Dropbox (service)
Dropbox
Dropbox logo 2015.svg
Developer(s) Dropbox, Inc.
Initial release June 2007; 9 years ago (2007-06)
Stable release(s)
Windows, macOS 23.4.18 / April 11, 2017; 16 days ago (2017-04-11)[1][2]
Windows (UWP) 4.6.4 / March 27, 2017; 31 days ago (2017-03-27)[3]
Android 44.2.2 / April 20, 2017; 7 days ago (2017-04-20)[4]
iOS 44.2 / April 18, 2017; 9 days ago (2017-04-18)[5]
Preview release(s)
Android 45.1.2 / April 17, 2017; 10 days ago (2017-04-17)[6]
Development status Active
Written in
Operating system Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, Windows Phone
Available in 17 languages
Type Online backup service
License Combined GPLv2 and proprietary software[7] (Linux Nautilus)
Alexa rank
Website www.dropbox.com

Dropbox is a file hosting service operated by American company Dropbox, Inc., headquartered in San Francisco, California, that offers cloud storage, file synchronization, personal cloud, and client software. Dropbox was founded in 2007, by MIT students Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, as a startup company, with initial funding from seed accelerator Y Combinator.

Dropbox creates a special folder on the user's computer, the contents of which are then synchronized to Dropbox's servers and to other computers and devices that the user has installed Dropbox on, keeping the same files up-to-date on all devices. Dropbox uses a freemium business model, where users are offered a free account with a set storage size, with paid subscriptions available that offer more capacity and additional features. Dropbox Basic users are given 2 gigabytes of free storage space. Dropbox Plus users are given 1 terabyte of storage space, as well as additional features, including advanced sharing controls, remote wipe, and an optional Extended Version History add-on. Dropbox offers computer apps for Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, and Linux computers, and mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone smartphones and tablets. In March 2013, the company acquired Mailbox, a popular email app, and in April 2014, the company introduced Carousel, a photo and video gallery app. Both Mailbox and Carousel were shut down in December 2015, with key features from both apps implemented into the regular Dropbox service. In October 2015, it officially announced Dropbox Paper, its collaborative document editor, in a reported effort to expand its operations towards businesses. As of March 2016, Dropbox has 500 million users.

Dropbox has received praise, including the Crunchie Award in 2010 for Best Internet Application, and Macworld's 2009 Editor's Choice Award for Software. It has been ranked as one of the most valuable startups in the US and the world, with a valuation of over $10 billion, and it has been described as one of Y Combinator's most successful investments to date. However, Dropbox has also experienced criticism and generated controversy. Notable incidents include a June 2011 authentication issue where accounts could be accessed without passwords for four hours, a July 2011 Privacy Policy update that introduced language suggesting Dropbox had ownership of users' data, a July 2012 email spam issue that reoccurred in February 2013 and resulted in the August 2016 public leak of 68 million email addresses and passwords, leaked government documents suggesting Dropbox was being considered for inclusion in the United States PRISM surveillance program, and a January 2017 accidental restoration of years-old supposedly deleted user files.

History

Early development and launch

Dropbox founder Drew Houston
Dropbox founder Arash Ferdowsi

Dropbox founder Drew Houston conceived the Dropbox concept after repeatedly forgetting his USB flash drive while he was a student at MIT. In a 2009 "Meet the Team" post on the Dropbox blog, he wrote that existing services at the time "suffered problems with Internet latency, large files, bugs, or just made me think too much." He began making something for his personal use, but then realized that it could benefit others with the same problems.[9] Houston founded Dropbox, Inc. in June 2007, and shortly thereafter secured seed funding from Y Combinator.[10] Dropbox officially launched at 2008's TechCrunch Disrupt, an annual technology conference.[11] Owing to trademark disputes between Proxy, Inc. and Evenflow (Dropbox's parent company), Dropbox's official domain name was "getdropbox.com" until October 2009, when it acquired its current domain, "dropbox.com".[11]

2010-2012

In May 2010, Dropbox was blocked in China.[12][13] In May 2011, Dropbox struck deals with mobile carrier Softbank and then-named phone maker Sony Ericsson, with terms of the deal including that Dropbox's mobile app would come pre-installed on mobile phones in Asia and Europe.[14] In an interview with TechCrunch's "Founder Stories" in October 2011, Houston explained that a demo video was released during Dropbox's early days, with one viewer being Arash Ferdowsi. Ferdowsi was "so impressed" that they formed a partnership. In regards to competition, Houston stated that "It is easy for me to explain the idea, it is actually really hard to do it."[15]

In April 2012, Dropbox announced an automatic photo uploading feature, allowing users to automatically upload photos or videos from cameras, tablets, SD cards, or smartphones to a dedicated "Camera Uploads" folder in their Dropbox. Users were given 500 megabytes of extra space for uploading their first photo, and would be given up to 3 gigabytes of extra space if users continued using the method for more photos.[16] In July, Dropbox acquired TapEngage, a startup that "enables advertisers and publishers to collaborate on tablet-optimized advertising".[17] In September, Facebook and Dropbox integrated to allow users in Facebook Groups to share files using Dropbox.[18][19] In December, Dropbox acquired two companies; Audiogalaxy, a startup "allowing users to store their music files and playlists in the cloud then stream them to any device",[20] and Snapjoy, a company that allowed users to "aggregate, archive and view all of their digital photos from their cameras, phones and popular apps like Flickr, Instagram and Picasa, and then view them online or via an iOS app".[21] Also in December, Dropbox set up an office in Dublin, Ireland,[22] its first office outside the United States.[23]

2013-2014

In March 2013, Dropbox acquired Mailbox, a popular email app, with Mailbox CEO Gentry Underwood saying that "Rather than grow Mailbox on our own, we've decided to join forces with Dropbox and build it out together".[24] Under the deal, the developers of Mailbox joined Dropbox, but kept Mailbox running as a stand-alone app. Mailbox CEO stated: "We are still struggling to keep up with the demand from those who want to use it", and Dropbox CEO Drew Houston said "We felt we could help Mailbox reach a much different audience much faster".[25][26] The acquisition was reported to cost $100 million.[27][28] In July, Dropbox acquired Endorse, a "mobile coupon startup".[29] In November, Dropbox announced changes to "Dropbox for Business" that would enable users to connect both their personal Dropbox and their business Dropbox to the same device, with each of the folders being "properly labeled for personal or work, and come with its own password, contacts, settings, and files." Furthermore, Dropbox announced shared audit logs, remote wipe for business administrators, and account transfers, as new features of its Business offering.[30][31] The same month, Dropbox also released a new version of its iPhone and iPad mobile app, that updated it with a new "whiter, more minimalistic user interface" designed for iOS 7, along with support for AirDrop (for sharing links and files wirelessly with nearby iOS devices), and a full-screen/split-screen interface toggle for the iPad.[32]

In February 2014, Dennis Woodside, the former CEO of Motorola, became Dropbox's chief operating officer.[33][34] Later the same month, Dropbox was unblocked in China, although the reason for the block was still unclear.[35] In April, Dropbox announced that Condoleezza Rice would be joining their board of directors,[36] prompting criticism from some users who were concerned about her appointment due to her history as United States Secretary of State and revelations of "widespread wiretapping on US citizens during her time in office".[37] RiceHadleyGates, a consultancy firm consisting of Rice, former US national security adviser Stephen Hadley, and former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, had previously advised Dropbox.[38] Also in April, Dropbox introduced Carousel, a photo and video gallery that "combines the photos in your Dropbox with the photos on your phone, and automatically backs up new ones as you take them." Carousel sorted photos by event and date.[39][40][41] April also marked the acquisitions of photo-sharing company Loom (which would be shut down and integrated with the recently announced Carousel),[42] and document-sharing startup Hackpad.[43][44] In May, Dropbox acquired Bubbli, a startup that has "built some innovative ways of incorporating 3D technology into 2D views, and packaging it in a mobile app".[45][46] In June, the block in China was reinstated.[47] In July, Dropbox introduced "streaming sync" for its computer apps. Streaming sync was described as a new "supercharged" synchronization speed for large files that improves the upload or download time by up to 2 times.[48] In September, the release of iOS 8, Apple's new mobile operating system, created compatibility issues for Dropbox. The company announced that users had to update their apps to fix automatic photo uploads. However, this caused duplicate files of users' photos. Dropbox explained that "duplicates are backed up versions of thumbnails generated by Apple's iCloud My Photo Stream and are being recognized as unique images by Dropbox", and wrote that users needed to disable either the iCloud photo sync or Dropbox/Carousel in order to stop the duplication issue. Later, Dropbox announced that it had updated its mobile apps to prevent the duplication.[49][50] In November, Dropbox announced a partnership with Microsoft to integrate Dropbox and Microsoft Office applications on iOS, Android and the Office 365 applications on the web.[51][52]

2015-2016

In January 2015, Dropbox acquired CloudOn, a company that provided mobile applications for document editing and creation. At the same time, Dropbox told TechCrunch that CloudOn's base in Herzliya would become the first Dropbox office in Israel.[53] In April, Dropbox launched a Dropbox Notes collaborative note-taking service in beta testing phase, prompting speculation if Dropbox was planning to bring out a product to compete with Google Docs. TechCrunch noted that Dropbox Notes appeared to be a new version of "Project Composer", a previous iteration of the service with roots from the acquisition of Hackpad in April 2014.[54][55][56] In July, Dropbox acquired Clementine, an enterprise communication service.[57] In August, Dropbox announced the availability of "Universal 2nd Factor" USB security keys, providing two-factor authentication for logging into its services.[58][59] In December, Dropbox announced the shut-down of two of its high-profile consumer services, Mailbox and Carousel. In a blog post, Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi explained that "We'll be taking key features from Carousel back to the place where your photos live - in the Dropbox app. We'll also be using what we've learned from Mailbox to build new ways to communicate and collaborate on Dropbox".[60][61][62]

In August 2016, Dropbox ceased support for computers running Windows XP. In a post on its help pages, Dropbox explains that all linked computers were signed out on August 29, 2016, and users would need to update to Windows Vista or a later version of Windows in order to use Dropbox again.[63][64] In October, Aditya Agarwal, Dropbox's then-vice president of engineering, became chief technology officer.[65][66]

2017

In January 2017, Dropbox introduced "Smart Sync" for Business and Enterprise customers, a feature that lets Windows and macOS users see all files in the Dropbox folder, but only download specific files on-demand.[67][68] In February, Nicholas Jitkoff, the former lead on Google's Material Design team, joined Dropbox as its new Vice President of Design.[69][70][71] In March, Dropbox renamed Dropbox Pro, its paid plan, to Dropbox Plus. In a blog post, it noted that "Don't worry--the name is the only change we're making. You'll still get the same space and advanced features at the same price."[72] In April, Dropbox redesigned its website interface, bringing simplified navigation with a new thumbnail view, separation of work and home files, and a revamped Admin Console for Dropbox Business administrators.[73][74][75] Later in the month, Dropbox announced that Hackpad, the collaborative document service it acquired in 2014, would be shut down on July 19, with all notes being migrated to Dropbox Paper.[76][77]

User growth

Dropbox has seen steady user growth since its inception. It surpassed the 1 million registered users milestone in April 2010, followed by 2 million in September, and 3 million in November.[78] It passed 50 million users in October 2011,[79] 100 million in November 2012,[80][81] 200 million in November 2013,[31] 400 million in June 2015,[82][83] and 500 million in March 2016.[84][85]

Platforms

Dropbox has computer apps for Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, and Linux computers,[86] and mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone smartphones and tablets.[87] As part of its partnership with Microsoft, Dropbox announced a universal Windows 10 app in January 2016.[88][89]

Financials

Dropbox received initial funding from seed accelerator Y Combinator.[10] Dropbox also raised $1.2 million in Series A funding from Sequoia Capital in 2007, that "along with interest (on that amount) converted to equity as part of the Series A investment, which included a fresh slug of $6 million", bringing the total amount to $7.25 million, with the round closed in 2008 and documents filed in 2009.[78]

A May 2010 report in The Wall Street Journal said that "since [founder Drew Houston] started reading Eric Ries' Lean startup blog about a year ago, the company has started trickling out new features when they are ready instead of waiting to launch a fully featured product. That helps test customer appetite, he says, dubbing the practice "minimum viable product."[90]

TechCrunch reported in July 2011 that Dropbox had been looking to raise between $200 and $300 million, and had a valuation "to end up in the $5 billion to $10 billion range. [...] quite a step up from its previous funding rounds which have totalled a tiny $7.2 million."[91] As noted in a Forbes article, Dropbox had "revenue on track to hit $240 million in 2011".[79]

In April 2012, Dropbox announced that Bono and The Edge, two members of the Irish rock band U2, were individual investors in the company.[92]

In March 2017, Bloomberg reported that Dropbox had secured a US$600 million credit line, with the company expected to file for its initial public offering (IPO) "as soon as this year".[93][94][95]

Business model

China Basin Landing, the headquarters of Dropbox

Dropbox uses a freemium business model, where users are offered a free account with a set storage size, with paid subscriptions available that offer more capacity and additional features.[96]

Dropbox Basic users are given 2 gigabytes of free storage space.[96] This can be expanded through referrals; users recommend the service to other people, and if those people start using the service, the user is awarded with additional 500 megabytes of storage space. Dropbox Basic users can earn up to 16 gigabytes through the referral program.[97]

Dropbox Plus users are given 1 terabyte of storage space, as well as additional features, including:

Advanced sharing controls: When sharing a link to a file or folder, users can set passwords and expiration limits.[98]

Remote wipe: If a device is stolen or lost, users can remotely wipe the Dropbox folder from the device the next time it comes online.[99]

"Extended Version History": An available add-on, it makes Dropbox keep deleted and previous versions of files for one year, a significant extension of the default 30-day recovery time.[100]

Similarly to Dropbox Basic, Dropbox Plus users can also earn extra space through referrals. Pro users earn 1 gigabyte per referral, up to 32 gigabytes.[97]

Dropbox Business is Dropbox's solution for corporations, adding more business-centered functionality for teams, including collaboration tools, advanced security and control, unlimited file recovery, user management and granular permissions, and options for unlimited storage.[101] For large organizations, Dropbox offers Dropbox Enterprise, the "highest tier" of its product offerings, adding domain management tools, an assigned Dropbox customer support member, and help from "expert advisors" on deployment and user training.[102]

Technology

The Dropbox software enables users to drop any file into a designated folder. The file is then automatically uploaded to Dropbox's cloud-based service and made available to any other of the user's computers and devices that also have the Dropbox software installed, keeping the file up-to-date on all systems.[103] When a file in a user's Dropbox folder is changed, Dropbox only uploads the pieces of the file that have been changed, whenever possible.[104]

When a file or folder is deleted, users can recover it within 30 days. For Dropbox Plus users, this recovery time can be extended to one year, by purchasing an "Extended Version History" add-on.[100]

Dropbox also offers a LAN sync feature, where, instead of receiving information and data from the Dropbox servers, computers on the local network can exchange files directly between each other, potentially significantly improving synchronization speeds.[105]

Originally, the Dropbox servers and computer apps were written in Python.[106] In July 2014, Dropbox began migrating its backend infrastructure to Go.[107]

In September 2012, Dropbox's website codebase was rewritten from JavaScript to CoffeeScript.[108]

Dropbox originally used Amazon's S3 storage system to store user files, but between 2014 and 2016 they gradually moved away from Amazon to use their own hardware, referred to as "Magic Pocket", due to Dropbox's description as "a place where you keep all your stuff, it doesn't get lost, and you can always access it".[109]

Dropbox uses SSL transfers for synchronization and stores the data via AES-256 encryption.[110]

The functionality of Dropbox can be integrated into third-party applications through an application programming interface (API).[111]

Dropbox prevents sharing of copyrighted data, by checking the hash of files shared in public folders or between users against a blacklist of copyrighted material. This only applies to files or folders shared with other users or publicly, and not to files kept in an individual's Dropbox folder that are not shared.[112]

Dropbox Paper

In October 2015, Dropbox announced the upcoming launch of Dropbox Paper, its collaborative document editor, noted by the media as the result of its development of a Dropbox Notes service earlier in 2015.[113][114][115] Dropbox Paper entered open beta in August 2016, allowing anyone to join and test the product. Mobile apps for Android and iOS were also released.[116][117][118] In January 2017, Dropbox Paper was officially launched. Aimed for businesses, Dropbox Paper was described as "one part online document, one part collaboration, one part task management tool, one part content hub" by Rob Baesman, Dropbox's head of product, and allows for importing, editing, and collaboration on "a number of other file types from Google, Microsoft, and others".[119][120][121]

User-created projects

Users have devised a number of uses for and mashups of the technology that expand Dropbox's functionality. These include: sending files to a Dropbox via Gmail; using Dropbox to sync instant messaging chat logs; BitTorrent management; password management; remote application launching and system monitoring; and as a free Web hosting service.[122]

Reception

Dropbox has received several awards, including the Crunchie Award in 2010 for Best Internet Application,[123] and Macworld's 2009 Editor's Choice Award for Software.[124]

It was nominated for a 2010 Webby Award,[125] and for the 2010 Mac Design Awards by Ars Technica.[126]

In 2011, Business Insider named Dropbox the world's sixth most valuable startup,[127] and in 2017, the publication ranked Dropbox as the eighth most valuable US startup, with a valuation of $10 billion.[128] It has been described as one of Y Combinator's most successful investments to date.[129]

Dropbox's mobile iPhone app release in 2010 was among the top 10 "best apps" selected by Alex Ahlund, former CEO of two websites focused on mobile apps,[130] and the company's Android app was also selected as one of the top five "best apps" in a list compiled in 2010 by Jason Hiner for ZDNet.[131]

Founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi were named among the top 30 under 30 entrepreneurs by Inc. in 2011.[132]

In January 2012, Dropbox was named startup of the year by TechCrunch,[133] and in 2016, the company was ranked #2 on the Forbes Cloud 100 list.[134]

Privacy and security concerns

Dropbox has been the subject of criticism and controversy related to multiple incidents, including a June 2011 authentication problem that let accounts be accessed for several hours without passwords,[135] a July 2011 Privacy Policy update with language suggesting Dropbox had ownership of users' data,[136] concerns about Dropbox employee access to users' information,[137] July 2012 email spam[138] with recurrence in February 2013,[139] leaked government documents in June 2013 with information that Dropbox was being considered for inclusion in the National Security Agency's PRISM surveillance program,[140][141] a July 2014 comment from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden criticizing Dropbox's encryption,[142] the leak of 68 million account passwords on the Internet in August 2016,[143][144] and a January 2017 accidental data restoration incident where years-old supposedly deleted files reappeared in users' accounts.[145][146]

Offices

The Dropbox headquarters were located at 760 Market Street in San Francisco, until moving to larger premises in July 2011.[147] From that date Dropbox's corporate headquarters were at Suite 400[148] on the fourth floor of the China Basin Landing building in San Francisco.[149] The company occupied the fourth floor of the 1991 section of the facility, with 85,600 square feet (7,950 m2) of space, and an option to take more space.[147]

In 2016, Dropbox relocated their corporate headquarters to 333 and 343 Brannan St.[150][151]

Dropbox expanded into their second U.S. office in Austin, Texas in February 2014.[152] The State of Texas and City of Austin provided a $1.7 million performance-based incentives package to Dropbox in exchange for locating their office in Austin with up to 170 new jobs with a $59,000 average annual wage.[153][154]

See also

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