Even then it seems they are removing storage features. My Dad has 2 MacBook Pros - one at work and one at home. Maybe 8 years ago he was complaining about having to email himself documents so he had them available at home. I setup this nifty service - DropBox for him. One thing that got him to stick with it was I symlinked his Documents folder to DropBox. For him he didn't have to change his workflow. He would save at home, and go to work and the file would be there magically. Anytime he was on the road he could use the Dropbox UI and get anything he needed. He used less than the free 2GB of space for a long time, but was a paying customer from day one.
One day, last year, he calls me exasperated that his DropBox no longer worked. I discovered they killed the feature and "controlling his digital life" wasn't all that important to him.
I had moved to iCloud Drive a while back and told him to do the same. No more DropBox.
G Suite is an incredible value. I have an account with a single user, paying $12+tax/month. On that account I have 20TB in Drive. Good luck getting that kind of storage pricing elsewhere, I'm actually nervous about Google ever deciding to kill the heaviest users or charge more because I don't know where else I would go.
In my understanding my 20TB isn't just 20TB sitting in their datacenter, it's de-duped across accounts. But still, amazing value.
Synching with GDrive for me has been painfully slow. I thought it would be a drop-in replacement for Dropbox, but deleting files in particular seemed to take forever. Probably just some growing pains, but I've never experienced that with Dropbox.
Also I had an issue with my mac pinwheeling google's 'Backup and Sync' agent. It's fixed now after a couple months, but there was nowhere I could find to report the problem to Google.
I have also had bad experiences with "Backup and Sync", which led me to abandon Google Drive right when I was seriously considering ditching Dropbox.
Given Google's reputation to ditch their own products, I guessed this was some side projects that some Googlers did, and it was never in Google's main strategy to allow people to sync their Google Drive to their local machines. Quite the opposite, actually.
My current gripe with Dropbox is that I'd like to basically be able to pay 4x the "Dropbox Plus" cost in order to get 4x the storage (without having to manage 4 separate accounts). Having 2TB isn't enough, but having "infinite" with Dropbox Business certainly is more than I want.
I used the free tier of Dropbox for 8 years and decided to subscribe recently. $10/user/month  for Dropbox Plus. 2TB storage (more than enough for most people who aren't doing video-editing or have a video library -- I barely fill up my 250GB SSD as it is), a client that works well on Linux (and have for years), and not Google. I'd say I'm getting my money's worth.
No way I'd ever depend on Google for more than mail which I can reasonably back up. Not with the only meaningful way to get support from a live human is either knowing employees personally who can raise issues internally, involving the media or raise a shitstorm on Twitter/HN, and at the same time them having "AI" blackbox algorithms close down accounts with no recourse.
I take the original comment to be that file syncing will never be a product on it's own. The market for people who need file syncing on its own is small and it only really becomes useful for a large number of paying customers when it is something embedded into a more directly useful product (like GSuite or Office 365). And I think he's been largely right. It's common on HN for people to complain about how Dropbox was great when it did just one thing really well but they weren't a profitable company doing one thing really well. They always needed to create a broader product on top of file syncing in order to survive as a standalone business.
> While many companies struggle through the pandemic, Dropbox seems to be doing well. In its first quarter, it brought in $455 million, an increase of 18 percent compared to the same period last year. According to Bloomberg, last quarter was the first time that Dropbox recorded net income since going public in 2018. In other words, it took a pandemic to make the company profitable.
No, it turns out that people can just get an FTP account, mount it locally with curlftpfs, and then use SVN or CVS on the mounted filesystem. From Windows or Mac, this FTP account can then be accessed through built-in software. Nobody would pay for it.
Plenty of money in that. Look at how many startups and large tech cos are solving this problem under different skins. Everything from Notion to iCloud to Netflix remembering the timestamp you stopped falls under this broad umbrella problem.
Imagine if you were the Stripe of multi-device sync. Sure maybe end users will never know your name but damn you’d be drowning in money.
Like imagine adding multidevice sync to your product with a simple library instead of everyone cobbling it from scratch and hiring huge teams to make it reliable.
> to Netflix remembering the timestamp you stopped falls under this broad umbrella problem.
Funny you give this as an example, that feature is completely unreliable for me. Netflix frequently forgets where I left off, and in the case of TV shows, which episodes I really did see all the way to the end, and which I didn't. Similarly on Prime Video, it's quite unreliable.
I'm pretty sure that every time Netflix thinks I did not see an episode all the way to the end it's because I skipped out just before credits, or just the second credits started, or I accidentally started over and then Netflix thinks I have that whole episode to watch.
Aside from that it does seem that Netflix sometimes 'forgets' if I wait a long time to go back to something, in which case I suppose there can be some sort of cleanup going on. I mean sure I would want to keep these timestamps forever, but probably at a certain scale you want to get rid of old ones as much as it might annoy me.
No, with both Netflix and Prime Video, if you cancel the skip-end-credits-to-next-episode (either intentionally or by configuration) and watch the credits and then close the browser, the next time you tell it to continue that series, it'll start from the start of the episode you've just watched. (At least when watching in Chrome on Windows over the past year.) Given that failure, it would be entirely unsurprising to see other bugs in the progress-tracking.
I do also wish it didn't lock up my entire computer whenever I make a big change to Selective Sync. I talked to a Dropbox PM after my blog post got some traction and he seemed surprised that this is still an issue.
As someone who's asked for that feature for 5+ years now from everyone I've met there, it doesn't seem like there's much interest internally at Dropbox to implement it. I know it can't be easy to do, but it's such a killer feature IMO that would totally revolutionize workflows.
Agreed. A long time ago, Perforce released a tool that they called Commons, it used OpenOffice under the covers to diff Office documents and display everything in a fairly easy to understand webUI. It wasn't perfect, but treating "documents as code" would scratch that itch that I've had with Dropbox since I've used it.
Just something I've learned to live without, at least for the foreseeable future.
Even when it was a nice "do one simple thing" company, that thing was a bit of a square peg. The fact is that the hierarchical file system is a silly way of structuring data that doesn't meat people's needs.
I've never understood how Dropbox could be a sustainable business. All the walled gardens have legitimate UX and anti-competative / anti-interopt reasons to get away from files, and the actual core service Dropbox provides is quite commoditized.
> While we started as a storage company, we‘ve grown to be a hub to manage your digital life.
This line from the linked post is a great summary of exactly how I think Dropbox's product direction has taken a turn for the worse.
This is no sleight against the author (who seems to be doing great work; I enjoyed this read!) or the engineering team. Just like, the general direction of the company. This line also stands out:
> it had been a while since we delivered new value to our personal users.
I can't speak for all paying users, but the value I derive from Dropbox is how it syncs fast and "just works". I do _not_ find new value in popups and notification badges about features that other companies have already perfected (much like I don't need to go anywhere else for file syncing).
I realize I'm not representative of the userbase as a whole, I'm just frustrated.
I would like to add that one of the reasons I’m a paying subscriber of Dropbox is because it’s independent of all the major other providers. Shared storage is a commodity provided by Microsoft and Google, and it’s important there is at least one major other provider.
Herein lies the problem, of course, as Dropbox is having trouble justifying their value-add when storage is becoming a commodity, and is obviously searching for a new angle. From what I’ve seen before, this is usually a precursor for more trouble down the road, but who knows. Regardless, it makes me feel that I’m not the target audience anymore.
> Herein lies the problem, of course, as Dropbox is having trouble justifying their value-add when storage is becoming a commodity, and is obviously searching for a new angle. From what I’ve seen before, this is usually a precursor for more trouble down the road, but who knows.
I think everyone outside knows where it's headed, and it's either enterprise-ware (clearly that's what they're aiming for, as they literally rebranded the whole thing to "Dropbox Business", it's right there on the home page) or slow death probably ending in an ignoble acquisition. Too much investment involved for them to just keep delivering the same service that made them a household name, taking a small and steady profit.
> Regardless, it makes me feel that I’m not the target audience anymore.
They're not all-but saying that, they are saying that, if you're a non-business user.
I wonder if we need to start treating failover systems more literally like insurance.
Your insurance company pays part of your premiums to another insurance company to cover them in the case of truly catastrophic events. It's called an underwriter. It's why State Farm didn't go under after Hurricane Andrew, despite the fact that State Farm had a wide majority of policies in the affected areas. They weren't just writing checks, they were cashing them too.
Instead of signing up for 3 different Clouds to make sure my data is safe, maybe my Cloud provider should be doing that for me. But that does nothing to address another concern (lock-in) and could very well make it worse, unless the "underwriter" also facilitates data transfer between clouds.
This is exactly how I feel as well. I just wanted a digital locker that I don't have to worry about. Now these new features on top of everything just feel like bloat to justify the higher price compared to similar services. I did not renew my Dropbox subscription this year.
We get it. The simple truth is we need to provide more than just storage to succeed in the marketplace. We rewrote our sync engine recently to make things much more performant and we're working on shipping more value to users with fewer upsells.
> we're working on shipping more value to users with fewer upsells.
Glad to hear, though I really wish you guys had stayed as a storage company. You're not going to replace all the apps that I use Dropbox to bridge too, yet your apps seem to do their best to keep me in your ecosystem. Please stop that.
I think where that's a losing proposition for them is that other ecosystems are more tightly integrated and generally a better deal, if that's what people want. Apple user with more than one device of any sort? $2.99/mo for the lowest tier of iCloud storage is a no-brainer, and everything will work with it, nothing to install. All-in on Gsuite and doing everything in the browser/Android/Chrome? Duh. No question what you use. Windows/MSOffice? I haven't used it but I bet OneDrive is pretty nice and well-integrated on there. Certainly they don't stop spamming you about it.
Those are what you pick if you want lock-in and bundled features. Dropbox and others are what you (used to) pick if you want to work cross-platform with a heavy focus on sharing real files, not tools. I think that's why the bundled tools strike so many as a bad idea: if we wanted that, there are more sensible options for it already. I get that they're kinda stuck trying it if they want/need huge growth, but it seems destined to fail, to me.
Are you the guy (person) to talk to about feature/functions/satisfaction?
I've recommended or installed DropBox on over 200 SMBs over the last (close to a decade - I don't know how long specifically).
There are things you do great. There are some things you used to do great (or OK) but stopped. There are some not-great things. Compared to Google Drive (Which I have to use for some clients) and Microsoft One Drive (Which I have to use for some clients) and Box.com (which I have to use for some clients), I would prefer it if DropBox would simply solve for my technical and business needs (and I don't think, as an engineer, that they are that hard - I mean some of them you already did and removed).
I would love to talk. Please let me know if/how/when that could happen. If you are not interested, that is fine too. I am on the road for the next week-or-so, but just give me the sign, and I'd love to talk to you about your excellent core product.
How much would you have to charge me to make storage workable for you? I will pay it. I currently pay for Dropbox "Plus" (at least I think, I do not have the mental energy to follow rebrands or renames. I pay you money to sync my files, anyway).
Currently, I am wrestling with the fact that I just bought a new computer and the initial sync took 2 days for ~100GB stored (because there appeared to be per-file overhead and I have a lot of small files). I would not call this performant.
When this finally completed, I discovered that actually I had not downloaded all my files, because even though I turned Smart Sync off, Smart Sync is still invisibly turned on. I learned this when I went to prep for a meeting and my IDE hung for 8 minutes when one of my project folders had to Smart Sync in the background. Again, I have Smart Sync turned off.
What I learned was that in order to turn Smart Sync off, you should ignore the Smart Sync settings, and instead sign into Dropbox.com, click Settings, (again, ignore the setting on that page that says Smart Sync is turned off), and turn off "Dropbox System Extension", which is actually the setting that controls Smart Sync. Then reboot, sign into Dropbox again, and let it go through a sync cycle.
As far as I can tell this feature mostly benefits boomers who think cloud is magical infinite storage, at the expense of people who actually have enough storage and want to use Dropbox for what it was actually good at.
I don't know the answer to that. But if the Dropbox guys are looking for feedback then it was this nag message which finally made me empty everything out of Dropbox and move it elsewhere. Even after emptying, the site continued to nag me for a good month afterwards.
You're not alone. Overwhelmingly the most common reaction when the topic of modern Dropbox comes up, among people who pay attention to it at all, is best summarized as "ugh". I think the only thing keeping people on it is inertia. It hasn't quite gotten annoying/bad enough to be worth the time to switch to something else, but the trend is clear and has shown no signs of reversing.
Even their rebranding to "Dropbox Business" everywhere basically says "individuals and solo/small business people, please do consider leaving, we aren't doing what we started out doing and aren't for you anymore".
I believe that individual teams believe that, and I believe that some decision-makers are interested in doing enough to keep from losing those users too fast.
Looking at the home page, though, it's very clear where the focus is. The only link I can even find to the Plus option is in the footer and it's not even clear it's not a business plan (truly, why would any of the plans on a site that brands itself entirely as "Dropbox Business" not be business plans?
Someone who didn't know otherwise would assuredly bounce off the site having ascertained there are no personal plans. That has to have been a deliberate choice. I guess it could be some kind of grievous mistake to have somehow entirely failed to account for someone interested in an individual plan visiting "dropbox.com" to find it, except it fits with the rest of the publicly-visible moves coming out of Dropbox.
Despite of what you have to say, most people believe that Dropbox has degraded the "value" it provides to the user. Why is that? They've been pestered by notifications (which can be turned off), annoying upsells, features that no one cares about and the folder has now become super ugly - vaults, computer back and passwords (they should be in a dropbox services folder), constant barrage of messages on phones to share photos, no way to export multiple photos to iOS Photos app, etc.
Please respect the honest opinion from the users and try to work with them and show empathy. I am not seeing that.
Well if you want to compete with Google Drive you should probably look into starting an email service with good integration for file sharing. Don't know if you do it already but since I don't really log in to Dropbox daily and I do to Gmail, haven't really looked into it. And the Gmail + Drive combo works pretty well although I heavily dislike the Drive file user interface (why it can't be more like regular file system interface?)
I use Dropbox only because it's easy to edit/add files from the file system (and I don't like Microsoft or Google enough to give their services a chance).
Yep. Aside from the relentless onslaught of popups pushing you to a business plan have you ever noticed while using dropbox.com the UI is designed so that the "download" button is completely hidden from the user. Theres some incredibly weird product decisions going on over there.
Pretty sure you ARE representative. I'd love to see numbers on how few users actually use any of the other features. I'd actually pay more if Dropbox stopped with all the crap, all the way up to, and including the desktop app.
The only change I've noticed in Dropbox is it's getting less and less convenient to simply open the Dropbox folder in Finder. They really, really want me to use their fake file browser app thingy, which I loathe
Very well written and amazing job. I really trust Dropbox engineering teams. My only wish would be the return of the simple desktop app for those of us that just need ultra reliable synced folders (I use macOS). The app today is bloated and upon boot takes 600MB of RAM. Would you guys ever consider a streamlined version of the app for desktop?
HN is a tough crowd to sell everyman software to. Compared to your moderately tech literate person off the street, many here fiercely stand their ground on the computing solutions that they choose. Maybe this is a consequence of knowing how the sausage is made.
I admire your goal to try to deliver value to both groups. I think this strategy is broadly underappreciated, and I expect it improves the product faster than focusing on either group exclusively.
> This is definitely something we're talking about. We're aware there are a set of users who want just sync and we're figuring out how to ship that while making our other features discoverable.
Excellent. I would go a bit further. I not only just want sync, but I'm willing to (mostly) give up the hosted mirroring in order to get unlimited user friendly device-device file synchronization. On top of that, there are plenty of scenarios (largely around collaboration and/or mobile) where I would like to selectively opt-in to cloud mirroring, for which I'd be quite happy to pay a modest amount.
So this folder of personal documents and ebooks synced across these devices (potentially including another user's, if/when they are on the same local network) but no mirroring in the cloud, and that folder of photos synced only between my laptop and my phone, including cloud storage backup and mirroring ($).
 Yes, I'm aware that there are plenty of solutions, starting with rsync etc., that I could cobble together, but most of them aren't particularly user-friendly.
 BTW, have you thought of selling a Dropbox-centric e-reader?
Regarding : Are you aware of Syncthing? It's p2p, allows you to select folders and exactly which devices they are shared with. I have personally had issues with it, but it seems like I'm the only one. The feature set seems to perfectly check out.
I was aware of Syncthing, but last I checked there were some caveats that made it unsuitable. Looking again now, it seems those have been largely addressed, although if I want a hosted mirror I'll still have to set one up myself, and it looks like each shared folder has to be set up and authenticated on each device (ie. there seems to be no notion of a "user" who chooses which of their devices have a copy).
I appreciate the nudge to look at it again, and at the very least this will stop me from having to pay attention to Dropbox's enforced case-insensitivity.
I don't have time to absorb all of this right now, but I do still want to thank you for creating it. :)
I consider what I see as process/project blogging to be one of the Internet's unsung heroes, but a lot of it has a narrow focus. As someone who hasn't worked on a project with this many hands involved (outside of OSS, at least), it's nice to get a peek behind that curtain.
This was a great read, thanks for writing it up. As another person mentioned I especially liked and appreciated the bite-sized tips at the end! Definitely got some insight & inspiration I'll be using in my own projects
API-QL is essentially a glue layer to make our internal interface, Stone, play nicely with Apollo. We might open source some pieces of it, but the vast majority of it is code generation for very specific Dropbox use cases.
We do use storybook! We have an internal design system called DIG that may eventually be shared more publicly. Each individual feature gets a "product component library" which is a way to rapidly build components on top of DIG.
Go scream at your boss. Dropbox has jumped the shark. Why am I getting red warning signs on my dropbox tray to advertise new features? I'm paying a shitton of money and using less than 1%. Take the money and just be silent. Dropbox is a tiny tool. I don't want to hear about it ever. _ever_
I have been a long-time Dropbox+ (and now Dropbox Family) user. I don't mind so much that it is more expensive than the paid personal G/M offerings. It (usually) just works for me, however over the last year annoyances have crept in. Specifically the new File Explorer interface. It is incredibly slow and inefficient and I curse myself every time I open it instead of through the native Windows File Explorer. Hope that gets fixed soon. That annoyance alone is probably not enough to drive me to another service, assuming other features don't get degraded. Paying 200$ for a product that fights you is not something i plan on doing for a long time...
Yes it is, but launching it from the system tray icon forces you to use their interface and it is a pain. Like I said, this specific issue is not a deal breaker, but if their other features take a turn for the worse the way this has then it would be time for a change.
Seeing a lot of negativity here re: "Dropbox should just sync files." Personally I'm stoked about Dropbox branching out to help with more aspects of digital organization, and I think they're well-positioned to do it. All that remains is whether or not they can execute that well.
I struggled to understand the relevance of Dropbox as soon as the alternatives of Google Drive and OneDrive came on the market with vastly more storage capacity.
Is there a sizable market for people who require locally-stored content synchronised to the cloud (e.g. video editors?) Beyond that, the only people I encounter day-to-day who mention Dropbox are those not sufficiently tech-savvy to have known about the free alternatives mentioned above, and are still coasting on Dropbox's first mover awareness advantage.
What are the cases where Dropbox works well for people? Years ago I used to regularly have people tell me "my computer is slow, how do I fix it?" I look at their running programs, uninstall Dropbox, and their computer is no longer slow. I hoped maybe a combination of better resource usage by Dropbox and increasing computing power had alleviated that issue, but just the other day another person called me with slowdown issues and sure enough the culprit was Dropbox, which they had just installed.
You might want to know that Dropbox Passwords hogs the CPU On windows if the browser is running but the Passwords native app is not.
You will see high CPU usage from the Windows Delivery Optimization service, but the culprit is DBP whose extension is trying to contact with the host app in a loop, constantly spawning processes that die.
Why doesn't Dropbox have a middle ground solution between free and $15/month for 5TB?!
I've been asking myself this question for a long time. Every other cloud storage provider has something like 100GB or 500GB for a nominal 3$ or 5$ per month.
Dropbox works really great, but it's painstakingly frustrating that they their barrier to entry is too high that makes non-business users almost give up.
Likely because profit-per-user falls off a cliff very rapidly under $10, due to increased support and admin costs and ballooning storage requirement. They would rather make $12.50 from 1 user than $0.50 from 25 users. Other players have different requirements (most of the value they get is into keeping people locked in their ecosystems).
My two cents, thanks for the developers, Dropbox works perfectly and it's hands down the best place to store one's digital life.
I am a paying gsuite user, and nevertheless I pay for Dropbox because Google is not even close to where Dropbox is in this area. How to verify this: try to resync every couple of minutes a file of 500mb or more with only few changes on Drive with the sync client, then do the same with Dropbox. Delta syncing in Dropbox is still unbeaten, even by those that claim they have it (Google doesn't to my best knowledge, I think Microsoft introduced it a while ago, but doesn't work as good, try the same test).
Likely not many, but that's likely at least partly due to a lack of exposure: The market is still severely under-saturated - Everyone should have one, but not that many non-techies do. Thus if you're in a position to make someone try your password manager that may be a serious advantage.
Honestly just use GitHub. My (high level) understanding of sync is file system issues file event for every file change, we receive it, determine if its relevant, and then make the appropriate delta. You can imagine with thousands (or millions) of small files this becomes nearly impossible to manage with an OS integrated sync engine.
Indeed, and I do/did, but I was in an environment where I would switch quickly between a laptop and a desktop, and Dropbox sync worked extremely well for quickly switching between the same codebase on multiple computers, even with our large, half-a-decade git repo