one possible reason (and I don't know if it's true in this case) would be that by doing this at the filesystem level they can be smarter than something at the block level could be.
Yes, of course. At the filesystem level, you can ignore everything except for the data content of directories, files, and symlinks, and some of the metadata that would be returned by stat.
What I don't have so far is proof that being smarter is really smart this time. There is a cost per filesystem format, is it more than 10% greater than the cost of doing this at the block image level?
10% seems like a low cost compared to dealing with Ted, Linus, etc. And if you get filesystem independence too, it's a deal!
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