Dropbox has branched into different areas in the years since it launched, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the company’s focus on managing various aspects of your digital life. It may dabble in photos and email, but Dropbox is still best at managing old-school files — backing them up and syncing them across various computers and mobile devices. That core product is mature and works well, so the company at this point is mostly making refinements around it — like the new feature called "file requests" that launches today.
According to project manager ChenLi Wang, the idea for file requests came out of the notion that there are plenty of less tech savvy users out there who you nonetheless need to share files with and often times get files from. The new file requests seek to simplify that process by letting you ping a group of people to ask them to send any kind of file (up to 2GB in size) that you’re looking for. Those files will get added to your Dropbox, but the submitters don’t need an account.
As the requestor, you can set up this file request on Dropbox’s web site — you can enter all the email addresses of people who you want to submit files, tell them what you’re looking for, and hit send. From there, Dropbox will create a private custom folder for your request in your Dropbox, nested inside a new folder called (appropriately) "file requests." However, you can tell Dropbox to save your request anywhere, so if you want to share the files with people as they come in, you can have files automatically saved to a shared folder — or anywhere else in your Dropbox.
Dropbox wanted it to be easy for people without accounts
For those receiving a file request, they’ll simply get an email saying who sent the request, what they’re looking for, and how you can send it in. Clicking the email will bring you to a Dropbox-hosted page where you can simply pick the appropriate file through the standard OS X Finder or Windows Explorer interface and upload it — it’ll get sent to the requestor’s Dropbox account, even if the person sending it in doesn't actually use Dropbox. Wang stressed that making this work for people who don’t have Dropbox accounts was a "key part" of the strategy.
In typical Dropbox fashion, it’s a simple implementation of a useful new feature that doesn’t try to do too much. Much like most Dropbox innovations the company has pushed out over the last year or two, this isn’t going to reinvent how you use the service, but it could make things a lot easier for a large subset of users. But despite the simplicity, Wang said that "file requests on a many-to-one sharing model was pretty hard to get right." Despite the challenge, file requests are rolling out for Dropbox basic and pro users today, while Dropbox for Business accounts will get access to it within the next few weeks.