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It is kind of surreal that it is 2017 and we're still trying to solve such a basic computing problem.

I don't think it's a computing problem as much as it is a UI problem.

We can send the shit out of some files... if you know what you're doing (browsers retrieve tons of files all the time, for example).

It's difficult creating a service that is accessible to people who barely understand what a file is in the first place.

IMO the main problem is the mainstream use of NATs and the fact that most people don't run their computers 24/7. The internet became the internat.

If all computers were publicly reachable it would be trivial to send files peer-to-peer.

I guess IPFS can be an interesting solution to this problem.

With the advent of smartphones, most people are running a computer 24/7. But that computer is still either behind a NAT or on a connection where data is precious.

NAT punching is a thing, but it makes the implementation of p2p a lot more complicated.

UPnP was supposed to help with this as well before it became a security disaster. There's also stuff like https://github.com/danoctavian/bluntly/blob/master/README.md to do NAT holepunching without a central server (using DHT) but again adoption and the actual ergonomics of usage (npm, the config file, key distribution etc make it fail the "could my grandma use it" test) are not easy enough to make it easy enough for the un-devops'd masses.

Some crypto currency based on file backup (say, Sia or Diskcoin) could completely solve this problem since you could just drop a magnet link to some encrypted files to your friend and your file stays accessible for as long as your funds cover it.

Pretty much.

The world got paranoid, as any exposed port to the raw net is seen as an invite to worms.

NAT and port blocking are orthogonal, getting one with the other is mostly a coincidence.

> If all computers were publicly reachable it would be trivial to send files peer-to-peer.

WebRTC exists today, and it's quite good. It's not a technology problem, it's a matter of practicality. Mobile devices being reachable over the network 24/7 is just not realistic (connectivity falls off, battery considerations, etc.). I don't want my phone to heat up and come to a crawl because the video I just shared is being downloaded by three friends over LTE while I ride the train.

I think it is more an IPv4 problem -- everyone is fire-walled and NAT'd up the wazoo and direct connection require some UDP + voodoo (or at least it did last time I investigated this).

a UI problem and a legal problem. It's difficult to create a service that is accessible to people who barely understand what a file is, and won't be taken over by pirates and then shut down by law enforcement.

The fact that files can only be downloaded once from this new service isn't just a coincidence.

I agree that it's a sort of UI problem. I could be sharing a desktop with a customer with Teamviewer (which maybe has file sharing, and it's telling I'm unsure about it) and at the same time talking with him on Skype, which for voice is still good (it's bad for everything else - text, files, screen sharing - video calls are of very limited use.) But I can't easily send a file to the other guy.

Unfortunately AFAIK there has been no successful open point to point file transfer protocol that different OSes could implement and be interoperable over the Internet. Going to https://send.firefox.com/ and drop a file there is not an improvement. It's still centralized. Is there any solution to the problem of discovering the address of the sender and the recipient without a central server? I would think it's an impossible problem but there are clever people out there. Maybe mesh networks?

You can send files (and retrieve them) with Teamviewer, but it's unbearably slow most of the time.

I'd venture to guess it's more of a copyright and monetization problem than a UI problem.

Indeed, I remember when a "pair of netcats" was the preferred file transfer solution, and even for IM "meetings". Almost no one knows what I'm talking about if I mention it to most people now, even those otherwise experienced in computer use and/or are developers themselves.

On a similar token, there still isn't any good attempt at a user-friendly E2E-encrypted email solution that integrates with what people already use (minus a few PGP-based browser extensions which don't have much adoption yet).

old chat programs e.g. Trillion did this just fine.

If we still paid for software like we did 15 years ago, we'd probably have a perfect solution by now. Instead we have a bunch of "free" options that all want to harvest our data.

15 years ago? More like 25. The "free" mantra is basically as old as mass-adoption of the web.

But yeah, some sort of ubiquitous fat client, possibly even integrated in the OS, would probably have appeared, and it would cost $50.

Hey. To be fair, they also show you ads. Gotta make money to run the service.

Email attachments are the lowest common denominator despite the 25MB cap, occasional diversion into a spam folder, no sender authentication, no encryption, poor suitability of email clients and servers for bulk file transfers, etc. Whatever can hope to replace it must be as popular (network effect), as easy to use, and free. Sharing very large files (hundreds of MB to multi-GB) is too costly for a free service. People will not setup or maintain a server, an always on PC is less reliable and has a slower uplink than data centers, and smartphones have limited data quotas, storage and batteries. Slow IPv6 deployment, middleboxes (firewalls, home CPEs) makes efficient p2p connections difficult.

If it's free there's little incentive for a company to spend the money developing the easy UI and marketing it to critical mass. Even simple to use Dropbox has not made a significant dent. BitTorrent never became mainstream at the level of email but it did incentivize people to seed with the prospect of pirated content. The MPAA/RIAA have deputized any websites that accepts user content as copyright police and demonize non-enterprise file hosting services.

In a way the success of Facebook is a reflection of the spammy, phishing/malware filled, and slow nature of email and difficulty making your own website; if email continued to improve there wouldn't be demand for a modern solution. File syncing and sharing should be integrated into the operating system. However Microsoft's OneDrive and Apple's iCloud are inferior to Dropbox so a third party solution is still relevant.

AirDrop is great for this, if you're working in small groups. It's one of the few things that Apple makes that still "just works."

Unfortunately, it only works in small groups. If you're in a large office, or need to send something to someone outside the building, you're SOL.

> AirDrop [...] "just works"

Well, not all the time. Never works at my parents, for example. Works in my flat about 80% of the time (although iOS 11 + High Sierra seem to be improving that ratio slightly). Never worked at $JOB-2. Doesn't work if you want to send to a non-Apple device. etc. Maybe Apple will spin up something out of the DeskConnect ashes for these cases.

When it does work, mind, it is bloody magical.

I've never had an Airdrop problem that couldn't be solved by moving the devices closer together. But like so much in computing, YMMV.

I am currently enjoying* the irony that Airdrop works better between my phone (currently on the work guest wifi network) and the work laptop (wifi turned off, ethernet on work corporate network) than in my flat (where everything is on the same wifi + network).

We can send files all day long between computers. It's the political layer that's unsolved: privacy, identity, trust, and authorization.

For buisness file sharing it has been solved dozens of times. The problem is that the solution tends to turn file sharing into a managment problem. You end up with file structures, naming conventions, permissions. Yuck! It is vital to have a way of sharing large files that just requires a social interaction between two people and always just works.

Entreprise ans consumer solutions are necessarily different because of the legal environment. You don't want random employees sending arbitrary files to each other with no auditing, security, organization, etc.

I get where you are coming from. But a lot of employees have the authority to decide this kind of thing for themselves. Making them subject to technical restrictions can make it harder to make progress on projects. It's like telling people not to give each other pieces of paper or talk outside of official channels. That might make sense at Nasa mission control (for example), but it does not where I work.

BTSync and SyncThing are also in this space. They do work, and BTSync is even somewhat usable by less-technical people.

Although you do have to make sure you upgrade all your SyncThing clients in lockstep - which is a faff when you've got a mix of OSs to deal with - otherwise you'll get protocol mismatches and nothing works right.

Thanks thats useful to know. I am using it in a fairly restrictive corporate environment where the Github download links are blocked. Makes updating a difficulty.

Nobody has figured out how to make any money off of it.

A bunch of people have made decent money off it, they just tend to be shut down for making money off copyright violations.

Computing used to evolve despite this concern...

Kim DotCom and his giant mansion and fancy cars disagree with you

WeTransfer works great for me.

Perhaps. Unusable on anything that's not Chrome, dark ad patterns galore, and if you let the link expire, it's game over. As for me, I would use the words "almost bearable."


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