Thoughts on Dropbox's acquisitions

April 18, 2014

Thoughts on Dropbox's acquisitions → via @_patrickwelker

In my book it’s such a smart move for a web based business to acquire other services which do a great job. Usually I’m always looking at these business purchases with mixed feelings. Many a times my geeky heart shed a silent tear. Strangely enough, when Dropbox acquires another web app or service I always feel giddy with excitement.

Said excitement is hard earned. From the beginning on Dropbox was at the top of their game. To speak for myself: they never let me down and just kept on getting better and better. When I had two Macs I basically kept my whole system partition in sync with it and never got a problem once. The beauty of Dropbox is that it’s dead simple to use. It’s a folder structure, we are accustomed to those since we know how to work with the Finder/Explorer. Dropbox took this concept and brought it to the web, added some smart features that kept the accessibility rate high and made sharing really easy.

A Point For Convenience

Even when times got rough and the state of Dropbox security was questioned they at least tried to be open about it (in a personal way). At the peak of the NSA débâcle some people left Dropbox, I didn’t because I don’t place super sensitive data in my Dropbox anymore – if I decide to do so I’d choose an encrypted disk image. Ben Brooks (who in the meantime charmingly and peacefully stopped using Dropbox) has some alternatives for you if you’re planning to join the Goodbye Dropbox movement, too.

For now, leaving Dropbox is just not an option for me. But with Dropbox being what they are, a digital box which people use to put all kinds of stuff in it, it is only natural that they take the heat from many people who are heavily concerned about security. Their latest blog entry titled “Our commitment to your rights and privacy” is no exception (just look at the comments).

For me the convenience Dropbox brings to my iOS centric computing life has come to a point where it’s almost indispensable. As a person who writes plain text and collects a ton of pictures the integration is second to none. The mass of quality apps for the platforms I use is sheer endless. This fact alone outweighs possible cons pretty much since I got no real alternatives.1

Dropbox got the infrastructure to be anything the want to be – they are the masters of the “syncing universe” and this is what it’s all about nowadays. At some point in the evolution of your app you think about expanding. Every quality app with enough money to back it up and a large user base tries to be on as many platforms as possible sooner or later. Dropbox just entered the game from a completely another angle and now they have the freedom to push the development in any direction they choose to go.

The multi-platform approach is a good thing. I might not be in the Apple camp forever and welcome the fact that migrating from one platform to another will be less and less of a hassle in the future (without having to hunt down alternatives). Even today I enjoy that I can share Evernote notebooks with friends who are on Android and login to the Dropbox web app from anywhere to get an important document.

The cool thing about Dropbox is to watch it going from a sync services that is available on every popular platform to a suite of apps that help you out with your daily digital doings. It might be only a matter of time you have an alternative suite of applications that work well together and are with you whatever your computing device of choice is.

Concluding Thoughts

With Mailbox, Loom and Hackpad Dropbox paved the way for an exciting future. Here are some concluding thoughts on these services:

I have used Mailbox for some time before deciding to leave Gmail. It’s a great email client. Although I can’t really see where Dropbox will take this little beauty, I’m eager to find out… even if it takes a couple of years (which is what I guess).

Loom is handled as the successor of the popular Everpix. I just migrated from Aperture back to a folder structure which lives in my Dropbox and get’s synced to my Synology NAS. I bet Carousel will hit puberty soon and grow a couple of inches over night.

Hackpad has started as an Etherpad offshoot and now is what I think the best implementation of real-time collaborative writing that I’ve met so far. It will be a hit. I never got used the asynchronous approach of Editorially, Penflip and alike. When I tried these services I did it thinking that collaborative writing should be something that can happen in real-time. Having spend enough time with Google Wave (gWhat?), Google Docs and Etherpad this assumption was so prominent, that it felt a tad disappointing to use Editorially and Penflip – these services were great and a polished product, but weren’t what I was looking for. I know that Hackpad is… and it even got a solid working Markdown export (which hopefully soon works on individual documents, too, not only when exporting a whole “space”).

Lastly, with all the pieces of the puzzle placed on the table, the outstanding sync, the capability to upload, share and display images, a text editor that works with teams and an OS integration that is just there for you, I can’t wait how this company shapes its own future. No matter how that turns out to be, I think the users are the winners here. This always makes the bigger picture look prettier.

Further Reading:

PS: Another thing I enjoy about Dropbox… I also like that new features they add are not in beta for decades.

  1. Syncing is a hard thing to do right. I remember when OmniFocus and Things struggled to get it working. It’s just not a “feature” (to quote Steve Jobs) you can pull out of the hat in a matter of seconds. I’d love to have WebDAV support as an option in the text editors and photo apps I use; but when implemented as a sync solution the potential of data loss (when not doing it right) is too high. In addition, the development time for indy devs doesn’t pay off I guess since this feature isn’t on top of the consumers wish list and like always… it’s hard to charge customers for something that only a fraction of the users want to have as a feature.

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