possibility that Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud will catch on, so that a new class of resellers will spring up to use Amazon’s virtualized services instead of traditional data centers’ physical ones. It makes me wonder whether the next logical step for Amazon would be to provide a virtualized database service, at which point all of the facilities currently provided by traditional web hosts could also be had virtually through Amazon. Just a thought.