Even Twitter wouldn't sound ambitious if you say "we are group SMS for the world".
To better understand how ambitious a startup is, assume that its adoption is 100%. If everyone is using it, does it change lives? If everyone chats on Twitter, does it impact politics? If everyone is on Facebook, do you reconnect with old friends? Etc. Dropbox is in that category too.
With used cars purchases, I can see how everyone would use the site, and still not have any meaningful impact. Cheaper cars. More efficient market. But still, in the end, cheaper cars. Am I missing something?
That's fine when everyone everywhere uses the same OS or all OSs automatically connect to the same back end. But if I want to share files between a Windows box, an iPad, and an Android phone, it's unlikely that anything useful for my purposes will be built into the OS anytime soon.
And even if I insist on buying nothing but Apple (or whatever) products, if I want to share files with my dad or my next door neighbor, now I have to worry about what OS they're running too.
You install Dropbox once per device. After that, it's trivially easy.
OS independent iCloud is a nice feature but hard to see the path to Apple sized scale from it. It's just one of fifty UX headaches of typical computer use. Easier to get at those from OS or browser positions, Dropbox is in a weird spot.
So maybe their next move is to buy Evernote, or build their own. As someone already mentioned, build a suite of document viewers/editors that go hand in hand with managing the files. Go from just allowing you to post a public folder to becoming your personal web presence. Manage cross-social-network personal information so that it always stays in sync.
There are a lot of possibilities if you think past the files.
Sure but it's a distant pivot. It's almost starting over except they have a company with revenue. Adobe also has that and each new product attempt fails or wins independent of Photoshop's success. And Adobe and MS products are more related to each other than file backup and editing.
Dropbox the product is a good revenue stream and could spark another Microsoft/Adobe style multiproduct software company.
Is that Paul Graham meant by start to chip at the big vision with a beachhead though? Because then any product idea has that potential, as long as it starts the first company. Seemed like he was advocating for a more direct path, hacker search to more general search, basecamp to email, etc. Starting companies is hard anyway, start with a clear path to something big.
But to me it doesn't seem a huge leap from "we keep your files for you and get them for you wherever you are" to "we let you do things with your files" or "we keep other stuff for you too." It seems like a very natural proposition to offer users.
They can become the file system for the internet. If they're successful, many futures apps (mobile or desktop) will sit on top of Dropbox software to sync files and app state for their users. That is an incredibly powerful vision.
> If they're successful, many futures apps (mobile or desktop) will sit on top of Dropbox
This sounds like a great vision for Dropbox to follow, but I just can't shake the feeling that the future is going to ultimately look a lot more like what Google is doing with docs, and eliminate the need for most offline/native apps at all. And if in the best case, Dropbox is still going to be dependent on offline apps, I guess it just feels a bit limiting.
I'll admit as much as the next person that the current wave of web/browser-based things (games, operating systems, phone apps, etc) feel seriously lacking, but given enough time, I just can't imagine how this isn't the direction the future is heading. Dropbox makes it amazingly easy to backup, version, and share files right now, but if all the apps you use would already be doing that for you, what would be the point? Or rather, how would Dropbox pivot to account for this?
I think Dropbox is awesome, and that vision you're describing is great, but I would imagine that there is a very specific window of opportunity for when they would have to take action if they want to see this type of 'endgame' have any real impact.
Ubiquity. Once dropbox becomes essential for a large number of mobile or web-based apps (and their users), it becomes indispensable. With this comes a lot of possibility for monetizing either from the users or the vendors.
Of course one could say that's the same goal for just about any consumer-facing startup these days.