Venture capitalist Bill Gurley’s personal blog, Above the Crowd, has a post pointing out why Dropbox is a “major disruption” (that is, a disruptive innovation—”an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology” per Wikipedia) in the industry. Prompted by a new feature Dropbox added, to allow Android devices to synch photos automatically, Gurley points out that it’s easy to underestimate the importance of what Dropbox has done.
He explains that Dropbox was the first service to solve the crucial problem of state synchronization—keeping the same files current everywhere. And because it was able to do this, it has made possible a whole way for people to work with their files.
Once you begin using Dropbox, you become more and more indifferent to the hardware you are using, as well as the operating system on that device. Dropbox commoditizes your devices and their OS, by being your “state” system in the sky. Storing credentials and configurations of devices, and even applications are natural next steps for this company. And the further they take it, the less dependent any user becomes of the physical machine (HW and SW) that is accessing that data (and state). Imagine the number of companies, as well as the previous paradigms, this threatens.
I certainly see where he’s coming from, since I’ve been using it that way myself. I keep the stories I’m working on writing in my Dropbox private folder, originally as DOC files and lately as Scrivener project files. I can work on the docs with LibreOffice on my Windows desktop, or my Laptop booted into either Windows or JoliOS, and Scrivener is similarly platform-agnostic (though I haven’t installed the Linux beta yet).
And, of course, Calibre users know that it is possible to create a Calibre library in your Dropbox folder so that you can immediately load any of your e-books into Stanza or IbisReader on demand. I can also use it to share files privately with friends.
I’ve been getting along quite well with my 10 gigabytes of free Dropbox space, of course. I don’t know if I’d ever need to upgrade to their paid service, for the small size of files I use. On the other hand, it would be nice to be able to keep my entire iTunes library in the cloud. And I could probably manage that for just $10 a month on its “Pro 50” 50-gig plan. Worth thinking about for the future, I suppose.