cloud in short means "other people's servers" and within the context of the indieweb can also refer to "cloud computing", services which supposedly (though rarely in practice) provide online services that are on-demand, broadly available, elastic, and measured service.
See National Institute of Standards and Technology's definition of cloud computing for a more jargon-heavy definition and expansions.
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Building block vs apps
Sometimes these on-demand/self-service/elastic/measured cloud services are used for computing building blocks such as storage, computation, and server bandwidth.
- Examples: Amazon S3, EC2. Akamai.
- Examples: gmail (barely cloud-like in that its storage capacity is slowly growing), Blogger, Wordpress.com
Relation to IndieWeb
There are a number of indieweb community members who are putting specific effort into moving away from cloud silos and rebuilding their applications on top of cloud (or even just web hosting) building blocks, from providers they can swap in and out and switching between at their desire.
just means internet or server
There many intentional and unintentional misuses of the word "cloud" in reference to "cloud computing" which do not meet the definition or criteria above in one or more ways. As such the following phrases can typically be substituted:
- "in the cloud"
- = on the internet
- "personal cloud"
- = personal (virtual) server
marketing and branding
As "cloud" is a more recent (and shorter/catchier) term than "server" or "internet" or "virtual host", there are also now commercial services which use "cloud" in the name of their service which do not actually provide cloud computing services.
- Apple iCloud - neither dynamic nor elastic.
Whereas other bullshit marketing terms once had a defined meaning that has eroded over time due to repeated use and abuse—Ajax, Web 2.0, HTML5, UX—“the cloud” is a term that sets out to deceive from the outset, imbued with the same Lakoffian toxicity as “downsizing” or “friendly fire.” It is the internet equivalent of miasma theory.
in error messages
for "feedly is over capacity".