Thanks for all your comments. I've been a little taken aback by the all the negativity about the idea of sharing file history, so please excuse me if I ramble about this some more.
The central idea in Randall's strip is that digital data, although it is in some sense eternal, seems to "degrade" over time through transmission by careless actors.
By "careless actors", I mean users that get that data somewhere and then further propagate it, but after changing it in some way. Some might not even realize they are changing it while some might be doing so in a very deliberate way. The changes might range from the very slight to the drastic. But in the end, the details are irrelevant: in the digital realm, it's either the same data or it's not.
And if it's not the same data, I argue that we currently don't have an "efficient" way to "link" the two together. Again, as ucim aptly put it:
More troubling for me is that when I search on the net for something, I find hundreds of nearly identical undated versions that are clearly ripoffs of one another, but with no indication of which (if any) are the original, and who is the original author.
In other words, wouldn't it just be great if we could somehow know
when some file has been derived from some other file? Also, if we could do that for all files, we could just "follow the path" up to the original version. And finally, I argue that if we could do that, it would restore the eternal nature of digital data even in the presence of careless actors. Problem solved.
OK, so how can you know
that some file was derived from some other file? I could just tell you that's the case, perhaps even arguing that "I should know since I'm the one who did it", but then I would be instantly contradicted by countless other people whose interests in the matter differ from mine. So in order for that to work, I would actually have to prove it
where things start getting really interesting. But long story short, the easiest
way for me to prove to you that file B was derived from file A is to give you the process by which the file was derived in the first place, inside a suitable runtime environment so that you can replicate it by yourself.
To sum up: assuming that I want
to prove to you that file B was derived from file A, it is much easier to do so if I can just give you the "redo history". That's all about how
I could prove this to you, should I wish to do so. The question of why
I would want to prove this to you in the first place is another one entirely.
I hope this clears things up a bit.