Home' Technology Review : March April 2012 Contents Q&A
technology review March/ April 2012
though other companies might decide
that, say, Linux support is not an econom-
ical thing to devote resources to.
Your company has worried over perfect-
ing version control. One option in
Dropbox, called “Packrat,” even allows
users to save every version they’ve ever
made of a file. Why do you have this
Since computers have existed, every
user has had this feeling that they’re one
click or keystroke away from disaster. We
were trying to imagine, “What if you were
to build a universal Undo button?” Build-
ing a universal undo turned out to mean
that we had to invent our own file system,
but the way we designed it made it pretty
easy to record past versions of files and
keep them around.
What has been the biggest challenge of
scaling to reach so many users so
It’s easy to make a solution that works
80 or 90 percent of the time, or even 99
percent of the time. But sooner or later,
if the day comes where you’re about
to present before an audience and the
PowerPoint is not there, you’ ll stop using
the service—and you’ll tell all your friends
what a terrible experience you’ve had.
You talk very winningly about reliability
and trustworthiness. But what happened
last year when all accounts on Dropbox
could be accessed, however briefly,
In short, there was a code update that
was bad. It wasn’t caught by the mecha-
nisms that are meant to catch such things.
You can imagine that was pretty much the
nightmare scenario for us. In response,
obviously, we did all kinds of work to
make sure that kind of thing never hap-
And you wrote to each of the 54 users
who were affected, gave them your cell
phone number, and personally apologized.
The number was somewhere in that
neighborhood. But yeah, I did.
“You’re going to see that the value that comes out of
Dropbox is more and more the stuff that other people
build. Whether it’s your TV or your camera or the apps
on your phone, we want to make it easy for anything
that consumes or creates data to be able to plug in. What
we’re really trying to build is the Internet’s file system.”
and I have this new audiovisual equip-
ment, and the TV has Wi-Fi and the
receiver has an Internet jack on the
back—but the downside is that I feel like
I have 10 ways to watch Netflix badly.
Everything is jockeying to be at the
center of the universe at the expense of
the user experience. We think we have a
lot to contribute here.
Well, we wish you well. But doesn’t
competition from Apple’s iCloud service
give you pause? There is a company that
also sweats the smallest technical
I think they’ve demonstrated that they
fundamentally care about making the
Apple experience really good, but they
don’t pay nearly the same attention to
other platforms. Even if you’re an Apple
user, what happens when you need to
share with someone who has an Android
phone or you have to work with someone
who has a Windows PC?
Your business model is what’s called
“freemium.” When I sign up, I get two
gigabytes of data storage free. For more
storage, and for some options, I must pay
[$10 a month for 50 gigs or $20 for 100,
although users can be given up to eight
additional gigabytes for referring new
customers to Dropbox]. Do you really
believe that enough people will find two
gigs constraining? I’ve read that 96
percent of your users pay nothing at all.
In the literal sense it’s just more space,
but from an experiential standpoint the
real value is having all your stuff in your
dropbox instead of, say, only your docu-
ments. You can have your whole life in
there—with you, wherever you are.
Will Dropbox one day become more than
a network for file sharing?
Absolutely. The explosion of mobile
devices means that the world needs an
elegant solution for the new problems
people have. It needs a fabric that ties
together all of their devices, services, and
apps. Even though today people may
think of Dropbox as a magic folder on
their desktop, what we’re really excited
about is the opportunity to make all this
other stuff you use better. We envision lit-
tle Dropbox icons everywhere, analogous
to the Facebook icons you see everywhere.
When you take a picture, it should save
your photo to your dropbox; and when
you make a to-do list on your iPhone, it
should save the list to your dropbox. Any
app or device should be able to plug into
Dropbox and have access to all your stuff,
because that’s where it resides.
This future Dropbox is an example of an
overused word: a “platform” with which
many software developers and hardware
manufacturers will work.
Over the next years you’re going to see
that the value that comes out of Drop-
box is more and more the stuff that other
people build. Whether it’s your TV or your
camera or the apps on your phone, we
want to make it easy for anything that
consumes or creates data to be able to
plug in. What we’re really trying to build
is the Internet’s file system.
We’re far from that. It’s a mess now, right?
Yes. Think of the idea of the connected
home. I just moved into a new apartment,
Mar12 Q&A.indd 26
2/7/12 11:22 AM
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