What is Dropbox?

I know many of you are avid users of Dropbox. Most people seem to love the features it offers. I have personally always stayed away from it. I have 25 GB of free space (friend referrals!) but I haven't ever really used it. Up until today, the only reason I had Dropbox installed on my Mac was so 1Password could sync. Why didn't I really like Dropbox before? I have three reasons:

  • Laziness. I never bothered to properly set it up. It didn't seem to interest me, and my 256 GB of space of my Mac seemed plentiful.
  • I didn't agree with the product vision. I didn't (and still don't) think that an online file system in the cloud is the way of the future. It feels like a relic of the past that people are afraid to get rid of. I think iCloud's idea of having everything everywhere without thinking is the right way to go.
  • I sort of figured that Dropbox would be acquired and the service would go away.

The third reason looks like it probably won't happen. Dropbox rejected an offer from Apple (and who knows how many other companies) and just bought Mailbox today. Dropbox could still be acquired, but it seems unlikely.

Laziness

I dealt with the laziness today. I added some important folders to my Dropbox account. I do feel much safer now that some of my important projects are in the cloud. Another backup. However, I don't see that overtaking iCloud for apps that support it. I also turned on Dropbox in many apps that support it to test Pythonista. What did I find? Most of the uses of Dropbox I saw were very similar to the iCloud implementations. It didn't seem to add much benefit, except that you can access it online (you can also access your iCloud app files online here; you can also download them). Most seem to use Dropbox as a syncing hack. This confuses me. What is Dropbox? Why would they do this instead of iCloud?

Why not use iCloud?

Since iCloud is made for syncing (and you can sync the data without opening the app), you would think that developers would use it instead of Dropbox. Most do. But some developers have had to switch to Dropbox or other cloud solutions because iCloud just wasn't working for them. This could end up being a problem for Apple. Apple recieved (sometimes rightly so) a lot of flack about its online services. With iCloud, it harms developers as well. The documentation isn't as clear as it should be, leading to confusion and incorrect implementations. I personally think Apple should do three things with iCloud (nothing new):

  • Beef up on servers, make it more reliable.
  • Improve developer documentation.
  • Expand the online application (iCloud.com).

There are many other things Apple can fix, but those are my main three. I don't think Apple is blind about this. I think they are working on this. Perhaps iCloud 2.0?

Back to Dropbox

I am going to keep playing around with Dropbox. It seems like a very solid and reliable service. There are some neat things you can do with it (they really should have a developer app showcase, showing the neatest things you can do with Dropbox in apps) and the potential is huge. And with the Mailbox acquisition, it adds a whole new world of possibilities. I look forward to the future enhancements to Dropbox. But I am more excited about improvements to iCloud, which, I feel, is the future of cloud storage–once it gets solid enough.