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?
Dropbox should be a feature of the OS. Otherwise it can only get one part of the UX right, drag and drop.
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.
There are a lot of possibilities if you think past the files.
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.
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.
Then your OS would be a commodity, and Dropbox would be what provided the value. Seamless editing of documents across devices, no matter where you are or what sort of device you're working on.
That's a pretty good endgame for dropbox.
Google Docs already turns your local filesystem into a "commodity." And what if Dropbox becomes Google Docs, that's not google/Apple sized. Then what?
The path to scale for Dropbox seems quite tricky.
Of course one could say that's the same goal for just about any consumer-facing startup these days.