This is a move absolutely in the wrong direction. I'm sure the idea is to push more eyeballs across the DB logo and grow the userbase. But to those users, DB will look like yet another fileshare a la megaupload/filefront/whatever and not something particularly special.
Here's some better ideas:
- harden up the way users want to use the public folder and make it more like a CDN
- Add another price tier if they must to ensure it works!
- Let users host web sites out of their public folder! Hand craft HTML still has a place among basic users who just want to put up a web page about their dog!
- put media specific folders in the public folder (maybe at different price tiers) and turn it into a flickr/soundcloud/youtube competitor!
"Let users host web sites out of their public folder! Hand craft HTML still has a place among basic users who just want to put up a web page about their dog!"
I think this is one of the reasons they are phasing out the public folder, as people are able to do exactly that. I remember it was mentioned on Lifehacker a while back, so maybe its becoming an issue. With the share functionality, you just get the code, making it impossible to use dropbox in this way.
A staffer (?) mentions further down that almost no one was using their Public folder, so I really doubt that the average Dropbox user wants any of the things you listed.
Dropbox is a file storage and sharing service, not a CDN or web host. Just because it could be hacked to make it a CDN or web host doesn't mean those things are highly desirable to customers or good for their actual business.
I almost exclusively use my public folder. I mean, I keep things in other folders as well, but my main use case is typically "I want to send this file to $friend, so I'll just save it in my public folder and send them the link."
I would LOVE it if DB became a YouTube competitor. I don't share many videos on YT because it is so annoying to upload them. If I could just fling them in a DB folder and know my online video library was growing, my family and I would be posting many, many more.
However, I'd understand why DB would stay far away from that (too distracting from the core mission). They have to find somewhere new to grow into, though.
I'd look into building an app to do it, but they limit apps to 150MB files.
Thanks for the tip, but it comes with zero guarantee the link will work that way next week.
And with changes like the one being discussed here I'm guessing a referrer / login check will be in place at some point in the future (basically downgrading DropBox public sharing to the equivalent of Google Sites).
Edit: It's also worth noting that this parameter forces a download rather than opening things in the browser when possible.
Dropbox support offered up the ?dl=1 querystring as the solution to permanent, public URLs when I emailed them, but I have the same issue with the fact that the files are forced to download. If they're going to stick with Dropbox branded preview for public URLs, I'd like to at least see a similar ?view=1 querystring to keep images/pdfs/etc.. displaying directly in the browser.
Well, you can go to that link page, copy the "Download" URL and remove the "?dl=1" suffix. You should have a dl.dropbox.com URL now, which will show the file in the browser, and not force the browser to download the file.
That being said: it's an undocumented feature, thus can't be taken as granted (and so might be removed at any point in time without warning), and the path is still cryptic.
They are NOT removing the ability to link to files in your Dropbox. Just the Public folder itself, which is no longer needed since any file can now be shared with a public link.
EDIT: And for those of you concerned by any impact on using Dropbox as a CDN, there shouldn't be any issues. The links that Dropbox generates from your files have a bit of chrome (a preview of the contents of the file and a couple of buttons), but you can still get a direct link from the "Download" button.
But that isn't good enough. I show people screenshots by tossing the public URL into an IM or IRC chat all the time. It's good for that because it requires no effort from me to upload the file, and viewing the image is seamless for the recipient (click the link, see the picture). Under the new system, clicking the link would (at best) initiate a file download, which is far more annoying.
The problem is that you could share a link and it'd be seamlessly downloaded by a receiver of the link....you could even use them to handle images in web pages for example.
Now? The person who is receiving the link has to go to a web page, then click download. It's an unnecessary extra step and a downgrade in the user experience.
Even worse, it's now harder to keep track of what you have shared and what you don't.
From DB's perspective this is most likely to force additional eyeballs onto their product by forcing them to hit a webpage before download, but it's a lousy user experience for all involved. To the receiver of the link DB just looks like an old fashioned file-sharing site a la megaupload and not something special.
Both are direct links, and neither tell you much about the site that you're downloading the pictures from. The indirect link actually tells people that Dropbox exists as a service. Whether that's better for the end user or not isn't relevant to what I said.
Dropbox is much different from Megaupload. On Dropbox you get a direct link and you know whose directory you download from. On Megaupload the uploader is anonymous (to the downloader) and you do not get a direct link.
What I find disappointing is their focus on photo uploads. I think users really just want to pick a best of breed provider for major features like this in their lives, and Facebook has photos sharing locked up.
Dropbox has brought simple file synchronization between machines that are not necessarily on the same network, to the masses, but they need to do it in away that doesn't make you want to drop Dropbox when it goes wrong. I had a machine with Dropbox installed turned off for a year, and when I turned it on, it's clock was wrong, so when I updated the clock, Dropbox deleted all files in my Dropbox that were newer than the last time I had that machine running. What did it delete? Hard to tell. And Dropbox doesn't support restoration for folders, or points in time, just single files.
I thought the recent update for their iPhone app, when they enabled auto-upload of photos, was the greatest thing ever. I don't use the iCloud or whatever it's called, but I do use Dropbox all the time.
Auto-upload solves all sorts of issues I had, or things nagging me in the back of my mind, from realistic ones like transferring photos to computers, all the way to paranoid fantasies like "I wish I could snap a picture of this police officer and then laugh in his face - go ahead, beat me up and take the phone from me, it's too late now". :)
The Public/ folder is probably the most useful feature of Dropbox. It is totally user friendly and integrated into the desktop. You just have to drop a file in the folder and get the public url from the drop-down menu. It couldn't get much easier than that. And now it will be phased out. Really sad news. I guess it's about time to try Google Drive.
I like the change, and also consider the Public folder to be redundant. I hated having to move files to the Public folder every time I wanted to send a link to someone. I am satisfied with https://www.dropbox.com/links as a way to see which links are shared with the world.
Some cynics say it's a marketing tactic, but I actually like the preview as well. I don't have any esoteric use cases like using Dropbox to host web pages. I use Dropbox to sync files across machines and to occasionally share large files with my colleagues. Consequently, I find this change to make things more usable, not less.
Just another data point, since the comments here seem to be predominantly negative. Part of what attracted with to Dropbox in the first place is its simplicity. If anything, I'm curious about their business model since I've earned so much space through their competitions and such that I no longer need a paid account.
Ok so say you're bashing out a HTML site with some other frontend people, so you throw it up on your Public folder, and they can access it at /u/8798798/whatever/index.html, and their browsers can access associated content (html, css).
This is used a LOT in the web design industry, and taking this out is going to piss a lot of people off.
Sorry to veer a little off-topic, but where's a good place to reach out to those in the web design industry who are using Dropbox public folders this way?
My startup, site44.com, does exactly this, on top of Dropbox (with custom domains and passwords if you want). I think designers would love it, but I'm not really part of that community and don't know the best way to introduce it to them. Any suggestions?
Thanks for the tips, and thanks for helping to spread the word.
Yes, it makes us very sad that you can't share app folders. Dropbox tells us it's an implementation limitation that's not likely to change soon. :-( An alternative for us would be to skip the Apps folder and go for full access to your Dropbox, but in terms of privacy, we don't really want that access. We like being sandboxed in the Apps folder, but it does mean folders can't be shared.
From my perspective, it seems like these customers are not the target market for Dropbox. As such, I hope that Dropbox continues to cater to people like myself, who use Dropbox for synchronization across machines instead of as a substitute for hosting services as other people are trying to do. It's nice that they were able to do so, but I'm not sure it was ever advertised as such. To me, Dropbox sharing is a substitute for e-mail attachments, not for use as a CDN. The latest Thunderbird e-mail update seems to reinforce this belief .
I think that even the "Photo Gallery" feature that they currently offer is overkill. I like Dropbox because they (for the large part) specialize in doing one thing and doing it well. I hope that they remain that way. Services that tend to provide everything to everyone end up satisfying no one.
I don't think allowing direct access to your files, within the limits of your data plan, is trying to offer everything to everyone. That is specializing in doing one thing well, allowing access to files. Trying to second guess what the purpose of the access is, and allowing some accesses and not others, on the other hand is invasive and trying to put the smarts in the middle instead of at the edges where it belongs.
I'd speculate that this is, in fact, why they're phasing it out: Too many people were using it as a free web host. I doubt it's profitable to be GeoCities Without Ads - GeoCities couldn't even stay up _with_ ads.
Just about the only thing I use Dropbox for is the public folder. I've gotten many of my friends and collaborators to sign up for the service, based on the recommendation of this very feature. It's been a real boon for rapidly iterating front end mock ups.
Dropping support for what Dropbox evidently regards as "edge use cases" is not how you "build the next Apple or Google". The Public folder may not be used by the majority, but it is the domain of the geekiest, most hacker-spirited segment of users. Why trample that most creative segment?
The removal of my team's files from Dropbox and searching for a better sharing method begins now.
I think you are overreacting. Are you serious about using the public folder for "rapidly iterating front end mock ups"? Why would you want to put sensitive and confidential data for everyone in the world to see?
I often use the feature the same way. It's only "up for everyone in the world to see" if everyone has the URL, and nothing I ever share is so sensitive that the risk of someone bruteforcing all of the possible file/folder names in my Public folder poses a threat. (I imagine Dropbox would catch on to such attempts at the network level, anyway.)
Different strokes and all that. I prefer to do mockups mostly in the browser, and using the public folder as a local server is an easy way to check pages on multiple devices. (I'm sure a more technically inclined person would just set up their own server.)
If I were doing anything requiring confidentiality or stealth I would work another way.
I agree .. this is probably the reason. However I think the fact that dropbox could be utilized in unexpected ways, provided the company with a great deal of goodwill and singled them out as innovators in an otherwise stale market.
Sorry, tried to upvote you but hit down by accident as my fingers are too fat.
This is a major downgrade in the Dropbox user experience. It makes it more confusing to know what is shared WITH THE ENTIRE WORLD and what is not, which is a tremendously important thing to know. Simultaneously, it makes it more difficult to share files. Dropbox "gains" by adding their splash screen into the file download process, but every user of the product loses. This is a decision made by the marketing department.
I do like the Public folder, but you can still easily get a list of exactly what's shared; the "Links" sidebar (https://www.dropbox.com/links) lists all links you've created, and lets you deactivate any that you don't want to be available anymore.
(Yes I knew Dropbox had a website. I'm speaking for all those users who downloaded it once and now use it to synchronize their computers, never realizing there is a website too. And yes, these people do use the public folders: they right click & send the link to someone, but don't connect that to the idea they can see their own files on the web)
Most people (as in the majority of the population with access to digital media) have a very difficult time understanding that the filesystem is a hierarchy.
I'm always espousing the necessity of backups to my friends/family, which means I've usually got the role of setting up a Dropbox account for someone without a technical background.
When I say that their "My Documents" folder is a level above their Dropbox folder, I get a blank stare. While many users can create folders and somewhat organize their data, to most non-experienced users I've encountered, the mental image of a hierarchy of data segmented into directories is not represented clearly enough by the GUI's of modern operating systems.
When people hear the word "folder" and see the folder icon, they don't think of it (the way we do) as a metaphysical representation of the overall directory tree. They simply think of a folder on a desk. A folder on a desk is not usually inside another folder. It's usually just sitting there. So a user without knowledge of the tree/hierarchy model just sees various sets of folders, not a set of folders within other folders. Therefore getting things into their Dropbox is an exercise of mental visualization that takes time and explanation.
Further, once I've somewhat explained this concept, I usually leave it there and tell them that "the green checkmark means you're backed up." The web interface is a whole new exercise in visualization that is quite a bit more difficult to pick up. Even after I tell people that "your data is synced to the web interface," they don't initially understand what that entails, and believe the web interface is separate from the files they've "backed up" on "their Dropbox" (the local Dropbox folder.)
My girlfriend (A/B test subject #1) is used to using the "upload" button on the Dropbox web interface because for a good while she didn't realize things on her local folder would sync to the web interface. She's also not entirely comfortable with the hierarchy model, and the "upload" model is in fact easier for her to understand.
Reminds me of the SJ quote from an AllthingsD conference where he says every usability test hits a wall when the user encounters the filesystem. I've seen this evidenced again and again.
"When I say that their "My Documents" folder is a level above their Dropbox folder, I get a blank stare."
You might get a blank stare, because Windows itself has been trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to move away from this hierarchical model, blurring this metaphor. Consider the Libraries feature, which can essentially collect many folders (My Documents, Dropbox\Documents) and can represent them as a single virtual library.
Similarly, "Favorites" further serve to flatten this hierarchical model (Desktop, Downloads). And finally, consider things that look like folders but aren't physical folders at all (Recent Places).
I actually didn't understand your "level above" analogy either. On Windows 7, the My Documents is:
C:\Users\barik\Documents (appears as My Documents but the folder is actually called Documents, hah!)
On Windows XP, the Dropbox folder appears underneath "My Documents" by default. This is probably because prior to Vista, Microsoft treated %UserProfile% like a system folder, and so the only link most users would know is "My Documents". Even more confusing, pressing the "Up" button in "My Documents" would take you to the Desktop unless you navigated to the folder by specifying its actual path.
Perhaps also worth noting, in a clean Win7 install, the folder is initially labelled "Documents". It's not until you install a program that tries to access it by the "My Documents" link (there's actually a hidden link with that name) that the folder appears to rename itself to "My Documents".
I'm toying with the idea that the problem is due to Apple and Microsoft's decisions to obfuscate the entire metaphor.
With the unix filesystem, "/" is the quintessential representation of the ungraded, unlimited hierarchy. Once I understand what you mean by the word "root," and that root is represented by "/", I can intuitively understand this hierarchy.
With Windows, this "ungraded, unlimited" nature is terribly obscured by the Drive metaphor, as well as the creation of special "My" folders and libraries. In my experience, most users never venture out of these special folders to explore the rest of the filesystem. It's little wonder, now that I think about it, that this is so difficult for users: most never see the filesystem as a real hierarchy, only as the segmented randomness of the "My Computer" window. Mac OS is slightly better, but still retains many of the same metaphors through the styling of the initial Finder window and the home directory.
Perhaps the issue is not one of conception but simply the UX that serves as educator for these basic ideas.
My GF who is pretty computer savy have a hard time understanding it too. She basically don't trust it even though I have told her that it has multiple safety measures and the fact that it's on more than one machine (we have 8) is actually making it better. There are of course issues with regards to syncing but besides that.
This is a good point. I went to a Dropbox talk, and one of the employees mentioned, in a similar vein, that a lot of users first use the app on a mobile device and never realize that there's also a desktop client.
Eg, right now I can put an image file in my /public, get the link and embed it in an img src tag without the anyone else ever having to know it's on Dropbox.
This way, I can't do that. I can make a clickable link and paste that. Then people have to click to see the picture on the Dropbox website. Where Dropbox can constructively engage them in a dynamic exciting conversation.
Wow, how are people using their "Public" folders? I'm honestly surprised at all this outrage.
I was unaware you could share any folder/file before so I just played around with it. From your file manager, right click any dropbox file or folder and select 'Get Link'. The browser will open and send you to a page displaying all those files and folders. You can copy/paste that link to anyone.
Is the only difference that in the case of linking to a single file, rather than a full directory, the link clicker now sees a preview of the file (with a big Download button) instead of downloading it directly.
Isn't that actually an improvement, so the linker isn't just blindly trusting and downloading a file from some random link? That seems ripe for abuse, if users got used to that mindset.
It's a nice and simple way to serve a webpage or two. Here's an example:
I have a folder with an `index.html` and a `image.jpg` in it. The HTML file can reference that JPG by requesting `./image.jpg`, the browser will try to fetch it from the same directory — and it will find it. Also, the links to an users `Public` folder will not expire.
With the new'ish "share link" functionality, I can't do that, since every file is served from is own path, from its own preview page. To get that link, I need to query the API; to get the direct/media link, I need to query the API again, the resulting link will be different, and it will expire after four hours.
So no more dropping a mockup for a client in a folder, sending her the link to the `index.html` and be done with it. That's a step backwards. Yes, I could store the files on my own server, but that's besides the point.
I use dropbox a lot to send stuff to friends over IRC. Screenshots, save files, snippets of code. You can put up a HTML page that loads a SWF from your public folder, no worries. I have some music in there too and a HTML music player that points to the files so I have a simple music library on any computer with web access.
Sending you to a landing page instead of just serving up the content is unnecessary and disrupts all of these activities.
If you host an html file with a relative img tag in the public folder it will just work. If you do it with the get link method, you'd have to get a link for each resource. Public folder is really helpful for hosting sites that are in development that you want to share with your clients.
Here's a question (that probably only Dropbox themselves can answer, until this change comes down the pipe)--the email said this:
> After July 31, we will no longer create Public folders in any new Dropbox accounts.
Now, I've deleted my Public folder before, and it seems that recreating a folder named Public in the Dropbox root and restarting the sync daemon was all that was needed to convert it back into "the" Public folder.
So, for those new users, will this change mean that "the folder named Public will no longer have special-cased semantics, unless a flag is set on your account saying you're grandfathered into the old behavior", or does this change mean "we'll leave in the code that makes the Public folder work the way it does--but just not generate one for new users when setting up their dropbox, so they must explicitly create it themselves?" It seems to me that the latter is the most simple/elegant option, technically, and the one I'd go for if I was a Dropbox engineer and hadn't specifically been told to make it impossible for people to use Public folders from now on.
From a comment further down, it sounds like it's due to considering it now redundant, and not wanting to support two ways of sharing files. The original way to share Dropbox files over the web was to drop them in your Public folder, but now you can right-click on any file, in any folder, and generate a shareable link to it. So they're going with that as the new sharing mechanism, and phasing out the "drop it in your public folder" approach.
My Honor's thesis has been in my Public folder for several years now and is even referenced in a paper. While I realize this probably isn't the most ideal location, it's served me well. If I understand this correctly I'm grandfathered in and won't lose this functionality, correct?
I also use the public folder daily for sharing screenshots and other files. It really has solved the filesharing problem for me and I'm disappointed they are adding to the complexity to such an easy and great filesharing method.
EDIT: Also the only reason I'm still with dropbox is the public folder, I moved all my other data to Google Drive when it was released...
Does anyone else think this can be easily fixed with a Powershell (or batch) script? Preconfigure it with your public folder url "id" and make it so it copies the generic url to the clipboard (complete with filename) and just appends a "?dl=1" at the end. Make a shortcut to the script and send it to the context menu.
Don't say Dropbox creates a unique token for every link made, which means in that case, we'd have to create a link through Dropbox first. Anyone see any huge flaws in this? (first post)
It seems that although the id of a certain folder always stays constant, every file in that folder would have a random string before its filename which makes this method useless. I should learn to think more thoroughly.
While they are cleaning up one singleton folder, I hope they will clean up another set of singleton folders. Namely, app folders. I realize that giving every app access to your entire Dropbox is a bad idea, but apps only being able to access "Apps/The App Name/" is like only being able to share files in "Peoplefirstname.lastname@example.org/". For one, it completely kills the ability to have multiple apps use the same files.
What would work better is an "Add to App" model. If I want to use a folder as, say, my Calepin blog, I would go to the Dropbox Web interface (maybe even the GUI client) and click "Add to Calepin." Then if I also wanted to use it as my Epistle Notes folder, there are absolutely zero issues.
My bet is that it's a financial decision. It's easy to see how hotlinked image files (or even entire web sites run out of /Public) could account for a major portion of Dropbox's outgoing bandwidth charges.
However, if that were it, you'd think they would consider keeping the feature for paid subscribers.
Out of curiosity, what was your rationale for choosing Google Drive over SkyDrive?
* gives you 7GB vs Google's 5. (and 25gb if you ever used it before the client got released)
* has a sick feature where, from skydrive.com, you can browse your entire computer and download files. So if you forget to put a file in the skydrive folder you can still access it remotely
* supports more platforms than Google Drive
* doesn't destroy Office documents
Yes, I am affiliated with Microsoft but I am genuinely interested in why you chose to migrate to Google Drive over SkyDrive. Did you not know about the things I listed or does Google offer something you care about more?
I mind the splash page (and content disposition headers).
1. For quickly showing ideas/images/screenshots to friends/colleagues, it becomes an ordeal. (Okay, click through a marketing page, then the file starts to download, then they need to open the file in an image viewer, then they need to find and delete the file. All this instead of click, see, close tab.)
2. It breaks the process of embedding media into web pages / forum posts / etc.
Well, you can go to any link page, copy the "Download" URL and remove the "?dl=1" suffix. You should have a dl.dropbox.com URL now, which will show the file in the browser, and not force the browser to download the file.
That being said: it's an undocumented feature, thus can't be taken as granted (and might be removed at any point in time without warning), and the path is still cryptic.
:) The first thing I did when I installed Dropbox, was to delete that folder. After that, when I wanted to test how Dropbox works, I recreated it. I loved that all the public stuff was in... Public.
After using Dropbox for some time I realized that using Public was simple but limiting: I have a file that I want to keep in a specific Dropbox subfolder together with other files (organize things) and, at the same time, I want to share only that one file. So I have to copy it in Public folder too, which mean I have it in two places.
What they need to do it what they did: share anything but... add all the public stuff in one, easy to see place. Maybe softlinks in the Public folder with the same subfolder structure as the Dropbox folder. And when you delete a softlink or an entire folder, all the linked files will not be public anymore.
But it was kinda oblivious that they were going to remove it.
It was never advertised as a feature, and it was made more complicate that the "normal" sharing.
Probably they want to stop people from using it as a cdn/server, something that it was never made for.
Wish the topic of this thread was renamed to not cause hysteria. You can still share publicly, it just doesn't need to be a in a magic folder first. Although the magic folder was a great way of remembering what you had shared, I'm sure the Dropbox folks will come up with some other way of reminding me about my publicly shared files.
The hysteria, if any, would be about the fact that all shared links would direct you to a splash page on the web on which you'd have to click on another link to download the shared object, as opposed to the current public folder serving up direct links (w/o the added step).