A major step backwards for Dropbox.
(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)
I had a very difficult time explaining to her that her same folders and files are available via the web interface.
Those people are out there.
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.
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!)
which is at the same level?
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".
My gawd, I can't even figure out what's where in the Libraries context.
You are obviously right. But people have been using hierarchies for millennia, e.g. the military ones. Illiterate peasants had no trouble with legion, cohort, centuria, contubernia.
I wonder if the cognitive problem is that the classic file system is an ungraded, unlimited hierarchy - all folders are equal, and you can not find a folders "grade".
Perhaps we would have been better off with an artificial limit of four or six named levels. Instead we're getting the hierarchy removed from general use devices ...
(Leaving aside the "use a hash, not a tree" possibility.)
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.
I usually rephrase this as "your Dropbox folder is in the My Documents folder" which they DO understand because they're used to making folders and files inside of other folders.
Also, it's broken. When I click "Get Link" to get a shareable link for the file, I get this:
> "Error Creating Link There was an error creating your link. Please try again."
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.
> This way, I can't do that.
And it sucks. Embedding public/ images on university discussion group was one of my primary uses of Dropbox and I would have never ever suspected that of all the features, they would phase this one.
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!
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.
 - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4146904/HelloHN.html
 - http://lifehacker.com/5528104/use-dropbox-to-share-and-host-...
 - https://www.dropbox.com/s/6d3tz52kv87we0w/HelloHN.html
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."
Sorry for the tone -- I'm a little frustrated.
I'm not sure about that. Isn't that what all of the free blogging services and/or facebook are for?
Is it really a good idea to open multiple fronts against services which are 'pro' at what they do?
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.
A browser extension/desktop program could possibly add a "get video link" option to the Dropbox interface.
Dropbox is awesome as a publishing mechanism for static websites, but public folders were never an ideal host. (Ugly URLs, no default document, etc.)
My startup, site44.com, was built to address the desire to host static websites using Dropbox. We're a better solution for that particular use case.
If you got the link, made by "Get link", and you don't like the innecessary preview in browser, just add "?dl=1" to the end of the link
https://www.dropbox.com/s/1axoy96uwa80wko/matfyzak%20%281%29... - ugly preview page
https://www.dropbox.com/s/1axoy96uwa80wko/matfyzak%20%281%29... - sane PDF link
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.
This yields a proper direct link to the file, but the directory tree is still inaccessible.
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.
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.
There are your two links. One is a public folder the other is not.
One takes you to a web browser before you can even get the link. One does not.
Guess which one I would rather have. And now guess which one they are removing :(
But clearly a) if it ends on .jpg it should be an image and not html and b) the direct link should be on the html page with a fancy "Copy to Clipboard" button next to it.
But instead of (b) they are actively preventing getting a link to the image by hijacking the context menu.
I am not sure if it could work at all times, but you can check for the URL of the picture within the new-style dropbox page.
Which is of course not same as Public folders.
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.
How do the direct links help DB look "special"? To me, they scream "generic CDN".
looks more or less identical to:
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 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.
While off-topic, this is a concerning scenario that I hadn't considered.
That's news to me. And to Dropbox: http://cl.ly/3y0r47461p443f3j300u
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". :)
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.
This is used a LOT in the web design industry, and taking this out is going to piss a lot of people off.
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?
Edit: Just gave it a spin. I can't seem to find a way to share the folder that Site44 has created. This is pretty much the key to it all as it allows people to collaborate on things.
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.
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.
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.
If I were doing anything requiring confidentiality or stealth I would work another way.
Sorry, tried to upvote you but hit down by accident as my fingers are too fat.
And this change hardly affects that anyway, except for being an inconvenience.
Using it as a CDN for very large files is fine but for standard static web assets it's terrible.
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.
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.
Sending you to a landing page instead of just serving up the content is unnecessary and disrupts all of these activities.
> 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.
My question is: How long is that functionality going to stick around for legacy users after it's been hidden by default?
EDIT: Indefinitely. I wonder if that's according to the modern usage or the dictionary one...
And to answer your original question, I was wrong and new users won't get access at all: http://forums.dropbox.com/topic.php?page=2&id=62381&...
> Unfortunately, new users will not be able to get the functionality just by creating a new Public folder.
For whatever reason, they seem intent on killing the feature. Extremely disappointing.
From the Dropbox staff response:
"All current users retain their Dropbox Public folder, and it's function continues."
This news was intended for developers who rely on Public for app functionality. The public folder is not going away for existing users.
Yes, current accounts keep the feature the whole point of grandfathering features is to eventually phase them out entirely.
The sharing functionality is not the same at all since it gives every file an obfuscated name, making it impossible to link directly in an effective fashion.
This feature is the only thing that has kept me from switching to a competing provider (Sugarsync, GDrive).
What more do you want?
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...
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)
Seriously breaks using the folder as a simple content server.
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.
I'll stop using Dropbox when they release this.
- I love Cloudapp for sharing files on Mac. Take a screenshot using Skitch, and drag it to the cloud icon -> URL goes to clipboard, very simple.
I am wondering if this is a true reason, and not showing dropbox splash screen. It is so easy to share files with their public folder right now which might cause copyright problems in future.
However, if that were it, you'd think they would consider keeping the feature for paid subscribers.
(Note: I'm aware that Google Drive doesn't have this function. I don't use it for that anyways.)
* 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?
Another one was that I'm already heavily invested into Google's ecosystem (apps, android, the whole nine yards), so splitting that up with another company didn't make much sense.
The 'get link' feature adds garbage in the link that nobody can hope to remember.
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.
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.
Man, I am not happy at the moment.
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.
My friends and I have been working on a way to easily send files. It's called Dropdock. You can check it out at http://getdropdock.com . If you want to signup, use the invite code DROPDOCKBETAP1.
Feedbacks more than welcome :)
You're forced to open a browser and then copy the link from the page. ?dl=1 seems to solve the preview issue, though.