Why Simple File Sharing Is Serious Business
Two startups that make it possible to share files at home and work have ambitions to rule the cloud.
It could be among most obvious business plans ever: offer to store people’s files online so they can access them anywhere.
The failure of any mainstream computing company to meet that simple need has left a gap now being ably filled by one of Silicon Valley’s fastest-growing startups, Dropbox, a three-year old company recently valued at close to $4 billion.
Free software from the San Francisco–based company supplies a "magic folder" into which users can place photos, spreadsheets, and other documents. Stored centrally in Dropbox servers, those files are then automatically synchronized across all of a person’s computers and mobile devices. Folders can be shared between Dropbox users, so when one person adds a file, it instantly appears in another person’s folder. The software eliminates the need to e-mail files between computers or carry data on portable thumb drives.
A $4 billion idea: The annoyance of a forgotten USB drive inspired Drew Houston to start the file-sharing company Dropbox.