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The Difference Between Content in a Database and Content as a Database

A great deal of content lives in databases these days, but there is a world of difference between storing content in a database and treating content as a database. The essence of the difference is this: Content in a database is an object that can be retrieved from its indexed location, like locating a dining room chair in an Ikea warehouse. Content as a database is a record that can be examined and presented from different angles based on different properties, which can be selected based on any of these properties, and which can be related to other records based on common properties.

A physical metaphor is more difficult here, because this is precisely the kind of thing that is really hard to do in the physical world. In the physical world you can organize your bookshelf by title or by author or by publisher or by size or by color or by height, but whatever you choose, you a preferring one property over all the others. In a database, all properties are equal and you can create a report on your bookshelf that is organized by title or by author or by publisher or by size or by color or by height or by any other property that is separately addressable in the database.

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