Computers

Why I'm quitting Dropbox (and Dropbox is fine with that)

Why I'm quitting Dropbox (and ...
Dropbox doesn't really seem to want me as a customer
Dropbox doesn't really seem to want me as a customer
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New Dropbox lets you create shortcuts to web content to sit alongside your work
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New Dropbox lets you create shortcuts to web content to sit alongside your work
Dropbox is upgrading its search so you can find any content, regardless of whether it's stored locally
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Dropbox is upgrading its search so you can find any content, regardless of whether it's stored locally
Dropbox is adding a number of features to position it at the heart of the modern workplace
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Dropbox is adding a number of features to position it at the heart of the modern workplace
Dropbox doesn't really seem to want me as a customer
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Dropbox doesn't really seem to want me as a customer

I don't know when I opened my Dropbox account. It was years ago – probably not long after it was founded in 2007. Since then I've been a fan of the way Dropbox makes saving files in the cloud – and sharing them – quick and easy. When it arrived, its camera uploads feature solved the problem of getting photos off my phone and somewhere secure – somewhere that wasn't locking me in to Apple, or any other hardware company's ecosystem.

It's a pricey service, sure, but I've always felt it was worth it for its ease of use and platform agnosticism. It didn't matter if I switched from Mac to PC or iPhone to Android. I didn't have to worry about backing up and moving my files. I could just wipe my old device and sign in to Dropbox on my new one.

But a recent blog post from Dropbox has convinced me that the service is no longer for me. And the thing is, I'm pretty sure Dropbox is fine with that. It doesn't really want me as a customer. It's not going to turn my money away, but I'm not its target market: I'm not a business.

Dropbox is adding a number of features to position it at the heart of the modern workplace
Dropbox is adding a number of features to position it at the heart of the modern workplace

The warning signs were there, it turns out. I'd somehow missed the company's mission statement to "unleash the world's creative energy by designing a more enlightened way of working."

Were I to add emphasis here it would be to the word working. And it's this focus on the workplace that Dropbox appears to have gone all in with so far as its newest features are concerned, which come with a price hike to match.

The company, which counts Condoleezza Rice among its Board of Directors, is billing these changes as the "new Dropbox," and sees a change in emphasis from mere file storage and sharing to being "a single workspace to organize your content, connect your tools, and bring everyone together, wherever you are."

If that sounds familiar, it's probably because you work in digital tech and use a workplace messaging service instead of internal email. Companies like Slack, and more recently Microsoft (with Teams) want their communications apps to be the platform of the digital workplace.

Dropbox is upgrading its search so you can find any content, regardless of whether it's stored locally
Dropbox is upgrading its search so you can find any content, regardless of whether it's stored locally

But where Teams and Slack want communication at the core, Dropbox thinks it's well placed to put files at the center of companies' digital workflows. It's not necessarily that companies will need to choose between Dropbox and a messaging service – it's that they'll have more options when it comes to digging into the ways they work to figure out what works best for them.

One example: Dropbox is going to let you "create, access, and share cloud content" from within Dropbox itself. What does that mean? Well, one example Dropbox highlights is that Microsoft Office files stored in Dropbox will be editable in either Office Online or via Google's web services. But regardless of where people choose to edit the file, the conversation about that work can happen in one place with Dropbox's own comments system.

Dropbox is also adding what it calls shortcuts, links to things online that can live alongside your relevant work in Dropbox. These might be links to a team to-do list on Trello, news articles, or, presumably, anything with a URL on the web.

New Dropbox lets you create shortcuts to web content to sit alongside your work
New Dropbox lets you create shortcuts to web content to sit alongside your work

It's also upgrading its search so that all your content, whether it's synced to your device's local storage or not, is findable, along with the aforementioned shortcuts. And it's also rolling out improved integrations with other digital services popular with business customer such as Slack, and video conferencing service Zoom.

Which all sounds great. If I'm working at a digital tech company and the CTO wants to roll this out, I'm all for it. But the thing is I only really use Dropbox to store photos. I'm only using about 100 GB of my 1 Terabyte of storage – which Dropbox has just bumped up to 2 Terabytes with a hike from US$9.99 per month to $11.99 per month.

Dropbox was already an expensive service that I wasn't getting massive value from. Luckily, I've realized I've always been kidding myself with the platform agnosticism thing – any time I switch away from Apple devices I rue the decision. Not because other devices and operating systems are objectively worse, but because I subjectively feel strongly that they're worse because I'm so used to Apple products.

So I'll probably switch to iCloud backup for my photos. I have to be honest – this fills me with a certain amount of dread. Like iTunes, iCloud has been a notable exception to the old "it just works" mantra, beloved of snooty Apple fans (whom I don't count myself among). I've always found it somewhat buggy with endless prompts to sign in. But Apple is sticking with $9.99 per month for 2 TB storage, while offering 200 GB – still more than my needs – for $2.99 per month. I've done the math. It wasn't hard.

Or perhaps I'll just put all those old photos on an old hard drive, or delete them altogether. All the ones I care about are already on personal blogs and I never look at the rest. I've been paying an overhead for the worry – the mental baggage – of thousands of photos that might be nice to have one day. Perhaps it's time to let go…

Source: Dropbox

12 comments
CAVUMark
We all share everything, whether we like it or not. Welcome to the new norm.
Sunrez
And why does it matter that Condoleezza Rice is on the Board of Directors?
fen
Why would any company let someone like dropbox index all their files, and not just that but see when and how they work? I dont think its aimed at tech companies, who would probably work through git or some git like service they self host. I think its aimed at companies who like to think they are techy and heard the word "cloud" banded about.
Boka Taylor
For years I have used FaceBook as a photo storage service. Uploading thousands of photos and videos organised into albums and accessible from any device. Simply set the album privacy to private and “walls”. Easy and simply.
Ds211
Or you could just use Google Photos across all your platforms for free.
exodous
Way to shoehorn in Condoleezza Rice. I don't see why that matters. Anyway, I used Dropbox a lot when it was new but have just not used it much. I stopped using it before they dropped Linux support and after that I tried the web interface and was like 'eh' and never looked back.
jetserf
@Sunrez Exactly what I was thinking. New Atlas is always sinking.
toyhouse
This article just reminded me to download everything I have there and close it out. It was included with my notebook software and I think it slows things down from time to time when it updates. Haven't used it for two or three years. And as others point out - what's rice got to do with anything here? Nothing! I'd store my pics on a hard-drive here at home before I'd ever let zucker use them or some of the other popular social media companies that folks use. But that's me.
aki009
The "free" Google Photos and Zland don't store photos in their original fidelity, but reprocess them and drop the metadata. That is not for everyone. Otherwise a nice writeup on how Dropbox is changing, with a surprising leftist tilt on that Rice comment. I find it intriguing how some people start acting hostile the moment a person of color shows some intelligence. But it's somewhat consistent when one examines who abolished slavery and made the civil rights legislation happen (and who fought tooth and nail against both).
James Holloway
I'm sorry the Condoleezza Rice mention has caused grief. It was intended nothing more than an interesting fact – it has no bearing on the thrust of the article. Thanks for the feedback.