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Dropbox to cut 11% of its global workforce (www.cnbc.com)
478 points by champagnepapi 8 days ago | hide | past | web | 666 comments | favorite





Dropbox and Evernote, for me are two very similar companies. Startups that innovated on a great user experience and had a flawless execution in the beginning. I was an early adopter of both of them, and they worked well. Dropbox sync between different machines worked like magic. I still remember some of the nightmares my coworkers had with OneDrive in meetings when the files for the presentations were missing because of the poor sync capabilities of OneDrive. Dropbox is no failure. Their projected revenue for 2020 is $1.8B. This is 3x more than Slack, but their market cap is 3x smaller. Both Slack and Evernote are facing the most powerful companies in the world offering their products for free or at really discounted rates. What makes their situation even worse is that they don't own the content (documents, pdfs, spreadsheets). The documents will be edited somewhere else and then shared in dropbox. On top of that many other applications like chat offer file transfer and sharing.

Bottom line: I don't want them to fail ( I don't want Evernote to fail too), because it points to a world where only 5 to 10 big tech companies can survive. We need smaller innovative businesses to succeed too. It will be a sad day when a $2B business can't survive and is forced to sell.


There are lots of smaller tech businesses that could make a good living for a few hundred folks, but are extremely vulnerable to FAANG companies putting out a half-baked competitor. Strategically, from the FAANG perspective, it makes sense to spend a little money (for them) dipping a toe into every pond "just in case." On the flip side, it makes bootstrapping a sustainable business extremely difficult. If Google gives away a shitty form of your service for free because the costs are a rounding error to them, people will feel like the service has no value.

I don't know that I have seen a solution I like for this. Perhaps a new anti-monopoly law that prevents orgs from entering into competition without any potential for profit? At the end of the day, maybe the world as a whole doesn't care that they are missing out on small cool tech companies that will never get huge? But, of course, in an environment where small cool tech is unsustainable we'll never know if they would eventually get huge.


There's a very easy precedent for this. Just widen anti-trust.

Back when we actually imagined that government could stand up to powerful companies, we dealt with the Railroads with the tools of anti-trust. The situation was almost comically similar:

+ New, hyped technology;

+ Which received huge capital investment from newly printed money;

+ And which lent itself to a natural monopoly;

+ Which crushed competitors;

+ By offering to buy them for high prices;

+ Or by severely undercutting competitors

We already did this, we already solved this problem. Issue is that it happened before any of us were born. So I guess we have to go through the pain of learning this lesson all over again. It should be plainly obvious that we haven't even really started, as evidenced by the plaintive "bUt WhAt Do wE DO aBoUT tEcH!?" cry that comes out every time these companies flex their muscle.


There’s nothing wrong with buying competitors or offering lower prices by themselves. That’s fine. The problem with railroads is they impose a heavy cost on society by occupying a lot of territory. Railroads are noisy, polluting, obstruct highways and other transport and infrastructure. Every town wants a railway, but no town wants two competing mutually redundant railways providing the same service with two sets of track and stations.

Many other utilities tend to natural monopolies in similar ways such as telephone service, especially to rural areas, but railways are an extreme case.

Online some network effects can create natural monopolies because users get benefits from being on the same platform as all the other users. It’s a very different dynamic though and different platforms can cater to different communities and use cases with complementary value. Twitter and Facebook for eg. They don’t impose a cost on the public in the way railways do either.


> Twitter and Facebook for eg. They don’t impose a cost on the public in the way railways do either.

That's an interesting take after the last couple years...


I understand what you mean, but I have a natural aversion to blaming the messenger. We're all personally responsible for what we say and do.

No. Offering Lower prices than is economically sustainable and viable is predatory and anticompetitive. In international trade it is called “dumping” and is illegal. Just because companies are getting away with it doesn’t mean it’s ok.

I don't know, I found the argument about competing railways in one town compelling. What if I as a consumer like the "dumping"? What if most of us do?

The marginal cost of storage is quite small. “Dumping” and “predatory pricing” arguments make more sense for physical goods — competitors like OneDrive or Google Drive could easily make the case that Dropbox is a premium storage service that does not reflect the true cost of storage.

Issue is that [anti-trust actions against railroads] happened before any of us were born.

Is it that, or is it because we're all so dependent on the market (for retirements funds, etc), that we're afraid to rock the boat? That would tend to indicate that anti-trust action needs to start well before the point where we're all too invested in AAPL/MSFT/GOOGL to want change.


It is very hard for DropBox to compete against the free file storage offerings like Google Drive.

iCloud and OneDrive are integrated into the operating system now too, too.


The problem is that maybe Steve Jobs was right after all and Dropbox is a feature not a product. Dropbox file syncing is best in class but for the vast majority of users that is probably not the most important thing for them. Most people won't run into the hard edge cases that Dropbox has solved better than the others. And something like Google Drive derives it's value from he fact that is deeply integrated into GSuite

Maybe. I think the people who are most benefiting from Dropbox (creatives, etc) are heavily impacted by COVID recession.

There is no business case for running Dropbox in a large enterprise (I tried... our creatives cried about it), and it's an increasingly difficult case to make for a home user, as all of the alternatives are pretty good.

The other thing is that Dropbox is an easy app to fall out of love with as an individual.

They constantly upsell, even after you bought the product. I was paying >$100 year for Dropbox for years and they pushed Dropbox Teams at me relentlessly for most if it. Problem: I don't have a team! They also didn't pool storage (I think they do now), so sharing stuff with my wife like video would consume 2x the storage, unless I paid 5x for the business product. Google Drive or Office 365 are a way better value in any dimension.

Basically they have a solid core product, but instead of doing something productive with it, the surrounded it with layers of bullshit. While meandering around, they eliminated the portion of the product focused on the #1 generator of storage needs (ie. photo/video), segmented basic features like PDF search, etc. All at a 20-70% premium over competitive offers.

Good riddance.


They also lost my trust when they sold our small team on a particular plan and then pulled all the valuable features out of that plan and raised prices 50% (or 100% if we wanted most of the features back). The messaging around that was also just cold marketing BS talking about how great these changes were. It all happened within first year of our subscription.

Luckily OneDrive was finally getting stable so we migrated over and I haven't touched dropbox since.

It quickly became clear they were focusing on enterprise customers and the SMB pricing we had undermined that effort.


> and it's an increasingly difficult case to make for a home user, as all of the alternatives are pretty good.

I think this is the first thing that came to mind when I saw this article.

I very recently signed up for Apple One, for Music/TV/iCloud (family photos in particular)/all the rest and the fact that I now use iCloud sync instead of Dropbox bothers me nil. Prime also comes with Photos, unlimited photo backup. Used to use that just fine. Google Photos is like $1/mo.

Honestly, if Disney bundled a cloud storage service into Disney+ I'd probably give it a shot. File syncing is a commoditized feature these days for the average Joe.


If you just want something to share files with your wife, I created an open source project that does exactly that: https://github.com/chrishulbert/flare/

Of course it's not as easy to set up as Dropbox, I originally had grand dreams of somehow turning this into a startup back when there were a lot of people upset that Dropbox was using an invasive kernel driver (IIRC), but I never found the time.


> and it's an increasingly difficult case to make for a home user, as all of the alternatives are pretty good.

Yeah, this. I've found myself drifting over to OneDrive for personal use; it's pretty good at least on macOS, and Dropbox is just one-more-thing running all of the time.

But also, almost every time I log into their service I get popups bugging me to upgrade, it happened just now. I pay ~ $100/yr at the moment and I guess I've been too lazy to eliminate that expense by moving everything to one provider. Today might be the day to change that.


> Office 365 are a way better value in any dimension.

Office 365 is crazy good value in comparison - although I will say my users still complain about onedrive and say Dropbox sync was more rock solid.


> Dropbox is a feature not a product.

I don't think so. It's a product which enables a lot of useful features on a variety of devices, including Linux desktops.

No competitors of Dropbox enables the same functionality under Linux. This is why I use, and will continue to use it. Yes, iCloud just works and Google Drive works well enough, but none of them works on Linux. Nextcloud doesn't create too many problems but needs your own infra to run.

Dropbox allows me to do a lot of things and they're currently irreplaceable for me. That's not because I can't replace them (would take half a day at most) but, their service worth the money they want.


It’s obviously hard to know exactly what Jobs meant, and sadly he is not here to be able to ask him, but here is my best guess as to what he meant:

In the early days of computing people would sell task managers, file managers, memory optimisers, software to burn data to a CD etc. As time went on, these ‘products’ just became features of the operating system. While it used to make sense for people to own a copy of Nero Disk Burner, over time this became expected functionality of the operating system. Consumers demands for base software change over time - Task managers used to be a product you bought for your OS, now they are just a feature of your OS.

So what do Dropbox offer, I would say it is “seamless file syncing”, which meets a broader consumer goal of “my changes are synchronised across my team and devices”. I think the issue is that as time goes on, this is becoming a standard consumer expectation of applications.

Applications like Google Docs and Figma have actually decided that it’s better if they handle the sync rather than Dropbox. Just like windows was better at task management, they are better at synchronising their own files. It means they can even offer things like collaborative editing!

Secondly, as time moves on, the base expectation for an OS might move to ‘all my files are synchronised’ - and if that’s the case, what is the role for Dropbox in a world where customers just expect that as standard? We used to have file managers as their own purchased products and then they became standard OS features. Why should a cloud file manager or sync service be fundamentally different in a cloud-first world? Online sync might be the new windows file explorer. Take iCloud for example - that’s just a feature fully baked into OSX.

So what does this mean for Dropbox? Well what it offers over time might just become what people expect other software or their operating system to do for them - And I think this is what Jobs was predicting. Why do I have to get something else to sync the files on my computer, surely this is an operating system responsibility?

So then the Dropbox space becomes - “cross operating system syncing of files that don’t have a native cloud sync process”. People still buy Nero Disk Burner... it’s just their market isn’t what it used to be.


There is a lot of useful things you can do with file storage. You can build plenty of products that synergize with Dropbox. Dropbox is failing to execute on these ideas. I was using Dropbox Carousel, now I use Google Photo. I wanted to use Dropbox Mailbox, but it was killed shortly after. Dropbox mobile app so bad that I needed to buy dedicated app to listen my music on Smartphone. They introduced computer backup in 2020! You still can sync only one folder!

They chase after an enterprise consumer but this would put them into direct competition with Microsoft, a fight that they cannot win.


Still, cross-operating sync of files has become far more important than when Dropbox was launched, with many more people juggling multiple operating systems (OSs which are often adversarial with one another).

"Dropbox is a feature not a product."

Where this does ring true is Dropbox versus not OneDrive on it's own, but OneDrive as it comes bundled with O365. Many F500 type companies pretty much MUST have O365.

Then, if you have O365, you have OneDrive. And the question then isn't whether Dropbox is better. It's whether OneDrive is "good enough" to suffice, despite it being not as good as Dropbox. And the decision maker doesn't care if it's not good enough for some smallish subset of employees that need a Linux client, etc. They care whether it's good enough for most.


> Many F500 type companies pretty much MUST have O365.

This is the problem. Putting Linux support aside, focusing too much on enterprise, while necesseary up to a point, kills both the product and personal productivity tools market.

Is wanting to decouple work and personal files completely while retaining independence on personal systems a cardinal sin?

IMHO, touting about benefits of a work/life balance is moot if I can't completely shut-off work stuff from my life while using my computer. Dropbox, Evernote and Trello allows me to do that. None of my work stuff is present in these mediums. Similarly none of my work stuff syncs to my personal computers directly. I use company laptop for that stuff.

Trello also went the same route. Trello Gold was a personal productivity powerhouse. Now it's unmaintained, intentionally crippled semi-premium version of Trello Business class.

Do I need to set-up a VPS, install {Next,Own}cloud to it and install all my tools as add-ons there to have a personal productivity space? In 2021? That shouldn't be necessary, that wasn't the promise.

Yet we are here. Every product is targeting the enterprise, where the freelancer or the personal productivity enthusiast is either confined to its corporate licenses or expensive (in terms of time) self-hosted solutions.


I think Slack is having the same problem with Microsoft Teams.

I thought HN established a long time ago that you could build such a system yourself quite trivially by getting an FTP account, mounting it locally with curlftpfs, and then using SVN or CVS on the mounted filesystem.

I can just slap Owncloud or Nextcloud to a VPS and build a relatively secure system within three hours but, some problems will arise.

- Integration with 3rd party tools: Trello or services which provide "Dropbox Apps" support won't be able to sync to my space or directly retrieve from it. I'm sure there will be many other tools which can talk with Dropbox but not with my server.

- Collaboration: I bet that not so many people would install another client and remember a username, password, URL triplet to just work with me (e.g. academic research, side project, etc.). They'll either force me to use other tool or things will just break down (just experienced a similar thing at work).

- Maintenance: OS, service, add-on updates, licenses, security, monitoring, etc. will be additional time consuming obligations.

- Pricing: If I use a VPS, excessive network traffic or resource usage will result in a price hike.

- Price/Performance: You cannot beat the competition at the price/performance ratio. I will pay more, spend more time and get less. Why bother?

- Environmental: In my case, self-hosting at home is impossible. I neither have the bandwidth, nor the space required to store another system and keep it quiet at the same time. Additional power bill and heat is not welcome, either.

These are just the issues coming from top of my head, and can be expanded further.


Who needs google search either when you can just slap a ES instance to a web crawler you scripted in 5 minutes

I guess Drew never got the memo

It is not correct to say none of the dropbox competitors offer linux sync clients. We (https://www.getfilecloud.com) are a dropbox competitor and we offer clients for windows, mac and linux. We are also rank comparably well when it comes to customer rating in Gartner Peer Reviews (https://www.gartner.com/reviews/market/content-collaboration...).

It is most likely Dropbox faces higher churn in their primary customer demography (Creatives and Professionals). Their offering lack many admin controls it is not yet ideal for enterprises where the churn is low. Further, OneDrive and G-Suite offers much better value by bundling the productivity suite.


Linux is just 2% of the desktop market. Apple and Microsoft have good enough cloud storage + sync, so Dropbox needs to be even more compellling on macOS/windows to survive.

Their Dropbox Transfer offering is a nice alternate revenue stream for them. I wonder what else they can come up with.


> Linux is just 2% of the desktop market.

However, there are concentration points of this 2% which is beneficiary to both parties.

Dropbox can target this 2% better and users of this 2% can use Dropbox to collaborate and sync their other systems which have more popular OSes.


(And like 75% of the mobile market!)

I've entirely replaced my usage of Dropbox within the past two years with Syncthing. It works great if you're on Android. Doesn't have an iOS client though.

Nice thing about Syncthing is you can entirely configure what you are syncing and how. I literally press one button on my phone, it creates a backup, and that backup is sent to my server.

I would go as far to say that Android's killer app is Syncthing. Yes, I'm putting this on the same level as iMessage for iOS. It's that good. If I ever switch back to iPhone I will really miss it.


> Google Drive works well enough, but none of them works on Linux.

FYI, you might be satisfied by Insync.


> Dropbox is a feature not a product.

When you are against FAANG every product is just a feature.


Maybe only if you constantly update "FAANG" such that every tech company who actually succeeds in creating a competitive or impactful product just gets their letter added to "FAANG," and all the companies that fail to make a huge impact automatically get considered "only features." We already see that a lot. Some people wedge Microsoft into the acronym and/or leave out other letters. And Netflix's product on the face of it is certainly what we would consider a feature for most big software companies (and indeed many of them have a competing streaming service). If, for instance, Netflix significantly declines in popularity in the next few years, we might just drop it from "FAANG," and someone might still say "When you are against GAFAM every product is just a feature."

Mostly agree, but Netflix isn't a feature just because Google and FB also do streaming. It's fair to call Netflix a product because it's something that end users actually care about for its own sake. You can pay for Netflix and nothing else and still get value out of it.

Dropbox is just a "feature" in that you can't do anything with it on its own, you need to have some other data from somewhere else to use with it.


I thought FAANG was originally shorthand for companies that could pay far above median via RSUs since their stock prices were expected to skyrocket, with little downside, so the RSUs were as good as cash. And why other companies couldn't offer comparable pay. And nowadays it still refers to companies whose publicly trade stock prices continue to grow so much that it makes the stock portion of the compensation very lucrative, which include Microsoft.

>And Netflix's product on the face of it is certainly what we would consider a feature for most big software companies

Netflix's product is the opposite of a feature. A feature is reproducible, which Netflix's media is not, and they are the only place to get it.


The way I used FAANG wasn't very precise. It is possible that Netflix will become a feature of Google, Amazon, or Disney.

I was referring to the concept of "bundling and unbundling" [1] which is beneficial to the big rich companies. The big players have the money and the control over the eco-system (files, documents, events) which gives them the advantage to go against smaller products and make them features.

https://www.ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2013/9/21/atomisatio...


GMAFIA is a much better term. I don't see Netflix leading the tech world. Amazon and Google do videos too (as do others, Disney, CBS, HBO ...) so it's not that hard.

Maybe Steve Jobs is right, but maybe it's also good for the world if you can build a sustainable business on a feature.

In the world of music, an effects pedal or guitar stomp box is more "feature" than "product". You can't write a song just using a chorus pedal. But there are many many thriving companies that do nothing but produce and sell pedals.

Much of this likely rests on the fact that the "protocols" that music gear use to talk to each other are simple, well-established, and legally unemcumbered. Also, for reasons that aren't clear to me, even dominant companies in the market do not seem to have pushed very hard to extuinguish that interoperability in anti-competitive ways. Or, at least, not yet.


I think the problem is:

a) it's too easy to build data syncing into other products

b) the ease of having syncing built into the product I'm using is really powerful

When Dropbox first came out a lot of software was a lot more "local", and Dropbox was a lot more useful. But now we have Google Docs and Office 365 for most documents, git/GitHub, etc. for source code, things like Figma are starting to crop up for designers.

For each of these, unless the syncing was especially bad, it's hard to imagine an out-of-band syncing solution differentiating itself in any meaningful way to make up for the more complex UX/setup.

Unless someone for some reason comes up with a product that's just amazing compared to its competition but has no syncing capabilities, or syncing becomes incredibly difficult to implement well, I don't see why people would use Dropbox.

I'm not a musician, but my guess is that musicians care enough about pedals or the differences between them to justify a separate market for them. Certain pedals are smoother, or offer more resistance, and that matters a lot to certain people? But I don't see an analog to that for data syncing.

---

If there were a market for data syncing itself, I feel like it would be product companies paying for it as a service, and not something that end-users want to pay for directly.

Another way to look at this is that maybe filesystems are too low-level of an abstraction for most end-users. I found that people would often be confused by the idea of a filesystem that existed separately from any application when I was trying to explain computers to them, and UX seems to be moving away from needing users to think about a filesystem.


> Unless someone for some reason comes up with a product that's just amazing compared to its competition but has no syncing capabilities, or syncing becomes incredibly difficult to implement well, I don't see why people would use Dropbox.

For me Dropbox has the following advantages:

* it works with _all_ my files and applications (not only those with sync built-in) * it's a separate product, that does one thing only, where I explicitly pay for that thing. It's not an after-thought or something whose business model is unclear or is against my privacy * for the same reason I am less worried that the company behind it will pull the plug because it's not the main focus

I much happier to pay more for a service/product with a clear focus made by a company that doesn't a gazillion other things. (Btw for similar reasons I think that Evernote is damaging itself with their strategy of chasing new features at all costs).


Isn't this just it? There's no doubt that there's value and that the software is excellent in both cases. I'm just not sure we should try to turn every software project into a moonshot and expect anything sustainable as a result. It's not sustainable in most industries.

That was and still is a terrible take. You don't get to an annual revenue of $2B and market cap of $10B with a "feature, not a product".

In recent years Apple itself has started purchasing a ton of cloud services, including Box, for its own employees.


You do if you have the only product that is doing the feature well.

But that doesn’t mean that file sharing isn’t like CDRW or Zip drives or small cameras.

After being a keen user for years I uninstalled Dropbox from my computer last week. It’s been replaced by iCloud, S3, google docs and other things that are easier for me to use in my workflow.


Hi, you’re mention of s3 piqued my interest, how are you using it?

Probably Jobs was right, though I sometimes think of a better world where cloud storage and web apps are decoupled. No need to bother with Google Takeout because the data is already yours. I know that diagrams.net (formerly draw.io) does this but it's the only (major) web app I can think of which does.

I think it's absolutely correct that, for Google, it doesn't make sense to charge for sync. I also think that anyone who's ever relied on sync knows that there is a lot of value in doing it well - especially in a B2B context. It's true that "just" filesystem sync isn't a full product. The product would probably be sync-as-a-service where you can manage distribution and deduplication of resources across your systems.

So we have a situation where it doesn't make sense for Google to focus on the feature, but the fact that they have the feature at all trips up specialist companies.


Funny thing is that these days at work we mostly use Dropbox for Dropbox Paper, much less for file sharing.

It's the best collaborative writing tool, and with the work from home situation, it's the best tool to replace never ending zoom meetings with asynchronous collaboration.


One of the features that I love about DropBox is that it's not Google. I use Google for a lot of things, but my backups of Google go into DropBox.

I think the theory of Dropbox is that something like Paper derives its value by being deeply integrated into Dropbox.

Or you can use synology for free if you own a NAS.

> Perhaps a new anti-monopoly law that prevents orgs from entering into competition without any potential for profit?

That's an interesting idea, but if you think about it, a lot of companies are in the same boat. How long did Uber go before making a profit? Amazon?

Heck, Microsoft spent eight billion dollars until Xbox started turning a profit for them. Xbox probably would have never existed if not for Microsoft taking a massive loss to make it happen.


Yah, it's definitely not "the one perfect idea to fix the problem." Tho, FWIW, I think that Uber and Amazon and the Xbox division were all working towards profitability the entire time. By contrast, I don't believe Google has ever said they intend to make Keep profitable. This wouldn't be the first time the regulators are given the responsibility of telling the difference between incompetence and bad luck v.s. anticompetitive malfeasance.

Why are we lumping in Netflix instead of Microsoft in the group of big tech?

Because the term was popularized by Jim Cramer on Mad Money referring to the growth of Facebook, Apple, Netflix & Google back in 2013.

$MSFT hadn't really taken off like the others until later that year.


> $MSFT hadn't really taken off

This statement seems so funny considering 20 years ago Microsoft were all the FAANGs


That makes sense. Netflix only belongs in that group when talking about "tech stocks".

'GAFAM' is a popular term in some places.

F.MAGA

I haven't given any real thought to this, but maybe in terms of regulations, we should think of free software products as another kind of price dumping. It's essentially price dumping down to zero.

Dumping is different from bundling, but the boundary is fuzzy.

Dumping is an unsustainable business practice that cripples competitors before raising prices to sustainable levels.

Bundling isn't bad if its price is higher than cost and it's cheaper for customers than unbundling.


I've had similar thoughts but free software is so pervasive. Would this apply to stuff like Foxit Reader, 7zip, or Discord? It might be really hard to draw the line.

"There are lots of smaller tech businesses that could make a good living for a few hundred folks, but are extremely vulnerable to FAANG"

I would disagree strongly with that. FAANG is not interested and actually has trouble competing in sub $100m markets.


Indeed it's a tough for companies like Dropbox to compete against the Big Tech players. The proverbial you win some battles but lose the war.

On the other hand, Dropbox could've shifted more towards the enterprise customers and gained traction before the likes of Microsoft and Google ramped up their competing products. That'd have built them a better moat than being subject to the fickleness of mass consumers.


>Indeed it's a tough for companies like Dropbox to compete against the Big Tech players. The proverbial you win some battles but lose the war.

It seems like Dropbox could be generating 10s to low 100s of million in profit every year. They're spending a lot on R&D that they don't necessarily need to in order to chase growth. Even if GDrive/OneDrive et.al. eventually drive them out of business it would only be after Dropbox made 100s of million to billions.


What kind of moat could one possibly build against the Microsoft salesperson offering to throw in OneDrive for free, or at minimal cost?

I don’t see this. So you have examples? I think that smaller companies can compete on knowing their customers better - it’s hard for a highly paid 10 year at Google person to put themselves in the shoes of say a dental practitioner or even the shoes of a typical full stack dev wanting to use nextjs for example.

I suppose I was going off the examples in the post I was replying to. Comparing Google Drive sync to Dropbox and Google Keep to Evernote.

I'd bet Microsoft loses out in the long run due to having to dogfood OneDrive and Teams.

Just how vulnerable are those smaller businesses? I can't help but think of unsuccessful half baked FAANG products which failed to kill the competition. Do you have any specific examples in mind?

> I don't know that I have seen a solution I like for this

End the infinite growth model once and for all. The only solution to all these issues. The shift has to be cultural before legislative.


That regulation already exists, at least for international trade. The act of selling items at less than nominal cost is forbidden by anti dumping treaties. See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dumping_(pricing_policy)

Users lose out as well when they end up with products like Microsoft Teams.

I dunno. I feel dropbox has been getting less and less usable as their UI tries to get further away from the very light wrapper around windows explorer(or whatever file explorer your OS of choice uses).

I really just wanted it to be a folder that exists on all my computers. That's it. Now when I ask it to open the dropbox folder it stays within it's own application window and attempts to recreate windows explorer, but without all the features of windows explorer and tons of gunk I don't want.

This seems to be a problem of both the "lets push our userbase into patterns that work for us rather than them" and "Hey I'm a UI designer so I have design me some UIs, and I'll never stop, even though the UI is correct, I'll keep changing it forever!"


Yeah, when I forget and accidentally click on the Dropbox icon when I want my Dropbox folder and get whatever abomination it is that comes up now instead of the folder, I get real ragey. It's such an anti-consumer thing when companies take a nice product and add a bunch of crap to it that no one wants.

I liked Dropbox Paper a lot, but then they took away the ability to bulk export notes. There is no good reason to do that. Only bad ones.

This and constant nagging that I'm running out of space (I'm definitely not), and (tightening?) limits on number of machines, had me migrate to Synology Drive this last week. Now I have basically unlimited space and devices.

I'm sorry to the hard working devs, I'm part of the problem I guess. But it's tough to pay for something with free alternatives that have fewer limitations and better features.


While I agree their UI is getting more flashy and unusable, that's not all of it. I used to pay for Dropbox Plus. I no longer do because they removed symlink support. Genuinely useful feature, although I imagine difficult to implement and maintain. They lost me as a customer because of this one feature.

Dropbox is only a "failure" if you require continuous growth. Let's pause for a moment and think: why do we require that? I know, markets, etc, but Dropbox could be a pretty good medium-sized business and be just fine.

Well, another way to look at it is that Dropbox is a failure because instead of doing one thing right and optimizing the heck out of it, it tries to do many things, most of them badly, in the name of growth.

I hope somebody will start a Dropbox competitor as a bootstrapper, with a long-term outlook, no VC funding, and no crazy growth targets. Just do file sync right without eating so much CPU and battery, and without pestering me with useless add-ons, and you'll have my money.


From a business perspective, this is how to succeed. From a shareholder perspective, this is how to fail. They are diametrically opposed, which is hysterical. There can be overlap, but not until your original sword is sharpened to a razors edge, to borrow a phrase.

It's maybe not so common in tech, but being a big stable company isn't incompatible with 'markets, etc.' - you can buy back stock, issue dividends.

You might get your wish through IPFS / Filecoin...

This is what Bear did for Evernote, and it's great.

I've always felt this, I've never seen a business actually _do_ this. Why don't businesses just stop employing so many people? Stop expanding? Stop trying to acquire more users?

I mean, I know from my economics studies that businesses kind of have to keep competing or they die. It's just really sad.


As a mid-30s engineer, one evening I went to my VP of Engineering and suggested that we could be a lot more profitable if we cut back to half our staffing levels and concentrated on excelling at just our core product. She smiled politely and told me we had much brighter future than that.

As a late 40s VP at that same company, we’re about 25x the revenue and a greater ratio than that of free cash flow, employ far more people, and serve far more customers. That’s not in any way sad.


Is there any reason why this growth potential still exists for smaller companies? We're in a thread about how large companies are able to undercut smaller competitors.

They got where they are by raising from investors on the premise they would 10x the money, and also hired top talent with stock options that are only worth anything if the company similarly increases in value. If ambition wasn’t in their DNA, they never would have gotten to the good state you liked in the first place.

The payoff if the growth attempts work is asymmetric, so it’s worth the risk.


> I've always felt this, I've never seen a business actually _do_ this.

I do this. My business has linear growth (which means if you look at year-to-year percentage increases, they decrease over time). I'm very happy with it — I have no pressure from VCs to achieve crazy user growth at all cost, no pressure to show exponential growth. The business works well, the customers are happy, things are good!

There are many businesses like this, they just tend not to be the fashionable ones. You won't read a techcrunch article about one of them. Press will call them disparagingly "lifestyle businesses".

And yet — these are the businesses that make most sense for the users! In a company like that, business goals are 100% aligned with user goals. The business makes money if the users continue paying the subscription fees, which they will do if they are happy and get value from the software.


I've been wishing someone would make 'VC for non-profits'. It would essentially be a charity. Not a 'give money away' charity, just a 'below market rate returns' charity.

The point being to help finance someone making a self sustaining product.

So customers get a product, workers get a salary, 'investors' (doners really) break even.


b/c they hired expensive executives who get bonuses and their greed drives the whole thing. Plus the investors expect it plus you could probably say something about fiduciary responsibility.

Usually to outrun debt service.

> Dropbox and Evernote, for me are two very similar companies.

I was also going to comment on their similarities. It's not mentioned as often, but Evernote's biggest selling point in the beginning was that they figured out how to make multidevice sync work. The product was good, but not unique. In the early days there were no competitors that could offer the comfort of Evernote's sync.

Unfortunately both companies still have a 2010 mindset, at least when it comes to setting price. Neither seems to understand that their pricing is insane in 2021. $120/year is just too much for Dropbox (and nobody's going to fall for the 2 TB thing). Neither has a competitive free offering, so they're dropping off the radar for anyone looking for a free plan. Anyone working at either company that's not looking for a job should be.


Very good point about the pricing. Looking at their income statement [1] DropBox is not a very efficient company:

Cost Of Revenues: $413.7M (22%) in software companies this includes Operations and customer care. There are spending as much as video sharing sites or video conferencing app.

R&D Expenses: $727.8M (39%). This is an insanely high number for a company that is not a startup. The average for bigger companies is below 20%.

If their growth doesn't recover, which will be difficult, they are going to be a prime target for acquisition from Private equity. PE will slash the expenses significantly and run them for a profit for 5-10 years.

[1] https://seekingalpha.com/symbol/DBX/income-statement


> R&D Expenses: $727.8M (39%). This is an insanely high number for a company that is not a startup.

Last I just checked they tried to crawl out of their “it’s all about files. Simple!”-niche and become a fully web-based project management, chat, collaboration, office-thingie with links to GSuite and Office365.

As a long-time user it was quite incomprehensible, and definitely nothing I appreciated or felt added value to my Dropbox. On the contrary, I was annoyed by all the product-nagging about these features I didn’t want.

Combine that with them obsoleting long-established features in their desktop sync-software which made them the only universal file-sync solution across all platforms, the reason I chose Dropbox over competing offers.

Do all that, and you lost people like me as a user. I’m on Nextcloud now and not coming back.

I really don’t think they have worked out their survival plan yet. Trying to outcompete MS and Google on their own turf is obviously not a fight they’re going to win.


This is out of context. Maybe show how these costs have been changing over time vs revenue change to make it more meaningful.

Seeking Alpha link has the changes over time. They were able to reduce the expenses in the last 2 years, but the investors are going to compare them with their competitors, not only with the previous years. FB for example has engineering expenses of 21% better position on the market place and better growth.

Dropbox in the current state can become a target for activist investors like Elliot. The high percent R&D expenses make them more attractive because there is more to cut.


Since when FB is a Dropbox competitor? I'm sure their engineering expenses will continue to drop, esp with the whatsapp exodus to Signal...

Joking aside...

> They were able to reduce the expenses in the last 2 years

That sounds pretty good to me! Reduce expenses but revenue is growing and revenue per user is growing. So they make more money without growing costs. That's great. With the layoffs that ratio would even improve.


I don't understand the point about pricing. I find it cheap for something that works perfectly, across any device/OS and never fails, never breaks, and is extremely fast (insanely fast).

The only way one would prefer something half-baked just because it's "free" is if they don't really care about robustness and dependability.

That said, maybe the current Covid crisis is hurting them more than others. I used to travel a lot and leave machines in different places instead of carrying a laptop everywhere. Now that I don't travel, "magic sync" is much less useful.


It’s likely you have enough money that it isn’t prohibitive to you. I think most people would find $10 a month for file syncing crazy. Why would I pay for that instead of Google Drive? It’s one more company I have to share my data with and hope they don’t lose it/get hacked. At least I can log in once with Google (or OneDrive if you are in the Microsoft ecosystem) and two factor authentication and be done with it. I don’t understand the Dropbox business model at all. Hoping people are uninformed about better alternatives? 9 billion market cap for that?

> Why would I pay for that instead of Google Drive?

Because of Google's abysmal customer service which is awful to the point that even googlers can't get help if something goes wrong?

The point of a cloud storage is that you want your most important files to be backed up somewhere that you trust. I don't trust to store my data with an advertising company.


Google Drive also "works perfectly, across any device/OS and never fails, never breaks, and is extremely fast (insanely fast)."

$120/year for privacy and customer support may be worth it to you but for the vast majority of people it's cost prohibitive.


> I find it cheap for something that works perfectly, across any device/OS and never fails, never breaks, and is extremely fast (insanely fast).

That doesn't help if your target customers believe they can get the exact same thing at a much lower price. (And many of them get those services from their employers for free.)


Not everyone lives in the US, here 120 USD equals to half a month of minimum wage.

Neither do I.

$120 is not cheap, not to me.

> Anyone working at either company that's not looking for a job should be

What?? I don't know about Evernote. But did you look at the financials of Dropbox? They have a solid sheet so maybe take a look before you suggest people there to look for another job.

They decided to shift their focus to enterprise. They made a decision not to compete on the consumer side. Enterprises don't need a free tier. I don't know if that was a smart decision, but I'm sure they looked at the numbers and made the decision based on it.


See my post about their expenses [1].

If they don't grow the investors are not going to be happy about the high engineering expenses.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25766475


Expenses alone don't tell the whole store. I replied on your original comment.

> did you look at the financials of Dropbox?

You are aware that this discussion is about an announcement that they're cutting 11% of their workforce, aren't you? Anything can happen when companies get in this position.


You're making an assumption that layoffs mean company is in some trouble and everything can happen. That's clearly not the case here if you check their financials. This is an efficiency move.

Both companies still do good products though — they just aren’t marketing themselves well, I guess.

Evernote support sucks though. Last version has two annoying bugs which still haven’t been fixed since Christmas. But Notion is slooow and Nimbus Notes feels buggy —- I have hit sync bugs in the past and can get 50x errors from server easily, in addition to a random error about the slave being read-only. Both auto-fixed in 5 mins but still...

Everytime I sync something big (many files, many dirs) with Onedrive I feel the urge to check on the website of everything arrived. I don’t trust the UI, and neither this guy [1]. I am a bit more at ease with Google Drive - I use Insync - until I found out Insync was appending the suffix xml to files with xml contents. Insync with OneDrive requires more testing - could be a good replacement but I must do more testing to see if the refusal to sync certain file types like PST and ONE [1] also exists.

[1] https://www.eejournal.com/article/onedrive-down-the-road-to-...


Both evernote and dropbox started making the free service worse by limiting how many devices you could connect. Dropbox also dropped support for xfs filesystems on Linux (which they later brought back, but not after infuriating Linux users). That's when I stopped using both. I then moved to Google Drive (which is half the price of Dropbox), and moved to using markdown note apps sync with Google Drive (which is free!)

I don't think there's a single example of a company where >90% of their userbase if free, and they succeed after making the free user experience worse. They're thinking in terms of money (or reducing costs), but the other view is that they're making the experience for >90% of customers worse.

What dropbox seems to forger is that many of their enterprise contracts happened precisely because the decision makers used dropbox personally, and liked it. By screwing over your free customers, you are actually only hurting future sales.


> markdown note apps sync with Google Drive

Can you recommend the app please?

I migrated away from Evernote when it started to have too much features, and was no longer convenient note taking app.

I'm using Apple Notes now, which is more or less good, but it is vendor-locked, and I plan to move away from iPhone to Android.


I've recently move to using a git repo has my store for notes, and different clients for access and editing.

On Desktop I use Obsidian (although most anything will do) and on mobile I use GitJournal which easily links into an existing git repo.


> on mobile I use GitJournal

Is it good?

On mobile the common case is to launch an app and immediately see/search the notes.

Or type something, close the app and assume notes are synched.

But git pull and git push are not blazing fast operations. And there are no pushes, to get updates from the server immediately.

Git is a good storage, but I doubt it is suitable for notes without intermediate service handing note-specific scenarios.


Hey. I'm the author.

It will try to sync it as soon as it can. If you immediately close GitJournal, it won't be able to. Otherwise, on each modification it tries to sync. (Configurable) Maybe I can add some background sync.

The common use case to see and search through the notes works.


roamresearch.com works really well for me

Roam is pretty expensive and I've heard it can get slow. Have you tried Notion and if so, how would you compare them?

I haven't, roam was the first tool of that class I tried, liked it straightaway and saw no reason to look for alternatives.

Office 365 with MS Teams seems to have reached feature parity with Dropbox and slack in one nice suite of products that just work together seamlessly. You hit on an important insight, with O365 you can edit your documents right from the cloud and cross platform integration is tight with OneDrive and MS Teams.

What does everything think?


I want the company I treat as my primary file storage solution to be fully committed to that feature as their primary selling point. The last thing I want is Google deciding I don't get to save my files there anymore.

I use both and Dropbox is miles better. I don't understand OneDrive and the way everything is linked together in O365. It's a mess and I have no idea what is really going on in there. It reminds me a little of the icloud experience. Just give me a bog standard directory and let me manage it.

Are you sure OneDrive works well? Can you sync PST files? [1] https://www.eejournal.com/article/onedrive-down-the-road-to-...

That's a great article in the link.

I miss native OneDrive Linux support, but otherwise it is quite good. I can even avoid running office in WINE most of the time. And in Windows the experience is very nice, specially the on-demand file sync.

I think both of these companies could be successful, profitable small software shops if they stayed focused and lean. But they raise money and need to shoot for the moon, and it becomes all or nothing, and that's how they end up in trouble.

I understand that Dropbox feels they need to add features to compete, especially as they compete with Google and OneDrive, which both bundle a bunch of extra free stuff. But that should never be at the cost of your core product. Dropbox purchased zulip, and then dropped it. They also launched paper. Not sure anyone uses that.

I agree and I'd love to support Dropbox. But I think in order for me to consider that they'd need to have a somewhat competitive pricing model.

For example: I'm currently slowly running out of my free Google cloud storage that came with my Gmail account (15GB?). The next step for me is to upgrade to 100GB which will probably be enough for at least the next 10 years or so. With Google Drive that will cost me $1.99 per month which is more than reasonable. With Dropbox the next biggest package (after exceeding the free storage limit of 2GB) is to upgrade to a $11.99 plan for 2 TB (waaaaay more than I will ever need).

I'm willing to pay 5.99 for idealistic reasons but I'm not willing to pay more than that just for the sake of supporting a "smaller" non-FAANG company. They need to provide a better deal for something between 2 GB and 2 TB.


Thats at least a big part of their problem. Apple has smaller jumps ($1.99/$3.99/$9.99). Dropbox has none - its right to a massive amount for a big price.

I would've stayed on Dropbox if they offered 100G for $4.99 or something, but instead I switched to OneDrive and pay $6.99 which also includes Office!


You're not a potential customer. They gave up on consumers and focus on companies. Cannot blame them they don't want to lose money on individual users like the competition.

Even the business plans make no sense. 5TB to share between all employees? Or pay a lot more and get no real answer on what their 'as much as you need' means. It sounds like you have to contact their support and explain why you could possibly need more and then its up to them to decide.

Google workspaces is still a better deal and they're not currently even limiting storage.


And yet they are cutting 11% of their staff because they are losing money...

Maybe they should figured out somewhere inbetween.


They are losing big enterprises to Office 365 too. I know at least three 100k+ companies which moved to OneDrive from Dropbox (with lot of grumble from employees to add) in the last couple of years.

They compete with Google for startups and small companies.

They are stuck in the middle and both Google and Microsoft are crushing them from above and below.

Having healthy consumer subscriptions wouldn’t hurt.


Bottom line: Dropbox has 0 relevance for gen Z users, we all use Wetransfer for sharing, iCloud or Google Drive for storing

https://imgur.com/a/6gtowek

It peaked in 2012 when the millennials were in college, but it hasn't been cool for the past 5 years now. I never use dropbox ever again after they got rid of Carousel and Mailbox because I frankly don't trust them with my files


Google trends can be interesting, but it's important to keep in mind that people who have dropbox installed and are paying the subscription don't spend their time googling for dropbox.

I hope those products have enough customers that think the way I do.

The reason I use and pay for Dropbox is that the primary focus of the company is to offer a product that syncs my files across multiple machines and keeps a copy of those files online. The have to do it well, or else they fail. It makes me nervous as a customer whenever I see them trying to "grow" by offering other products.

I don't trust Microsoft, Google or Amazon one bit with their competing products. Those are gigantic companies that don't depend on those working well, and they could kill them overnight.

The problem though is this mindset that everything has to constantly grow. That's what makes me nervous as a customer. I don't see what could be so wrong with building a product that works well and maintaining that long term, being satisfied with having a customer base that allows the business to be self-sustainable. If that customer base grows, great. More money. Otherwise, as long as it doesn't shrink to the point where it becomes unsustainable, it should be just fine. But often I have a feeling that that kind of feeling is verboten for tech companies.


Purely from a product perspective I think Evernote still has one big advantage over competitors - it's web clipper and related browser plug-in works almost flawlessly.

I know there are other applications to save websites offline, but there aren't many that have the functionality built into your notes editor.

The ones that do offer one such Bear and Notion have a vast amount of stability, performance and content / layout preservation problems making their web clippers all but useless for anything other than a plain text site.

If anyone does have a recommendation of an Evernote alternative (preferably a native app for macOS and iOS) with an excellent web clipper - I'd be very interested to check it out.


Bear web clipper has worked great for me over the past year or so. It was definitely not great before that.

Does it preserve web page layout?

It badly malforms things like tables, lists, diagrams that contain multiple images etc... for me.

The Firefox plugin seems to frequently fail to communicate with bear.

It also can't seem to clip any website you're logged into, for say you have a private wiki you're logged into, you try clipping it and it ends up just clipping the authentication page.


> It will be a sad day when a $2B business can't survive and is forced to sell.

You're forgetting that Dropbox has a very generic product, that eventually any large company like Google or Apple needs to replicate (or already has replicated).


It doesn’t take thousands of engineers to build Dropbox. WhatsApp had 11 engineers.

Be scrappy, and don’t buy the expensive “your success is measured by your fundraising” trap.


I get your overall point, but isn't Salesforce buying Slack? Just noting on the "it _will_ be a sad day" - perhaps it already is?

Currently there are 93 Internet companies with more than 1 Billion dollar in revenue and that list growing every year.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_Internet_compa...


Thank you for the list.

Going quickly through the companies there:

   - Rackspace was sold to private equity and restructured and made public a second time.
   - LogMeIn was sold to private equity
   - Kaplan is part of bigger company
   - Ultimate software merged with Kronos
   - Shutterfly was acquired by private equity
   - Wirecard is a scam.
   - Grubhub is going to be acquired by a bigger competitor
   - Travelport, Expedia and Bookings are 3 very similar companies which bought all the smaller competitors.

Also note that these are internet companies and do no include myriad other software companies, including enterprise tech. So I am not sure if I agree with your concern on tech being reduced to 5-10 big companies.

It’s crazy difficult to survive in a market where your competitor is Microsoft who gives their product which is almost your product away for free.

Microsoft is at the ‘good enough’ stage for most people with OneDrive already. Dropbox is going to have a really hard time competing.


man I love evernote. I dont want to use ios notes and deal with all the confusion icloud brings. I love using a service that is hyper focused on one thing and does it well.

> We need smaller innovative businesses to succeed too. It will be a sad day when a $2B business can't survive and is forced to sell.

That is normal under capitalism; There are some allowed advantages like vertical integration and economics of scale for dominant buisnesses and many recognized monopolistic practices (like bundling across markets, zero-rating your service trough mobile providers, and free-offerings to undercut competition, etc)


Dropbox has been hammered by Wall Street ever since it went public. On the surface it should be trading well enough given it's revenue growth from when it went public to now, however, the narrative of competing with both Microsoft and Google was a tough one to play down.

Revenue growth will slow down to below 20% in 2021 which basically starts to take DBX out of the high growth tech stock focus and it is trading at less than 5x 2021 revenue when the median is somewhere closer to the 12-14x range and that's for companies below 30% growth.

The same was seen with Slack. Though they had great revenue growth, the narrative was that they couldn't compete with Microsoft and so their stock never really traded at a comparable revenue multiple compared to others.

It could be said that they have a heavy spend on Sales and Marketing but the same could be said of plenty of other Enterprise tech focused companies like MongoDB that still commands a very high forward looking multiple.

Unfortunately from the end-user side the experience has suffered somewhat and I've personally switched away from Dropbox so I can't really say they are doing great on the product side and the amount of "Growth Hacking for Revenue" that is now part of the product experience is a bit off-putting.

Also shows the potential for issues if you end up solely dependent on one product and don't diversity, especially if it's seen as a commodity.

The work force reduction is purely to turn the company profitable on a net basis and the trailing twelve months they've already gotten into the black. That's down from a $400MM loss just a couple of years ago.

But the belief is that there isn't a tremendous amount of profitability internally, because the expenditures are just too high, and cutting further into that theoretically will reduce revenue growth further.


It's dismaying that even the best, most shining examples of unicorns that took off on the backs of good products and have stood toe-to-toe with the mega-corps, are now losing value simply because they're competing with the mega-corps, and being forced to look for acquisitions just like all the other startups.

If that doesn't plainly show that big tech has gotten too big, I don't know what will.


I disagree, mega-corps aren't the problem. As Steve Jobs famously said: they're a feature, not a product.

Even if you eliminate Microsoft, Google, AND Amazon from the discussion, the list of alternatives is endless.

Synology and QNAP both have a "free" sync and share client. WD, Seagate, Samsung, Apple, not to mention the open-source options out there. Do the big 3 put MORE pressure on Dropbox, sure. But they never pivoted. Just look at a company like Druva - we used them forever ago as a file sync and share, and now they look very, very different.

Dropbox's problem isn't mega-corps or "big tech getting too big", it's that they didn't or couldn't innovate beyond their core product.


> I disagree, mega-corps aren't the problem. As Steve Jobs famously said: they're a feature, not a product.

I almost kneejerk downvoted out of disagreement. Mega-corps are _a_ problem, but not the problem here, which you astutely pointed out.

Dropbox didn't/couldn't innovate beyond their core product is clearly the issue here.

Additionally, most of what I find that companies use Dropbox for equates to Shadow IT. Something that mature corporations ruthlessly eliminate.


The thing is that I (and many people) still want exactly the core product that Dropbox offers (and does better than anyone else), even if that's a smaller market than it was ten years ago. It makes sense that businesses would want to get all of their IT solutions from a single integrated company for simplicity's sake, and it makes sense that consumers don't mess with actual files as much as they used to. But for my own purposes I actually wish Dropbox would stop trying to move beyond their core product. And even though the market of people like me has shrunk, I don't think it will ever go away completely.

Perhaps your storage needs are low, but I feel like at this point once you're past 4-5TB, a Synology or QNAP NAS is a no-brainer for anyone even remotely technical.

I need quite a lot of storage for my projects and am up to a 42TB Enterprise NAS at home w/ Fujitsu helium-filled drives. Probably more than Dropbox customers would ever want to spend, but well worth it for me. Even if I didn't need as much storage, I'm pretty sure I would use the same product.

Access from all of my devices is easy as they're all on one VPN, including my phones.


Why can't a good feature survive on the market?

One reason is that there's friction with purchasing. If a company already buys Active Directory and O365, it's much easier to get OneDrive added on than it is to set up a new vendor like Dropbox.

Because it can be copied and doesn't have a defendable business model.

For most people, consolidating many services into one is just more convenient, even if it means using a "good-enough" version of that feature.


How is that meaningfully different than a product which can be copied?

I think features are often products for other companies, not for end-users.

E.g., digital displays are a "feature, not a product". End-users get value out of digital displays on their thermostats, microwaves, etc., but no end-user buys a digital display themselves, thermostat and microwave manufactures buy them.

I think the problem with Dropbox is that it's become too easy for product companies to build data syncing themselves.


That's certainly one perspective, the other is that in the consumer segment churn is high but also the are a tremendous amount of people.

Dropbox had a head start but over time other companies like Google where able to build out competing services and because the total population of potential consumers continued to increase, a lead today, doesn't guarantee a lead tomorrow.

The other side of is that what made Dropbox amazing at the beginning, the ability to sync files with direct access on your computer, is actually now a detriment. Many users don't want the files locally, download speeds have increased dramatically (I have 1Gbps fiber at my apartment), so having the files locally is actually annoying and takes up diskspace, so you have a bit of a late mover advantage, especially if the population of available consumers continues to increase.

In this case it isn't simply X couldn't compete with big Tech, the landscape did shift a bit.

It's also important to note that Dropbox is still a very successful company, and if they aren't chasing revenue growth and profit they still provide a great service to consumers. But their growth chasing leads to a degraded user experience, which also pushes people away from their product and has them explore alternatives to really see if it's an apples to apples comparison. And that's where the "cloud" first storage solutions today present a better platform.

What really slows this down is the cost of switching for older customers that have a tremendous amount of data already in Dropbox and have it integrated into their workflows so it really isn't a fun project to migrate off.

This is also where the price increases create revenue growth because customers aren't willing to go through the pain of migration, but you aren't delivering more value to them, instead you are playing off of the cost switching to drive revenue growth and that begins a downward trajectory.


> The other side of is that what made Dropbox amazing at the beginning, the ability to sync files with direct access on your computer, is actually now a detriment

I disagree; file syncing is still exactly what I want. Disk space has gotten exponentially cheaper over the years, and at the same time the amount of bulk media that people store as personal files has been dramatically cut down thanks to streaming services for music and video. I don't mind at all having my entire Dropbox mirrored across my devices; it holds basically every local file I care about, and having a local copy also gives me some peace of mind in case I ever get locked out of my account or something (which Google in particular has become notorious for). You can also, now, select subdirectories that you want to exclude from the current device. At the same time, having it in the cloud means I don't have to worry if my hard drive dies. Any file that I've thoughtlessly kept there while working on it is safe by default.

Maybe the story would be different if I ever created classical "documents" and could benefit from Office 365 or Google Docs, but I don't, and so having a cloud-first storage "drive" that primarily holds things which integrate with that particular cloud service isn't very useful to me.

> But their growth chasing leads to a degraded user experience

You're right that parts of the product have gotten distracted/annoying by trying to build out new differentiators. But the core product (file syncing and backup) still works much better than competitors, and it's not hard to simply ignore the new stuff.

Also, perhaps most importantly: I use products from multiple tech giants, and all three major operating systems, and I specifically don't want my cloud storage to only integrate well with one of them. I want it to work equally well across everything. And Dropbox does, at least compared with the competition.


Yeah I think there is still definitely a segment that want the disk syncing, but for me it was actually becoming a hinderance and having everything online was actually much easier. Plus I started doing more file storage that I was accessing both on desktop and iphone. Certainly the original use case for Dropbox of local sync was amazing and exactly what I needed years ago, but my work/life needs have changed over time and I wouldn't be surprised if a larger amount of people are falling in to the cloud first category today as compared to when Dropbox originally launched.

Back then cloud syncing just made no sense at all because the speeds were pretty bad and inconsistent.

Not saying everyone falls into this category, but just pointing out that the market has evolved somewhat from their original position.


I use Dropbox on my iPhone and it works great. I can see how that particular use-case doesn't benefit as much from the "just syncing local files" paradigm, but it certainly isn't a worse experience. In fact, these days Dropbox is my favored mechanism for transferring files to and from my phone. The auto-sync on the desktop side is much easier than going through a website.

Historically there has been an argument in economics over whether markets necessarily tend towards consolidation, and I'm inclined to agree with Stiglitz that they do: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/05/joseph-stiglitz-are-m...

Especially in markets with strong network effects. Barring government action, operating systems / platforms will necessarily either directly subsume their most profitable applications, or capture all the market "rent" from them.

Ultimately "network shared storage" is a feature rather than a product. For much of their history they were value-added resellers of AWS.


I agree completely. I think history (at least, the past 150 years) has shown this clearly. I've come to see an economy of corporations as a stew that tends to "clump up" and needs to be periodically "stirred" as part of the natural course of its development.

It's cyclic between consolidation and new investments.

We're just ramping up into the consolidation period now.


For me it was the lack of storage tiers. When the only options is to get 1TB or more, I think you lost a lot of users. Additionally, they should have figured out a way to share storage with a family, if the only profitable storage tiers are 1TB or more then let people share it.

Meh, we're talking a single-digit increase in price to go from the previous-lowest tier to the current-lowest 2TB tier. I only use a tiny fraction of it, but it's still a good value.

The family thing makes sense - I don't have a family I would share with so it's never come up - though couldn't you just sign into the same account on multiple devices?


Signing into the same account on multiple devices creates security and ownership issues, much better to be able to delegate permissions and also keep ownership clearly understood.

Is that really a concern within a household? Give each person a top-level directory

Well for my needs the Dropbox plan costs 10 times more than the Google or iCloud plan. Because I need 50GB, not 2000.

Its a huge jump from $0 to $12 a month!

They do now have a family plan: https://www.dropbox.com/family

An alternative interpretation might be that a company that just makes one thing may not survive as a publicly traded entity considering the scrutiny and industry comparisons that entails.

GSuite and Office 365 do not trade as standalone companies, but even if they did, they'd be far ahead of Dropbox, as they integrate cloud storage with an entire suite of office products.


Company can exist and provide good services even without being overvalued on a stock market. If there's anything dismaying it's to see how investors can kill good products because they want more.

It's never easy to say conclusively why a stock goes up or down. But do we really need this megacorp explanation? Dropbox could be losing value because they've been trying to make money for a loooooong time and still aren't.

Market is simple and effective.

Shining examples of unicorns? Then they need to prove they can indeed exist in real world. They shouldn't be treated differently.


>If that doesn't plainly show that big tech has gotten too big, I don't know what will.

Or...it could be free markets don't work? Why blame big tech when this same cycle has proven itself out over way too many historical economic eras.


I'm a paying customer for Dropbox and I've just had it installed on my computer for when I occasionally had to share files with customers. Never really felt I used it to any extent but I also never canceled my subscription because I'm happy for what it is and I can't bother to find alternatives.

However my computer recently crashed and when "re-installing" Dropbox I discovered that they have many more useful "Apps" included like backup and password-sync and a neat paper scanning app for the phone. All of which I was very happy to discover. So I see myself keeping my subscription for the foreseeable future. :)


> Dropbox has been hammered by Wall Street ever since it went public.

"Hammered" ha SV lives in a dream world. Its barely making a profit and no great product in the future. It still has market cap more than say Wendy's and H&R Block put together.


What do you use as an alternative to Dropbox? I haven't found anything that works as well across multiple platforms. I really hate all the feature bloat in it, which I never use, and weird decisions like dropping non-ext4. But still, for basic file syncing it seems hard to beat.

Sadly Linux users are like 1% of the market, non-ext4 is even less (and I am a full-time Linux user and big ZFS fan). They actually restored support for several non-ext4 filesystems over a year ago[1].

1: https://hub.packtpub.com/dropbox-walks-back-its-own-decision...


OneDrive has been absolutely rock solid for me (even on a Mac)

Syncdocs has been working reliably for me for years. They seem to focus on the core file-syncing stuff, which works fast and reliably, rather than blingy features.

I'm very happy with Tresorit - https://tresorit.com

I loved Tresorit but it's camera upload feature didn't transfer files correctly from my wife's iPhone - it left them corrupted and unopenable with no warnings or errors whatsoever.

Unfortunately because of that alone I dropped them completely. I'm using Dropbox now because I haven't found a better alternative for syncing between iPhone/Android/Windows/Linux.


what things that you need synced

It's quite expensive though

Yeh true but as an other example Dropbox missed out on the privacy and end to end encryption market.

My use case maybe different from yours but GDrive has worked well for me.

The others are generally not supported on Linux. Dropbox has a cli client here that mostly works. At least if we are talking Google/Microsoft. Or the companies are small enough to go under overnight and leave me in a lurch

If long-term is your game and you don't like the big boys, you should probably look into Syncthing. Being an open protocol, it will never go away.

Google drive unofficial client works pretty well for me on Linux.

There is a difference between official and unofficial support. Also, Dropbox is big enough to be around for a while, but this is their product and if it goes south, so do they. I don't trust Google to maintain any product before rebranding, pushing the work to the users, or dropping the product. They have shown otherwise.

Insync works well for Google Drive on Linux.

It did. Recent versions add the suffix xml to files with xml contents, unfortunately.

Have a look at Syncthing.

Syncthing is solid. Maybe a little too geeky for most, but for tech-minded people it can really work. I've had little issues here and there, but it definitely solves some problems for me.

I generally use Dropbox for personal files and Syncthing for business. It's a great setup to keep those things separate.


Secure access over the internet is a limitation of self hosting.

Box seems to be taking some of the enterprise market share.

It's funny that a lot of their acquisitions were in spaces that had the potential to exceed the market cap of their core product (which is currently stuck at 9B) had they been more successful:

- HelloSign for esignatures, compared to DocuSign which has a 48.29B market cap

- Zulip for chat, compared to Slack which has a 24.30B market cap

- Carousel for photos, compared to Instagram which is estimated at 100B market cap

- Paper for documents

- Mailbox for emails


I think Google Photos would be a closer comparison for Carousel. I think it would've been the smart play for Dropbox to expand on that if they wanted to maintain consumer customers. Photos are kinda the only thing people willingly pay to save/backup and they're a royal pain in the ass to organize.

But then again, it's hard to compete against free for $0.10/user margins. Way easier catching a couple of big enterprise fishes.


It sucks having to pay google and dropbox for storage cuz i have files and photos. Dropbox doesnt do photos well, i dont trust them for it. Dropbox wants to do photos, but doesn’t separate that from storing files, so just searches all my files for images or something. Also, it doesn’t allow searching based on image recognition.

They canceled Carousel after Google Photos came out.

More important than revenue growth is the expected margins after the growth slows down.

What Dropbox is selling is something that will be bulk commodity. They will never be able to settle and get good revenue.


The problem is that revenue growth per se does not make a company valuable - or actually, it does while you can convince someone else to buy under the assumption that said growth will deliver competitive profits.

Selling to Wall Street is the "final sell": once it's done, you need to convince that profits grow, not just revenues.


This scares the shit out of me. Long story short: I work for a company about to go public...this year to be exact. It sounded exciting at first but as I dug deeper I realized some companies start dying slowly after IPO. I guess I’ll have see it to believe it :(

This is interesting because having layoffs at a company that should be going off like a rocket during a pandemic is odd. What is going on at Dropbox that prevented them from taking advantage of the huge shift to remote work?

For individuals Dropbox is quite expensive compared to services like OneDrive. Microsoft 365 Personal is 70$/year and gives you 1TB on OneDrive and full access to the Office offering. Dropbox for individuals is 200$/year for 3TB. And nothing else.

Unless you're hoarding data or want to avoid Microsoft, the choice is simple. And I'm sure you have even cheaper services.


I actually switched to OneDrive when Dropbox changed their pricing a while ago. Microsoft's offering was way more competitive on both price (€100/yr for 5x1TB) and features (Office access and integration, etc.)

Yes, but I have 1 gbit uplink and upload speads are 3 megabytes per second at best. Actually, I tried via rclone from VPSs at various locations also and no change. Frankly, that's shit. I've been paying the 2€/month 100GB storage plan simply because the OneDrive Android app does its job of offloading photos quickly well but that's really it's good for. That, and uploading 100K-1M Office documents.

As soon as I noticed this issue, the deal of 1TB storage with a O365 subscription also went sour. 1TB I can't really use -- no deal.

This problem is well known; it's all over the internet -- OneDrive is a sloth. It doesn't affect downloads, btw.


That is exactly what I did as well.

> Unless you're hoarding data or want to avoid Microsoft

...or have access to a licensed copy of the "real" Microsoft Office, the desktop app, which doesn't lag (that much), where all keyboard shortcuts work, drag-and-drop isn't too surprising, and you can use over a slow/metered/non-existent connection (bus, train, airplane), so you don't really care about Office 365.

Or you use it for something other than Word, Excel and Powerpoint. I know plenty of people who do architecture, landscaping or design who use Dropbox precisely because most of the things they use it for don't involve Office (much).

For lots of people, Microsoft 365 Personal is 70 $/year for 1 TB and a bunch of things that might as well be Google Docs, which are free. 200$/year for three times more storage space isn't a terribly bad deal.

Edit: yes, I realize Microsoft 365 allows you to use the desktop apps. That doesn't add much if you already have the desktop apps. Or if you don't need either the web or the desktop version.


> ...or have access to a licensed copy of the "real" Microsoft Office, the desktop app, which doesn't lag (that much), where all keyboard shortcuts work, drag-and-drop isn't too surprising, and you can use over a slow/metered/non-existent connection (bus, train, airplane), so you don't really care about Office 365.

Microsoft 365 allows you to download the desktop app versions of Office. No need for an internet connection after that.


Until you get a message that you cannot save until it verifies your account again. Multiple people at my company including me got hit with it on OSX.

> 200$/year for three times more storage space isn't a terribly bad deal.

If you use the storage, then sure. But I would assume that you can then find better prices for 3TB.

You can see it this way:

- if you want an office license, it's 70$/year, and as a bonus you have a dropbox equivalent for free for 1TB.

- if you want some storage, up to 1TB, OneDrive is 70$/year, and as a bonus you have access to the complete office suite for free (yes, you can download all the office applications to run them locally and up to date, and also have access to the web versions)

I personally don't see how Dropbox can compete. The competition is cheaper, has more features, and offers almost the same user experience.


> If you want an office license, it's 70$/year, and as a bonus you have a dropbox equivalent for free for 1TB.

My point was that if you already have an Office license, it's 70$/year for something you already have + 1 TB (on what, until recently, used to be a pretty shoddy Dropbox clone, rather than a Dropbox equivalent -- but maybe it's improved in the meantime). In that case, there's no bonus.


You can still use office desktop with office 365

Not entirely accurate. I didn’t even realize this was a thing, but on the Dropbox web interface you can now open docs, slideshows and spreadsheets in either Office365 or Google Office without accounts on either.

Oh, I didn’t know this. Thanks for sharing

I been using Dropbox since the beginning and I only discovered it last week.

Dropbox actually still has a $9.99/mo (if billed anually) 2TB plan for individuals. Still not the cheapest price-wise, but not unreasonable.

Which is crazy.

Why not a $3.99 for 100GB? $7.99 for 1TB?

A lot of people (myself included) said "That's too much money especially since I don't need that much space."


Exactly. They make money selling 1 or 2 TB to people who need a few GB.

You're right, I didn't notice that by default they direct you to business tiers and you have to click on a small link to switch to the "basic" plans. Their website has become such a weird thing to navigate...

It's not bad, but these big companies can bundle it all together and drive the little companies out of business, for personal use at least. Apple is offering 2TB iCloud Drive, plus all their other online services for $30 per month.

Yep. Certainly my contention. I don't need an expensive 5TB (tier in Canada). I need an affordable 1/2 TB to 1TB.

a self-hosted NextCloud is way cheaper

At one time, Dropbox was the easiest and best solution if you were using Android, MacOS, and Windows. I used to pay for 1TB account although Apple offered 2TB for same monthly fee. But the Dropbox destroyed their simple UI to this ugliness clusterfuck. That was the motivation for me to cancel it and move 100% into Apple's ecosystem.

I'm still not sure what I could migrate to that would give me solid and trustworthy sync/access across Windows, Mac, iOS, and Linux.

I'm happy to pay whatever I pay for Dropbox -- I don't actually remember what it is -- but I'd rather they stop throwing in bullshit kitchen-sink features.


I still use Dropbox because I care about what you mentioned, but I think the next best thing is Seafile, however it has bad symlink handling.

I was in a similar boat and fairly recently started using pCloud, which I've been liking a lot. It has minimal frills and just focuses on file storage and sharing. I mainly use the Linux and web clients, both of which are excellent. I don't have any association with them outside of being a happy customer.

Nextcloud. You can buy the service directly at various providers, such as Hetzner.

Another solution is Google Drive, adding Insync for desktop sync.


I have zero interest in administering my own services like it appears Nextcloud, even with Hetzner, would require. I've been there and done that, but I'm too far out of the sysadmin game now to do a good job of it. It's a bad use of my time, and not something I enjoy as a hobby.

I'm unwilling to use Google services if I can avoid it.


The service I mentioned (Hetzner, but there are others) do all the administration for you. You get a login and password into a Nextcloud instance, that's it. No administration required.

See here: https://www.hetzner.com/storage/storage-share


Yes but latest Insync adds xml suffix to files with xml contents. To keep feature parity to Google Drive Web downloads, they say. Duh! :(

Do you have a source explaining the issue a bit more? I haven't found anything and don't exactly understand what you mean.

I made the decision to migrate away for exactly the same reason. I think they are desperately trying to be more than a “feature” (as Steve Jobs correctly labelled them) and in this desperation they are obfuscating the very feature that brought people to them in the first place.

I think Box ate their lunch in the corporate sphere and they have a lot more competition in the consumer space from things like OneDrive and iCloud Drive. The only reason I still have Dropbox at all is because I don’t have a reason to pull the plug—and it wouldn’t have to be much of an excuse.

Their device limit gave me my reason to leave them. When they started haemorrhaging corporate customers, they attacked their consumer users. I can't say I find the result hugely shocking.

I actually just moved all my stuff from Dropbox to B2 buckets. My December bill was like $0.09

I'm interested in moving off Dropbox in the same way, and B2 sounds interesting. Is there an app comparable to Dropbox working with B2, or did you have to build that app yourself?

I used RClone to sync to B2. They've got an iPhone app that you can download to browse + download from the bucket, else the website itself.

There might be further reasons for it, but I mostly use it as an offsite backup that my wife could upload to -- so usability was a plus -- but not worth that kind of premium.


Not the parent, but you can do this with Nextcloud. It supports using object storage as a backend, and B2 is compatible with S3.

I wonder if the omission is due to HN bias of disliking Google, but Google Drive has the largest market share in the segment Dropbox competes in.

It was not meant to be a slight. I have Google Drive, but I primarily use iCloud and I was thinking in terms of desktop OS platform rather than major tech companies or market share; ie, I use iCloud on Mac, what’s the one MS built into windows?

Their UX has become worse, questionable design choices, and 2 GB limit is almost a joke. Chances are, if you're in the market, you just use something like Box which provides a lot more value for free.

I'm a long time user and when people talk about the UX (many, not just you), I am always puzzled. What UX are you speaking of? For me, Dropbox is just a folder on my hard drive with no real UX to speak of. It's the ultimate "gets out of my way and just works". Are you talking about the web site?

There's a challenging to use UI that has become part of the installation process on recent updates. Most of the time it tries to advertise to me that I need to use Dropbox Paper rather than making it easy to copy/manage folders from external sources. (I need to do a bit more than just manage files/folders, like handle external shares, so I have to use the UI they provide for doing this.)

Dropbox tried to branch out into the "collaboration space" with their Paper feature/product and since then, the web UI has got worse.

I use only their online app and it's where their UX got much worse recently.

I churned when Dropbox started removing features and asking for more money. e.g. limits on number of devices, more frequent nags, forcing me to unlink devices that had already been linked. I'm not going to be bullied into being a paying customer.

When they limited the number of devices I looked at the paid plans.

But the lowest-end plan costs about the same as Netflix, and I have too many subscriptions in my life already.


That's what a lot of people are saying up and down this thread.

Limited devices (ugh) and high cost to unlimit (ugh).

That didn't have to happen.


Makes me wonder why Amazon hasn’t throw together a Dropbox like competitor free with Prime.

Storage-as-a-service is a commodity and race to the bottom. Check $BOX and $DBX 5 year charts.

Good luck competing with GAFA on this, best hope is a buyout. Firesale on depreciating assets.

On the consumer side, storage will become an appliance, like a (stick of butter sized) fridge. Or just included in your centralized home + family control center.


> On the consumer side, storage will become an appliance, like a (stick of butter sized) fridge. Or just included in your centralized home + family control center.

You can already get an inexpensive Synology NAS with a slick UI and backups to a cloud provider of your choice, or Nextcloud, although there's probably room on both for one click import from your existing Dropbox account using your auth and their API to migrate contents.


This is not backed up by anything besides your opinion. The main chart you should look at is the increase in number of paying customers month after month.

Dropbox is much more than just storage. They also have their own infrastructure and don't depend on GAFA. They made a decision to not compete on the consumer side. I didn't like it but you cannot blame them given the large pockets of the competition and the fact they can monetize those costumers with their other products unlike Dropbox. They compete in enterprise where price is not the main factor like it's for consumers and doing it successfully.

I will ping you in 5 years... (they might indeed get acquired though. If that happens it's gonna be for at least double of what $dbx is worth today)


It makes no sense not to compete on the consumer side. The enterprise side has enormous barriers to entry, like a long sales cycle, RFPs, security audits etc. Office 365 simply offers more, plus with a familiar interface that doesn't require extra training for end-users.

Who is going to be championing Dropbox on the enterprise buyer's side? Employees that are satisfied consumers or the IT office that uses the same 4-5 vendors for everything?


I don't say you're right or wrong, cause I don't know. All I can say is that you cannot say "makes no sense" because it's been working OK for them so far. They have ~15M paying users and the number keeps growing (not at a very high pace but still steady growth). Their revenue is growing at a higher pace than expenses. Enterprise sales is not easy but they have been doing it for a while now. They also expand their product line to be a more complete solution for team productivity and collaboration. They have been doing a lot of mistakes on the way. They launched many products that failed. Their vision was lacking. But overall their numbers show it's a healthy company moving in the right direction. It's just not been growing in the pace everyone was thinking they would after their IPO.

They are switching from growth to revenue mode. It smells to me like priming for a deal.

It’s a commoditized space and the competition has easier access to new users... Microsoft, Google, Apple... all offer similar services bundled in.

I'm guessing because they solve interop problem between systems, which is going away.

Great idea and execution, very valuable but seemed valued even higer than that to me (i.e overvalued). They were well-placed for app hosting - but lots of competition and it's hard to hit the jackpot twice (even google hasn't managed it, nor apple, arguably).


Why should they be going off like a rocket?

more people are working remotely which probably requires more people looking for ways to share files more efficiently.

Most of the people do need to find a ways to share files more efficiently, but hardly any sane company would choose Dropbox given their security proposal.

For any given technology or service, given the choice between the cheapest consumer option and a reliable enterprise option that costs 50% more, most small businesses will choose the consumer option every time.

Which would be OneDrive

For me and my company and friends this has meant more realizing the features of things we already paid for (Office 365, etc) rather than paying for Dropbox.

The last thing my free account does is sync my 1Password - and I’ll likely go cloud on that soon anyway


I imagine that sharing files would be the same regardless of whether you are remote or not. Even in a real office people don't usually hand USB sticks back and forth.

I have no data, but more remote people either has 0 impact, or impact on more data sharing online. Lots of businesses still work a lot on paper (think lawyers, notaries, etc) especially while working with clients, and are not forced to share docs differently.

All remote collaboration software is growing like bonkers during the pandemic because of remote work.

How workflow changes regarding storage when employees start working remotely?

People will just share the same way they shared while in the office.


Because they are core piece of remote work culture, like Zoom and Box.

They’re a core piece of regular office work as well. Apps like Zoom were not part of the office life, while Dropbox was.

They are consumer oriented. Companies scaled up their Box instances, so they are likely doing well. But Dropbox never really had the Corp customer.

And with people having access to Box, why would they bother with Dropbox?


We see a lot of SMBs using Dropbox and have rarely encountered Box out in the wild. In both cases, they are often converting over to OneDrive - the Office Suite is still a very, very strong play in that most companies need/prefer it to alternatives, and since OneDrive is bundled the question inevitably gets asked, "why am I paying for DropBox if I have OneDrive/SharePoint included in this cost over here?". No good answer, really. I mean there are things that DropBox does better, but for a lot of businesses those strengths aren't valuable enough to pay the premium.

Dropbox lost me permanently as a potential customer with their greed and disregard for user experience. Constant nagging if you're at ~80% your free limit and the more recent draconian device limits for two examples. I hope they fail.

I get what you're saying but "greed" is not the way I would put it. Look at their financials, 2020 is the first year in their history in which they will have been profitable at all.

I think as consumers we're starting to get totally unrealistic expectations about what kinds of services small companies (ie. not behemouths like Google, Microsoft, Apple) should be able to provide to everyone for free.

With that said, yeah, not a fan of their changes. I stopped using Dropbox a while ago.


> 2020 is the first year in their history in which they will have been profitable at all.

That's because they are absolutely bloated company given the relatively simple service they provide. In 2019, they employed 2300 people.


Yep, Dropbox created a nifty file sharing tool that a handful of devs should be able to support, but instead of keeping the team small they decided to go all "Big Enterprise Saas IPO" on us.

> I think as consumers we're starting to get totally unrealistic expectations about what kinds of services small companies (ie. not behemouths like Google, Microsoft, Apple) should be able to provide to everyone for free.

The number of consumer services the average consumer actually pays for is very small.

Video services like Hulu and Netflix are the primary exception, but they benefitted greatly from being compared to $100+ cable TV packages. It's easy to get people to transition from an expensive thing to a cheaper option.

It's much more difficult to get people to switch from a free service to a paid service. YouTube is a good example of a platform that provides huge value and endless hours of video content to people, but selling people on the paid version of YouTube is a difficult battle. The outrage over the mere existence of YouTube premium on casual social sites like Reddit should be downright scary for anyone considering a Freemium service.

Dropbox gambled that the average consumer would outgrow their 10GB free account as they took more photos and videos with cell phones. That gamble was correct, but of course other providers swooped in to offer better targeted plans. I'll take $3/month iCloud with transparent integration over $10/month Dropbox with a separate app.

Dropbox business angle is promising, but again it's much easier for companies like Google and Microsoft to add storage plans to their existing office suites than it is for Dropbox to add office suites to their existing storage plans.

As a techie, I wish Dropbox had stayed as a small $3/month for 100GB offering that did file sharing very well and nothing else. The latest apps get in the way more than they help, and I cancelled my paid plan because the core set of files I want to keep Dropbox-accessible is under 10GB. Bigger files go to other free services on an as-needed basis.


They could’ve stayed small if they hadn’t taken VC money and hired hundreds of engineers in downtown SF.

Dropbox is also to blame for user's expectations, because they did offer more in the past, for free.

It annoys me that they're adding features I don't need, reducing usability and increasing the cost. I wish there was a competent alternative that was just a plain cloud storage service (and worked well on both Mac and Linux).

The absolute audacity of free tier customers lol. You were a liability on their balance sheet.

Yea, I'd understand the frustration if OP was paying for the service, but this reeks of entitlement. If you are a free user don't be mad when the company tries to convert you to a paid user.

A better example is how pushy Apple is with upselling their iCloud plans. I opened my laptop the other day and it auto-opened the iCloud settings app with the more expensive plan pre-checked.


Dropbox makes constant notifications on your desktop about upgrading alongside emails. I'd have considered paying for them if they weren't like this but now I never will. Maybe they'd have an easier time being profitable if they didn't push away all their long term users.

Are you suggesting that Dropbox could better monetize their free tier users by trying to not monetize them?

There's a middle ground between aggressive nagging/spam/a sudden 3 device limit (not even at the same time, total) and no attempt to monetize.

Well, I don’t hope they fail, but I will not be renewing my subscription this year. I’ve been onboard since they announced paid plans and.. it’s just more of an annoyance than it is unique or useful for me.

Was there a possibility that you would ever gbe an actual customer and not just a potential one?

Partner with Netflix. Offer Dropbox mini+Netflix for $1/mo more than Netflix. Offer upgrades.

Yes, I would've considered it if they hadn't been so obnoxious to me.

I have a couple connections on LinkedIn that work at Dropbox, and through them I have noticed a decent amount (certainly more than usual) of somewhat-high-up individuals leaving Dropbox in the past couple weeks. Might just be completely coincidental, but I wonder if they had advance notice (or perhaps just saw the writing on the wall)?

Also anecdotal and total speculation, I interviewed at Dropbox a couple years ago and they were making a big push into b2b Dropbox, particularly with Paper, but I've yet to really hear about them successfully breaking into that space (have never met or even heard of a company using Paper in the wild). Olivia (the COO that's also leaving) used to head up b2b functions at Google before joining Dropbox. I wonder if these layoffs are also from the b2b teams and perhaps Dropbox is pulling back from (or at least rethinking) those efforts?


We used Paper for awhile, but eventually didn't want to keep paying for both that and G suite (which we do anyway for mail). Personally, though, I think Paper is excellent. It's the first document-authoring tool I've spent much time with that understands that most of what we write will be consumed on (variably-sized) screens rather than in print, and yet is still accessible to less-technical folks. My sense, though, from our experience, was that it's pretty polarizing, and some people strongly prefer something more like Word.

It has seemed to me for a while that they need to more fully compete with Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) and Microsoft Office 365. A big missing piece of that is email, as you said. They even acquired an email startup called Mailbox, but they killed it instead of adding an email service [1]. Every company needs email, and the most popular email services include Dropbox and Paper like products.

Slack is available as a standalone offering and is very popular, so a Slack clone may not be required. For everything else, limiting your customers to those already paying for duplicate services raises the bar. Your service needs to be enough better that it is worth paying for it twice.

[1] https://www.theverge.com/2015/12/8/9873268/why-dropbox-mailb...


Agreed. We have Office 365 because it was cheaper than hosted Exchange which we were using before. Dropbox needed email/collaboration tools (imagine Teams but years ago) - not dependencies on software that includes the same functionality.

I use Paper and have to say I quite like it - I started using it at my current job where it seemed common and hadn’t heard of it before. The main thing I like it for is quickly putting together group TODOs - you can create checkboxes with [] and can tag people’s names to items and add deadlines. That combined with some indentation is exactly the level of structure I like to organize such things. I’m surprised to find out here that it seems so unpopular.

My startup also uses Paper (and we love/have loved it) but are migrating more and more to Confluence recently. I still use Paper for quick brainstorming/organizing for smaller groups and projects, though. The collaborative editing and always-on edit mode make it great for documents in rapid flux, whereas Confluence is better for long-lived strategy and documentation related items.

I have some friends there who have been job hunting recently, I think a lot of people could see the writing on the wall.

Clients share files with me using Dropbox so I need a Dropbox account. My Dropbox account is now close to full and I have to "manage it". I don't like how files shared with me count against my quota and I don't like having to babysit a service my clients use to share files. I wonder how many business owners "just pay" to make the nag messaging go away.

Very much this. I don't use Dropbox personally. But I have clients that use it extensively and when they all share large files with me I am suddenly in the pay tier just because someone added me to a folder with 100 10 minute videos in it.

It feels an awful lot like double and triple dipping to me.


Not a Dropbox user myself, but this system of counting shared files towards your quota seems pretty awful, and I'm surprised I've not seen more complaints about it. Do other cloud storage providers work this way?

Google doesn't do it as long as you are just adding a shortcut to drive.

However, when the original person deletes the folder/file, you lose access to it since it was only a linked to you and not added to your drive.


I think Google Drive and Mega do (they definitely used to).

On iCloud, "A shared folder only takes up space in the owner's iCloud storage."

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT210910


> I don't like how files shared with me count against my quota

I stopped using dropbox many years ago over this one issue.


I remember when I first heard of dropbox, I just started college and all my peers started sharing their space race challenge links to get 25gb free, must be ~8 years ago. Service was great for exchanging notes and other studying related material. By then 25gb felt like a lot. However fast forward two years, the 25gb free plan ran out if you didn't convert to a pro plan, which I don't think anyone I knew did, because by then the university caught on and provided their own free NAS up to 100GB. Also if you purchased an office 365 student license you got 1TB free for a couple years. I used those services a lot during college, but there was never a need for me to go for any pro plan. Haven't used dropbox since I graduated several years ago.

I've always thought dropbox must make their revenue in B2B because spending hundreds of dollars for cloud for storage a year as an individual never made sense to me.


> Dropbox also announced that chief operating officer Olivia Nottebohm will leave the company February 5.

Interesting change of leadership that was buried in the article - she was only there for < 1 year after leaving Google Cloud. Anyone here have insight / thoughts on the move in the Exec Team?


I'm not even sure that pulling someone from Google Cloud was a good idea to begin with.

Gotta blame someone and it's not going to be the CEO...

It’s not really buried, it’s right at the top as one of the two "key points".

Does anyone else feel like Dropbox has gotten worse in the last year or two? It used to be the "install and forget about it" option for backup and sync. My daughter and wife have both had to get my help in the last year in regards Dropbox failing to sync, failing to work well with Windows in regards to more than one Microsoft account on the same computer, and otherwise requiring me to think about it in a way that I didn't used to. I am a paying customer, albeit probably a small one.

I also notice they now keep pestering to convert to the "all cloud" option rather than having a local copy of everything and just using the cloud as the backup and sync infrastructure. It feels like they have shifted from the "make it easy to become a paying customer" model into the "make it hard to stop being a paying customer" model. That's not a great sign for growth.


Dropbox is often cited as a success story when it comes to startups. But makes me think, is this what we should call successful companies? Companies that takes others money, grow the company until they've grown too much and need to fire people because of their poor decisions? Sure, Dropbox is a whole of 13 years old, which is infinity time on the internet, but considering the rest of the ecosystem with businesses (where some been around for more than one thousand years), is this really what we should aspire towards?

The point of taking others' money really isn't relevant, as those investors have had their exit when Dropox IPO'ed almost 3 years ago. Today's announcement is a product of the company Dropbox is today, not then.

It's absolutely relevant. The need for those investors to even have an exit is what set them on the course to IPO. Today's situation is a direct result of investors herding them in this direction.

I don't think they've been a startup for quite some time. They are a mid-sized tech business, and sometimes businesses have to lay people off. It's the cycle of nature and inevitable as the competitive landscape changes.

Dropbox was a great startup, and is a mediocre corporation.


Dropbox as a small business makes sense. Quality syncing, a few productivity tools like Paper. Along the lines of https://readdle.com

Dropbox as a publicly traded global megacorp does not make sense.


It does as Box seems to be doing fine. It was Dropbox failure at enterprise and trying to focus on consumer when other companies are offering similar features for free. Just bad strategy

To play the devil’s advocate: maybe it doesn’t make sense if you think of Dropbox as a utility for syncing files across computers. But maybe it does make sense if you think of them as a company that’s responsible for safely and securely storing a non-trivial share of world’s data.

Unfortunately, there's really no moat & no differentiation (so others could also be horizontal competitors, making this a commodity), and the giant platform players will always make it easier for their own vertically-integrated offerings to work better with their customer-valuable services and products.

Keep on thinking of Steve Jobs saying companies like these are features not products

I sure hope not. Every vertical company wants my files locked in their walled garden, but I want my files to be horizontally portable. This is a fight where it's nice to have a $10B company in your corner.

In the near future, storage will be a home appliance, with networking and command-and-control. As simple to use as a microwave, unlimited storage with service plans similar to changing water filters.

I agree. This week I set up my Nextcloud on a remote server and will probably get a home appliance eventually. I don't detect any sarcasm. Am I naive?

Yes.

Source: someone who just declared Dropbox critical despite having invested an ungodly amount of time into first an old PC with ubuntu and nextcloud and now my NAS box which I love dearly but is a complete dumpster fire even though I'm tech-literate enough to engage with the enormous number of low-level decisions it regularly throws at me.

It gets new security vulnerabilities every damn week so you can't just turn on the public-facing web services. If you still want those -- and if you want it to replace cloud services, you do -- you'll need to configure the VPN, which is an enormous hassle on both client and server. Also, sometimes there's an update and it just stops working until you pay attention to it. Ditto for network shares, but I think the problem there is in Android / iOS network filesystem implementations. It often Just Doesn't Work, and then I try dropbox and it Just Works. Even when the NAS network share does work, managing permissions is a nightmare, even for simple setups, ditto storage, ditto the VM that theoretically runs nextcloud but in practice gets taken down by an update on a regular basis.

For my next NAS I'm going to try Synology, but they depend on many of the same open source projects that I've seen Just Not Working on the QNAP side, so I'm not terribly hopeful.

Nextcloud devices look promising in the long run but the market hasn't shaken out yet so you're either going to have to invest tons of time in research or you're going to have to do trial and error. In both cases you'll have to make up for deficiencies.

https://nextcloud.com/devices/


I agree without vpn nas security can be poor. There are a lot of open ports handled by obscure applications.

What would be the difficulty with a vpn? Synology has VPN on device. It seems to be a matter of enabling it. Routers also typically include vpn functionality.


I did the same thing over the past few weeks, along with some other self-hosted apps to get rid of as many SaaS dependencies as possible, DropBox being one of them. Fairly easy to install, but someone would need to write the "glue" to piece everything together for it to really take off.

Is this sarcasm?

Sounds reasonable to me. We already have homes with outlandish smart stuff (washers and dryers, I mean really!). If you have a fridge to store your food and a closet to store your clothes, why not a personal data storage unit?

Because it's not necessary and pointlessly inconvenient for most people? If you could store your food and clothes in the cloud, we wouldn't have fridges and closets either.

Yeah we could call them hard drives and sell them in shops.

and here I was thinking that in the near past that's what I used to do (storage appliance, networked, remote accessible).

Do you remember in what context he say that?

Apple was trying to buy Dropbox to incorporate into the OS.

Hmm can you share more about this? It makes sense on the surface but it would be great to know what the context was.

> In 2009, Steve Jobs wanted to pay more than a hundred million dollars for Dropbox. As Houston later told Forbes’ Victoria Barret, when he politely turned down his hero’s offer, Jobs declared that Dropbox was a feature, not a product. Jobs was right: To do what we all want it to do, syncing has to be baked in to all the gadgets we use today. OS companies are warming to that notion—and they don’t need Dropbox to do it.

https://pando.com/2012/02/26/steve-jobs-was-right-dropbox-is...


Other folks have said it was in context of trying to buy Dropbox, which is true.

I believe Steve already saw the fully realized platform of cross device computing in 2001. iPod illuminated the idea that context can birth new device classes, so naturally if you're going to have the same person use multiple devices, their context should morph to the device while being consistent in a global user state. This means that a file syncing (and by extension file sharing) feature is absolutely required to be fluid and desirable as a consumer product.

Firewire was created in part because of this desire for the file sharing to be seamless - now Dropbox had a real-world tested wireless and continuous implementation running on Apple hardware, of course it's an acquisition target (I'm just surprised he didn't go higher knowing how much trouble MobileMe / iCloud accounts were at the time).


Actually this goes way before the iPod. At NeXT they already had a (pretty standard in Unix environments) setup where you could login to any machine on the network and have access to your personal Home folder. I remember reading this was one of the reasons he didn’t right away change over to using a Mac when he came back to Apple.

Dropbox has not evolved over the last ten years. They’ve bolted on features, but as an admin the service is horrible to manage.

Case in point, the admin console is not user friendly. It’s so bad I can’t search for a file in someone’s personal shared folder. I have to rely on the APIs or a third party like BetterCloud to find what I need. When I talked to Dropbox about renewal for my company, we could pay an additional $20k-$30k to get a limited version of BetterCloud to get the admin features I want.

I’m also bitter because I interviewed there in their early days and they used my experience to get answers to problems they were facing on their team. My interview was free support for them and I knew afterwards the path they walked me down was intentional to get ideas on what problems they had.


I understand it's a management decision, but I'm curious as to why companies don't really start with "hey, we need to lay off 11%. Who here would like to volunteer. Here are the perks we are going to offer"

See how many that gets you. Then again, that might get you more than 11% if you aren't careful.


The issue with this approach is that the company then leaves itself vulnerable to a big brain drain. If the bulk of those volunteers end up being your best seniors/leads who know they can just go down the street and pick up another job at comparable comp all while getting a cozy three month vacation that you're bankrolling...well, it's easy to see how you could be left in a much worse position imo.

The high performers, the people who make money for the company, are rarely the first to be let go.

Correct, which is why it's not ideal to allow folks to volunteer for severance as the GP suggested. The company wants to choose who to let go to avoid putting themselves in a worse spot afterwards.

Wrong. People with the highest salary are usually the first to be let go, regardless of their status or contribution.

update: you think rationally, looking from the "greater good" perspective. Decisions are never made like that in reality. The way it happens is the board says "we need to cut expenses by X% or else", and that becomes your new "rational" -- or you lose your CEO job. Nobody cares about long term consequences in situations like that.


The point is they might be the first ones to voluntarily leave.

That way you lose the people who have the best prospects elsewhere, often your top employees. This way you can pick which 11% you least want to keep.

Yup this is known as the Dead Sea Effect [0]. Your best people leave and you're left with the worst performers. Do this a few times and you end up with a barely functioning organisation.

[0] http://brucefwebster.com/2008/04/11/the-wetware-crisis-the-d...


More than losing the people who have the best prospects, you lose the ones that feels the least connected to the company. Even if you have many other prospects, if you still feel strongly for the company you work, you'll probably stay. The ones that leaves if you ask them to, wouldn't have stayed for very long anyway.

Usually they don't want any 11%, they want a specific 11% (or whatever) because they are cutting specific programs.

For example, when I was part of a layoff in 2001, the company mostly let go of engineers and IT (and kept all the sales and marketing), but it wasn't just any engineers, it was the engineers working on a specific product that was being cut.

Also, for IT, my boss came to the three of us and said, "I have to cut one of you, but you're all equally good, so you guys can decide amongst yourself if you want". So at least down at the lower level they did as you suggest.


This would encourage the people who have the most options to leave, and those with the least to stay. This isn't necessarily the same, but is likely to be very similar to encouraging your best employees to leave, the worst ones to stay.

When COVID hit the company I was at previously gave opened a company wide offer some months of severance + playing for COBRA.

more importantly, it won't get you the precise 11% you want to get rid of.

I recall someone who worked there describing people being paid to do nothing, just so they wouldn't be hired by anyone else. Sounded like they had fat to cut.

Regarding their product and viability, I've always relied on their product and have found it to generally perform better than OneDrive or Google drive. But I can get 1TB of OneDrive for $70/year with all the Office apps and I need Google drive for my phone's photos, so I've never seen the point of paying DropBox. Their value prop was commodified.


Tbh, how hard is it to create a Dropbox equivalent with today's technologies? Like how many people would be required to do so? I don't think it's anywhere near to 2300.

How well does OneDrive work for files that aren't MS Office files?

One Drive works perfectly. I've used it to store game saves, photos, videos. Anything works. The only advantage MS Office compatible files have is that they can be edited online in an online session of word, excel or PowerPoint.

It's still a disk integration like DropBox. That aspect works pretty well. So yeah, for me, it's like similar pricing as the others but, hey office on Mac or PC on 5 computers (family plan for me).

Dropbox:

- CPU runaway consumption on OSX.

- Annoying off-on drive storage paradigm.

- Annoying integration with other apps (eg. Excel).

- Little differentiation from competition.

- Poor integration with their other offerings (eg. Paper).

But most importantly, a complete failure of vision and innovation. There are 5 or 6 initiatives they could implement now that would turn the tide.


>But most importantly, a complete failure of vision and innovation.

I dream of the day when people will link the "Why use Dropbox when you can just..." HackerNews comment unironically.

People like to do the "success!" victory laps quite early. There's more to success than a cool product and insiders getting to exit wealthy. I think this is still a yet-to-be-seen situation.


It seems like a failure of expectations. Dropbox created a market and delivered an extremely well executed product to meet it. But that wasn't enough to satisfy the expectation of growth that VC funded businesses have.

"Innovate or die" seems to ring true here.

I'm not sure I agree. A magic folder that syncs across all your devices is going to be useful for the foreseeable future. Eventually maybe Dropbox dies without real innovation but I think that fundamental concept could last for decades.

> A magic folder that syncs across all your devices is going to be useful for the foreseeable future.

This is exactly why they must innovate. Their core tech is useful, but it is also replicable; so as soon as someone has magic folder PLUS more useful features bundled together (as some already do), Dropbox fails to be as worth having as a separate service for users that prefer the bundle. Which is why they have issues at present.


> People like to do the "success!" victory laps quite early. There's more to success than a cool product and insiders getting to exit wealthy. I think this is still a yet-to-be-seen situation.

Is success only taking over the world?


>Is success only taking over the world?

Who said that? To me success is building a sustainable business, regardless of the size.

I know what success isn't: making billionaires of insiders while destroying shareholder value.


Dropbox is profitable and has been around for a decade. That's more than most businesses can say. How long do they need to be around for your "blessing"? A century?

I'd add lack of flexibility as a huge downside for me. No way to sync external drives to Dropbox, even though their common 2TB plan is way bigger than most laptops' builtin storage. And no way to sync any files on your primary drive outside of the main ~/Dropbox folder. I always want to sync certain configuration settings so that if I use the same apps on multiple computers, or get a new computer, everything just works the same way. Syncing symlinks used to be a decent workaround for this even though it was never officially recommended, but they killed that ability and never replaced it with any other solutions.

Now I've switched to iCloud, where I can more easily back up my full machine, and which syncs my Documents folder by default which is where a lot of Mac apps have started putting some configuration files. It's also a better replacement for Google Photos which is shutting down its free storage soon.

It always felt like Dropbox was too eager to play "me too" with all the other cloud service offerings, and not only did they not particularly succeed at that, but they kind of gave up on their own core competency to do it.


> There are 5 or 6 initiatives they could implement now that would turn the tide.

And those are?


Dropbox failed to go vertical. They need to sell a hardware storage device.

Was the COO fired? It sounds like she was, reading this article.

Is this a move to further reduce cost by rehiring in less-expensive locations? I imagine engineering functions will also be affected.


> Was the COO fired? It sounds like she was, reading this article.

Knowing nothing about the internals at Dropbox, it does sound like it (on the surface at least). Having worked at a couple major tech companies now, executives never get fired. They "step down", or go on sabbatical ... and never come back. The usual hallmark of the action is that the email about it isn't sent by the leaving executive themselves, it's sent by their boss.

Normal employees don't tend to have these options, but executives are so high profile that it seems to be an informalized practice for both company and executive to save face. It's hard to worry about them too much though because their exit package is likely more than than most of us could make given ten years.


Also, the terms of whatever seperation gets figured out often includes keeping the exec as an employee (in a legal sense). They might not actually be doing any meaninful work, but but they still get the paychecks, extended time to exercise options/stock, health benefits, etc ...

Probably asked to resign. If the business is continuing to fail, and the CEO doesn’t take responsibility, someone has to be sacrificed for the board, share holders, etc.

Yea, the fact it's in the same message as the layoffs show it was part of the layoffs but she was important enough to mention by name.

Migrated from Dropbox when I noticed that their client uses about 300 Mb of memory on Windows and my old laptop with HDD was terribly slow just right after booting. WTF? Is it really necessary 300Mb of memory to just sync my files to the cloud?

This week I canceled Dropbox, and on my Windows PC, I moved ~500 GiB from my Dropbox folder over to the Google Drive File Stream volume.

I barely noticed any CPU usage from GDFS, and Dropbox.exe was also somewhat reasonable, but the fans of the MacBook Air next to me started screaming.

There is something wrong with their Mac client, and with GDFS, the old MBA remains quieter, and the battery life improved as well.


I've been on macOS for years now, but was installing Dropbox on a Windows machine. It kept downloading that client instead of the folder sync app.

Took me a while to figure out why.. the Windows Install / Store interstitial is doing them no favors, and their documentation barely even addresses the "Install anyway" link you need to click on.


Electron will do that to you...

I thought they used python?

I doubt that gargantuan UI is now python.

As a longtime Linux user I felt snubbed for when Dropbbox decided that ext4 was the only file system that they were going to support. God forbid that Red Hat decide that XFS was the default file system in RHEL7 and Dropbox couldn't make the effort to support the premier Linux distro?

I'm 100% on Syncthing these days. It's not perfect, but it gets the job done and I'm happy there's no big company involved. I set it up my way!


I think Fedora is using Btrfs now. Does Dropbox not support Fedora and RHEL?

I liked dropbox early on. There was nothing radical about what they were doing but it was very well executed and simple enough to recommend to less technical people and share files with them. Even with the big companies offering cross subsidised platform integrated products I probably would have kept using them but they never innovated their pricing and products enough.

I waited years for a family plan and decided it wasn't worth paying multiple individual subscriptions. They were basically double charging for family photo storage so I bailed on them and never looked back. Apparently they introduced such a plan late last year and I never noticed. Now I have multiple streaming services, hosting and other things competing for my money. Many files which I used to protect and share with Dropbox are in a private git repo now. Photos are going into specialised photo products. And people tend to share files over different services.


I interviewed with Dropbox before their IPO. It felt like an old company that everyone is coasting. I wonder how young companies get to that point so quickly?

They stop growing. The ambitious people leave first when they realize growth is slowing. Ultimately, only the less ambitious are left.

By not innovating in new products would be my guess.

Dropbox is their product and? There's "Corporate Dropbox" and that's it?


They should have gone all in on Dropbox Paper and building out an office suite to compete with GSuite and O365. Didn't happen.

This is a steep hill to climb. Microsoft is deeply entrenched in enterprises with .Net, Active Directory, SQL server, all that jazz (witness how fast Teams sped past Slack usage). It's easier for Microsoft to roll out storage than it is for Dropbox to become Microsoft or Google.

Jobs was right, Dropbox is a feature, not a product.


It doesn't have to be another clone. For example Quip was acquired by Sales and there are tons of modern collaboration software tools like Airtable, Notion, Slack, etc. They could've created a suite that was tailored around that while leveraging their existing integrations with Office.

Also people forget Box.com exists and does an even better job with corporate storage than Dropbox with much better features and UX.


https://www.notion.so/ is a thing, so there's probably a market, but it would be extremely hard to pull off.

I wish they kept their Mailbox app as well - I really enjoyed using it (https://www.theverge.com/2015/12/8/9873268/why-dropbox-mailb...)

Why? It's almost impossible to keep up with Microsoft (as LibreOffice shows), it's definitely impossible to write one from scratch.

Dropbox Paper itself was an acquisition.

I feel like a lot of the companies are the same way though. I mean AirBnB pretty much only ever has had 1 product.

Dropbox should have remained lean. From what I heard they had a hiring frenzy, they were dipping their toes into many products. Dropbox paper is “meh”. Other than the core syncing product, they didn’t get anything solid that was top of its class.

Also agree re: anti-competitive behavior from MS and GOOG. The law ought to be simple: you can’t bundle things as free into other things just to fend off competitors.

Goog is taking its ad money and probably the worst offender.


"6 months of COBRA" presumably means Dropbox will pay 6 months of COBRA premiums for departed team members? COBRA has a statutory duration much longer than 6 months.

Isn’t Cobra usually paid for by the member?

Yes, it means Dropbox will pay you the cost of 6 months of COBRA. So let's say your premium is $1500/mo, Dropbox is going to give you up to $9k.

They could have just said continued healthcare for 6 months - that's got to be a lot better than paying for 6 months of COBRA.

It's the same thing. COBRA means you continue any healthcare plan you had while employed, with the only difference being you pay the full premium rather than your company subsidizing it. But in this case, it seems Dropbox is still subsidizing it (if that is indeed what that sentence in the letter means)... so it is just continued health coverage.

It's not the same thing. Continued healthcare means you are fully on the employer plan and afterwards, the COBRA timer starts. Paying for COBRA means the timer starts now.

Employer health plans can't cover non-employees.

The group plan covers employees. Former employees are not going to be eligible. Though the company can pay the COBRA premiums for the same coverage fairly seamlessly.

I was part of a group that split from a company, our new company paid COBRA premiums for our people until we set up our own group plan for the next year.


File synchronization is a niche feature, not a product. Or it can be a product, but only in a utility-software way, not a billion-dollar enterprise way. Salesforce can acquire them?

I tend to agree. File sync was a product 10+ years ago, but has become so commoditized that it is more of a pack-in feature now. Then again, I thought the same thing about chat and web meetings 10 years ago and that keeps getting reinvented.

Well at least it’s more upfront and sincere than some of the cut backs that have been happening.

This was my thought too. I don't know what Dropbox employess are going through but on the surface this looks a lot better than the layoffs that I've witnessed first hand.

I don’t remember a single product or feature they have built in the last 3-4 years which I found extremely useful. Steve Jobs was not wrong.

Also I have been ready to pay them $2-5 for like 50-100GB of storage but they only want $10 for 1TB which I don’t want. I just compromised and use OneDrive which comes with my Office 365 instead.


I went all-in on Dropbox Paper to write up some research I had been working on for my PhD. I ended up having to split into three Paper files(?) because the lag on each keyboard press degenerated to 500-1000ms or worse. I eventually realised it was completely unusable and ported my work back to traditional word processing software. My supervisor proclaimed it a fad, and he was right.

The only way that Dropbox can stay independent is that they develop some email solution. Small companies (which I believe are core of Dropbox business) need just 3 things: email, docs and spreadsheets.

Dropbox had acquired the Mailbox email client in 2013, but then shut it down in 2015. This was a very annoying turn of events for people who used the app prior to the acquisition.

Funny enough I think Basecamp must have realized this exact niche a few years ago because they now offer all three of those for small business.

Knew the writing was on the wall for this company the moment I had to dig into a drop down chevron to find the download button for a file shared with me on Dropbox.

Making it frustrating to collaborate with paying customers of your platform is a sure sign something is rotten.


The company is nowhere near failing. It's just not necessary to be as big as it is.

Dropbox still has the best sync technology by far, however they failed to really capitalize on a single market. The consumer side cares more about value and it's hard to compete with Microsoft/Apple/Google while the business side is already well-served by Box.com.

I still think there's a good opportunity if they can build on storage to create applications like Asana/Airtable/Notion/Slack but that seems to have failed with the Paper experiment and the strange "dropbox" app window that opens instead of a file explorer.


> the strange "dropbox" app window that opens instead of a file explorer.

Every time I encounter this I reconsider my Dropbox subscription.


Unfortunately, it's inevitable, since presenting a regular file explorer looks like they're competing in the commodity file syncing / backup space, not the higher-value enterprise collaboration space. They're trying not to be a "feature" as Steve Jobs called them.

Enterprise collaboration is going to use what integrates with their email - that's going to be OneDrive or Google Drive. The commodity syncing space was where DropBox shined, and it feels weird taking a step back from that.

I don't get that. As opposed to what? Displaying an unfamiliar window what gets in the way and is confusing?

But the dropbox "app" doesn't even really do that much, it's just a clone of a native file explorer, but worse.

I'm a paying customer and I just realised that I'd not been using my Dropbox on my rebuilt laptop for >6months. I gave up with the crappy view. That's pretty bad if I only just noticed!

I'm glad I'm not the only one. And once I close that window with Cmd+Q, I have a mild panic attack that I closed the actual service that was in the middle of a sync and may have lost some data.

I switched to sync.com 3 months ago, and never looked back.

[I'm being polite :)] I've been unable to find anything to make an informed opinion on what they mean by end-to-end encryption, which is prominently mentioned on the home page etc.

[I'm not being polite. #BeingThatGuy :)] My best guess is that they're using their own definition of end-to-end encryption. i.e., SSL for transit + encryption at rest = "end-to-end encryption". Whatever.


If you forget your password, you lose your files. There is a 'forgot password' option which you can disable when signing up.

https://www.sync.com/your-privacy/

Figure out what you want from the page.


For me the main reason I'm not a Dropbox customer is their rigid pricing structure, £7.99 a month for 1TB is good value for people who use 1TB, but I only need like 10% of that so would be wasting money

I'm guessing they bank on a small % of "whale" consumers using all their allowance and everyone else being way under the limit

I've stuck with Google drive for the 100gb plan at £1.99 which suits my needs, but would move to Dropbox in a heartbeat if they offered a similar tier


I can get Office 365 Family (6 people), each one getting 1TB, plus 60 mins of skype per month each, plus word, excel, PowerPoint, online and desktop. Dropbox's Family plan, includes only 2TB of storage and basically nothing more (I know about paper but who uses it?). Office365 costs 50 euros per year. Dropbox 200 euros per year! Four times as expensive, and much less features. They are crazy expensive.

In 2015/16/17 there was also the silly 5-seat minimum for businesses. I purchased a $150/yr plan only to be suddenly billed $750 (in the fine print, you were committing to 5 seats minimum, whether the seats were assigned or not.) If you checked your credit card bill more than 30 days out, thats it, no refund.

> I'm guessing they bank on a small % of "whale" consumers using all their allowance and everyone else being way under the limit

For a £7.99/month plan, the cost of goods sold (COGS) on the actual storage and bandwidth is probably about 33% of that -- and that's based on average usage.

Here's a longer explanation with citations that I wrote in 2018: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16465883#16470633. I haven't looked at their annual reports since then, but the COGS could have easily dropped by 50% in that time, so it might be way less than 33%.

Just based on that 2018 data, the other £5 or so is customer acquisition cost, software development, support, administration, and everything else.

The COGS is a small enough part of the price that, even if they could remove a lot of it (by reducing usage and/or the cap), the absolute cost reduction might be 10% or 20% of the current price.

This is true for the smaller plans of almost all SaaS. The vendor's variable COGS are not what you're paying for. (Exception: cloud services with entirely usage-based pricing and no monthly minimum, like S3. Those are rare.)


They're not likely to add smaller packages though, since they KNOW 99% of their customers will never go up that high. It's a bit like gmail; they offered 1 GB at the time (if I recall correctly?) which was a ridiculous amount that in practice, 99% of people would NEVER reach. But it was great PR. Mind you, gmail is "free".

If Dropbox were to offer a 500GB package for half price, 99% of their customers that found out about it would switch to that. What's worse, they would likely open themselves up to a class action suit for people who feel like they overpaid for years.

Introducing a cheaper, lower capacity subscription now would be suicide for the company.


> they would likely open themselves up to a class action suit for people who feel like they overpaid for years.

That's overly dramatic. Companies cut prices every day.

It is however true that Dropbox cannot compete on price with the likes of MS, Google, and Apple. They can only compete on experience and features, and few people are impressed by their evolution in those areas.

Do we really need a monstruous (and monstruously slow) html view when right-clicking on the systray icon? Do we really need online file-viewers that, most of the times, seem meant to stop you from getting at the actual file?

Dropbox was great when it did one thing flawlessly and got out of your way, while allowing for hackability and true cross-platform support. When they were doing fun things like the easter-egg-hunts and challenges to get extra space. Now they often feel like Yet Another SV App shouting "LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! I CAN DO THIS AND THAT AND YOU DON'T NEED ANYTHING ELSE IN YOUR LIFE! LET ME INGEST ALL YOUR DATA AND LOCK YOU IN FOREVER!". I still have an account mostly because I have a free grandfathered account, but the minute they turn it off (and inevitably they will, since they are now a Serious Company with Serious Strategies and Serious Spreadsheets) I'll just check out.


The useless, giant electron ticked me off. That was soon followed by a price increase. So I dropped them.

On the way out, Dropbox blocked me from deleting 'tex.web' on my local machine, because it thought it owned anything with a '.web' extension.


Real hard to make a business with a $2 a month fee. When credit card fees in the US, the bank is eating like 50 cents of it. I think 7-8 bucks/pounds is about the minimum price for many apps to bother with it. Below that rather just have a limited “free” tier.

But I'd pay $25 a year in a heartbeat, otherwise I'm shuffling between free tiers.

Charge annually? I use Zoho for email because of their $12/year/user lite usage plan. There's no way I'd pay for MS365 or Google Workplace given my usage. I also have an MXRoute account, historio.us, etc. where the recurring theme is they cost $20/year or less.

Credit card fees are negotiable with most processors. You can get a fee structure that is optimized for low dollar transactions.

That minimum fee has recently increased. Like 1-2 months ago. You are not going to negotiate that down with VISA/MC. Talk to a bar/restaurant worker, who gets to see the transaction fees.

Charge yearly... Works for domains..

Sure.

Domains are really close to 0 support. Can you email support questions when Dropbox starts acting weird? For $10-$20 a year, one support ticket makes the customer unprofitable for the entire year.

Real thin margins, seems gross to try and build a business on the $1-$2 a month thing. I wouldn’t.

Works for a Titans like apple and google because they are making money in other ways..


> I'm guessing they bank on a small % of "whale" consumers using all their allowance and everyone else being way under the limit

Reminded me of this story [0] of a team with a 500TB account serving as a database and VCS.

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/sysadmin/comments/eaphr8/a_dropbox_...


> Dropbox still has the best sync by far than any other system

This is a common dev thought. But almost no company in the world is going to care about that. You can onboard some consumer with that point but I hope they don't actually try to sign companies using that.


Of course it doesn't matter if it's just used for syncing some office files but Dropbox is common in creative fields like video production and visual effects where sync performance is a real selling point.

Except it matters to users. When you’re trying to collaborate in real-time with folks, poor sync gets noticed.

I can't talk about GDrive or iCloud. However, window's cloud storage is REALLY good. Far better than dropbox IMO.

It actually surprised me how seamless it worked on my new laptop. Everything just worked out of the box, the only thing I had to do was provide my windows credentials (benefits of that sort of integration).

That being said, I've not tried to access those same files from my phone. Maybe that's worse. Dropbox does a really good job of syncing well across platforms.


Do you mean Onedrive? It's not built-in but installed by default on Windows. It's still not as good as Dropbox. For example it only recently added differential syncing (for non-office files)[1] while Dropbox puts much more effort into syncing tech [2].

Most people probably won't notice the difference because the alternatives are good enough now. But if you have millions of files in deep folders, constant changes from multiple devices, or need instant syncing, then Dropbox is still worth the premium for the performance.

1. https://office365itpros.com/2020/04/28/onedrive-differential... 2. https://dropbox.tech/infrastructure/rewriting-the-heart-of-o...


> how seamless it worked on my new laptop. Everything just worked out of the box.

All the other sync / backup apps also work that way after installation.

I actually dislike Onedrive web interface look compared to the top competitors. Photo view often appears buggy when scrolling down (outlook.com file view also has problems). Sharing folders/files as a public link gives full access by default.

Both web Outlook and Onedrive do not seem to have received much updates in the past few years.


Unfortunately there are a lot of filenames it can't handle, and can't always explain. It supports only Windows filenames, while I use my Mac as a unix machine and create all sorts of filenames.

That spooked me.


I have no issues saving files to onedrive on my iphone and having it sync painlessly to my desktop folder on my PC, and vice versa.

It feels really seamless to me.


> window's cloud storage is REALLY good. Far better than dropbox IMO.

That's "thanks" to Dropbox though. Microsoft's "Live" features used to be terrible. It took a competitor to show them how it's done and force them to step up their game.


I have been a Dropbox customer for several years and every single time I try to download a file from the web I get stumped.

It's really a user hostile interface and it's up there on my list of things to replace but not high enough that I've done anything about it.


I actually just made a little app yesterday that converts share urls into direct HTTP download URLs that are usable by cURL, etc. Not sure if this solves your problem:

https://apitman.com/apps/droplink/


just downloaded it the other day to search for old files from long ago and was barraged by popups, installers, and trying to get me to do 5 things at once. So confusing. I gave up searching for what I was looking for

Dropbox had a discontinuous price increase a couple of years ago that soured me on them. I'm still a user -- the price is still a couple of notches below marginal utility. But I no longer recommend it.

Something similar happened to Evernote -- I stopped liking the brand when I started to feel price-gouged. And then I quit on them shortly after when the apps were not snappy and well-organized to my liking (at the price they were charging me). I was a bit of an Evernote evangelizer too.

For a while I was storing fiches de police (what's the name for that in American? Light cardstock with lines?) in shoe boxes, but I ran out of shoeboxes. I've begun using cans from canned peaches and pineapples.


> fiches de police (what's the name for that in American? Light cardstock with lines?)

Index cards. Usually 3x5" or 4x6".

Popular for use with the "hipster PDA" (index cards and a binder-clip), a response to palm pilots and the like being way more complicated than necessary for the problem they're trying to solve--seems similar to what you ended up with.


Because software switching is annoying, raising prices is the oldest trick in the book for getting revenue growth when you have tapped out the potential inherent in your product.

Precisely, yes. And then this makes you wary of subscription-based software in general. At one point it seemed that an "extended Moore's law" (if not CPU transistors, then the general cost of compute, memory and storage) and the beauty of near-zero marginal costs would lead to a bright "there's an app for that" future. I remember Evernote launched at some point an iOS app to store food reviews, it was glorious. But now the future seems darker. Bean counters have finally noticed the windfall that's the extreme economies of scale in internet businesses. There's no "singularity" of accelerated tech change. I'm tech-savvy enough to roll out a personal blog stored on my custom sqlite format, but isn't it safer if I just write longhand and file it physically? Use the typing process for proofchecking. Decelerationism.

Same here - a price increase makes you reconsider the relationship you've got with the service you're using. Companies should strongly consider leaving existing customers alone with legacy plans rather than aiming to extract as much revenue as possible.

For me Dropbox didn't do that, so instead of happily leaving our existing business account for most team members - we re-evaluated our usage of it, limited it to just a few accounts with the aim of getting rid of it entirely.

At that point it's not something you'd consider recommending it in passing to other people.


What is the bandwidth of a peach tin full of index cards, anyway?

"index cards", perhaps?

I believe you’re referring to “Notecards”. In the US they come in 2 common sizes: 5”x7” & 4”x6”

>For a while I was storing fiches de police (what's the name for that in American? Light cardstock with lines?) in shoe boxes, but I ran out of shoeboxes. I've begun using cans from canned peaches and pineapples.

Hmm... you may not be Dropbox's most typical consumer! :-)


For me, Dropbox is a great product that makes my life/workflow with music production so much easier and convenient. Moving interface things around is at worst annoying but really just trivial. I don't understand why people on HN get so reliably get fired up about UI changes.

These are not simply UI changes. Dropbox implements more and more dark patterns that go directly against everything it once stood for. This service used to be a fire-and-forget way to have a local directory that's also online and on multiple machines. Now it's a service that tries to be everything at once and never gets out of your way.

Completely agree! Dropbox was at its best when it had almost no UI outside of "sync status" and "pause/resume" in a menu. Now they constantly shove their terrible UI in your face when all you ever want to do is sync/view your files.

I have to say I have literally never once had the thought that Dropbox is in my way. I have a 3TB pro account which I have setup on my studio computer with full sync to an external drive. I record/work on sessions with sync continually active. Both of those things should be "no no"'s, but it works fine.

I go home and my laptop is smart syncing the recently active sessions only which conserves space on the laptop drive but lets me do some small work on recently active sessions.

It's totally seamless and I cannot recall the last time I was even alerted by Dropbox about anything except that I was hitting my 3TB cap soon.

The only issue I ever had was using it on Windows where it would occasionally create conflicted file copies, which was annoying, but moving to OSX resolved that.


You don't use the web interface much, eh?

I do. I go through stuff and use the star interface to track things I want to focus on. Actually I was slightly annoyed that they made it more hidden on the web interface. Looks like they added it back.

You can tell that an increasing proportion of their product engineering is based around figuring out how to convince/trick people into paying, or paying more. This seems to be the rule and not the exception for SaaS companies that have grown to a certain point.

If I'm paying for something I don't want to be engaged. I want to be efficient. It's incredible just how bad UIs have gotten in the last 10 years.

I use Nextcloud and there are parts of the UI that defy logic. For example, when I select a file it brings up an "Actions" menu that's hidden via a hamburger button. It has 4 options and I have about 3000px of horizontal whitespace on the same row.

TLDR; It's all hamburgers and whitespace and I don't understand why.


Too bad for Dropbox and other companies HN people are not the only ones.

There are at least two big variables here:

1 - Is the new UI actually better? by how much?

2 - What's the cost of change for the existing users?

Bonus complexity: There are large groups of different customers inside your customer base.

If your product is the best ever with no competitor in sight you can annoy them almost indefinitely, the second anything remotely similar appears, all the built up resentment just fuels the migration and it usually behaves like a tsunami, at first it's barely noticeable until a 3 foot wall keeps going and going and you can't do anything about it.


Agreed, it's been a really nice service. Plus, downloading is already taken care of for me with sync, which is where Dropbox is really positioned for best use.

If I'm downloading something from a Dropbox, that's a pretty good sign I'm not going to be working with that person much, or it's a one-off task.


Absolutely this. As a producer as well dropbox means I can work off a laptop as my main machine - albeit a tricked out 15in mbp with 1TB SSD. Selective sync is amazing. The web UI is great for listening to demos and such - I'd love a playlist/play dir feature though.

I thought I was the only one who had trouble with this. Based on the other replies here, that's definitely not the case.

I don't think the writing is on the wall at all here. I think the company over shot a little, by trying to be a general-purpose enterprise platform instead of a tool (or suite of tools).

But from what I know the core business and the team are still really strong. They're just more of a Slack and less of a Microsoft, and probably have to adjust for that realization.


I'm confused here. Someone shared with me a file via dropbox, xlsx, and right at the top of the sidebar where I can leave comments, there's a download button.

> Knew the writing was on the wall for this company the moment I had to dig into a drop down chevron to find the download button for a file shared with me on Dropbox.

Why is this such a huge problem for you? Seems super minor?


Its not about the button. It’s a signal that the people who want to make the best UI are less powerful in the company than the people who want to drive the highest number of Dropbox signups (making users think that signing up for Dropbox is the only/preferred way to get the file).

That’s a sign that the company’s growth has tapped out and that they need to do shit like that, a solid leading indicator of trouble ahead.


I think (but it is a guess) that what the parent comment means is that the company is at a stage where they need to resort to bad UI to try and keep users in some way. It might be hard to download a file that has been shared with a user but they might make it easy to have that file ready if you have a dropbox account.

If you see Dropbox as a service for managing files, and many of us do, then not being able to easily download the actual file is annoying. The client still won't let you set a preference for direct download links instead of dropbox preview links, the android client is basically useless and more and more the features added have no value to me as a user.

It's a really reliable signal that the company is optmizing for the wrong things. The company just got out of its way to make non-customers life harder, that normally doesn't happen by accident.

It's not impactful by itself, but the more impactful things are less reliable as signals anyway.


for me it's a sign that marketing people took over the company

I don't get why marketing would care about a minor detail in the UI after you're already using the product?

The detail is that you have two people: one is paying for the product and one is not. The one who is paying shares a file with the one who doesn't pay. Dropbox provides a worse experience for the person who doesn't pay.

This is in contrast to services like Zoom or Google Drive where part of the sales pitch is that you get a seamless experience when communicating with people - even if the person you're talking to might not be paying, you can guarantee because you are paying their experience won't be impaired, at least for the duration of your interaction.


User retention. Keep people in the platform so they can't take their data. Force users to come back to dropbox again and again (to run up your engagement stats) instead of throwing the file over Slack or whatever.

Have you seen the recent trend of hiding the login button.

Just venting on a semi-related note: Dropbox's web UI is atrocious. I have a side bar which won't go away with features I don't want. It's clunky, slow and endlessly frustrating. Viewing a PDF with something like a schematic is almost impossible unless I download it locally.

Just get the basics right before you upsell.


Will SWEs be cut? Or is this primarily because their "Virtual First policy means they require fewer [people] to support their in-office environment"?

you know what doesn’t get talked about: severence. why do we need it? why do employers give it? should one negotiate it? what is fair/unfair?

> why do we need it?

Because we don't have a social safety net in the United States, so getting laid off could make you instantly destitute.

> why do employers give it?

To maintain their community reputation. In the future when they hire again, it's easier to paper over a layoff if you can show that you tried to take care of the employees.

Also because it's the ethical thing to do.

> should one negotiate it?

Usually in a mass layoff like this you can't negotiate it, since it's a standard package and you don't really have any leverage. But if you're a one off "layoff" you can and probably should negotiate it. Your leverage is "I might sue you for wrongful termination". So the company has to make a calculus on what that might cost them.

> what is fair/unfair?

That's the 64,000 dollar question, isn't it? It seems like three months is pretty typical. When someone gets six months most people call them "lucky". When someone gets a year people call it "unheard of". No whether that's fair or not is anyone's guess.

It would be great to get some data on how long the average laid off tech worker is out of work. Maybe start a movement to get severance to match that. But again, the laid off employee has very little leverage.


> That's the 64,000 dollar question, isn't it? It seems like three months is pretty typical. When someone gets six months most people call them "lucky". When someone gets a year people call it "unheard of". No whether that's fair or not is anyone's guess.

That's an interesting take from the point of view of the USA. They address international DropBox employees in passing in the letter. For Mexico, by law companies have to pay 3 months severance when they decide to lay off an employee. Sometimes, when the person is fired for having bad performance the company can negotiate for less than that. In theory when an employee is fired for some cause attributable to him, the company doesn't have to pay the severance but the burden of proof is in the company, and it is very difficult to prove so.

That "at will" employment culture in the USA looks crazy ruthless for someone living with these protections.


As an American who has friends in sane countries, I feel the same way. But keep in mind we still have unemployment insurance in the US, where the government pays you for a few months after you lose your job (although it's capped pretty low). Also sometimes the way the USA does it makes sense too.

I was at a company that did a layoff once where they wanted to get rid of some underperformers in Europe, but Europe had such strong employment protections, the company was forced to get rid of good people in the USA instead to maintain cash flow.

After the layoff, I had coworkers in Europe who literally just stopped showing up, but had to be paid for six months anyway.

If the US had similar protections, the company would have just closed up shop and put 200 people out of work, instead of just a few.

Now if the US could just get a decent social safety net, then the way the US did things wouldn't be so bad.


Right, completely agree. We have the example of Orange telephone in France (previously France Telecom) : A company that needed to reduce workforce, but because of the strong labor laws (skewed in favour of the employee) the executives decided to make life miserable to employees to push them to quit... the result was tragically pushing them to suicide ( https://www.dw.com/en/france-orange-top-bosses-caused-employ... ).

I like the safety net option. It kind of decouples it from the goodwill of the company, and (I being kind of in favour of socialist practices) it will be easier to apply to the whole population.


what is a scenario where the employee would have leverage in a layoff? it’s hard to imagine except if something unethical/wrongful was going on leading up the layoff: sexual harassment, discrimination

Usually when you are a high level employee they want you to sign an anti-disparagement clause. For example the COO here. Even if Dropbox did nothing wrong, it could really hurt their business if she went around giving talks about how awful Dropbox is, or talking about internal politics to the press.

There is a good chance someone would even pay her for that information, so she has leverage by saying "you're going to cut off my future income, how much is that worth to you?".

Or a situation where there was some questionable behavior and there could be a lawsuit about wrongful termination. Usually the severance comes with a waiver where you waive your right to sue the company. So it's a negotiation of how much that waiver is worth to both you and the company. The higher up you are, the more likely there is room for negotiation there on the value of a possible lawsuit.


Maybe for a key hire with a specific skill-set. Principal engineer level probably can leverage severance since the hiring pipeline at that level is much slower

Employers give it for one of three reasons:

1. It was negotiated as part of your job offer. (It is too late to try to negotiate it at any other time.)

2. It provides a lever for future behavior. "By accepting this severance payment, you agree not to sue THE COMPANY for any reason, and not to disparage THE COMPANY, and ..."

3. It makes the employer look reasonable to current and future employees. "Laid off 11% of the workplace due to economic conditions; 3 months of severance and various benefits" is much more conducive to hiring than "Laid off 11% of the workforce with no notice, no severance, no nothing".


While severance benefits may help with company goodwill or assuage the feelings of the survivors, I believe the real reason is mostly number 2.

Exit aggreements almost always come with liability/discrimination disclaimers and usually new or updated language related to disclosures, company equipment, digital access, IP rights, non-compete language, and so on. Tying the exit agreement to new money provides the necessary consideration to establish a valid contract.


Having your income suddenly reduced to near zero is a significant financial shock to a lot of people. Rents/mortgages are due, etc. I suppose you can make it optional and have each employee negotiate but that will either end up with no one getting it, or a lot of people opting out and then surprised with the sudden drop. Kind of what happens with health insurance.

> why do employers give it?

Because employers want you to sign a general release of claims, non-disparagement agreement, and/or other agreements when being sent off, and those aren't binding contracts without something in exchange.

And because, in many industries, to avoid hard feelings—if you aren't being let go for cause, especially if you have networks in a high-demand field, they want you giving positive or neutral referrals, not negative ones. And as things shift, they might even want you back.

And because the practice maintains the incentive for loyalty when company performance gives reason to expect imminent layoffs: if you don't give severance, the financial cost of quitting or being fired compared to being laid off is smaller.


Because it's the right thing to do. Fin.

Starting this Google doc to help these people who got laid off today. If you or someone you know has lost their job today, add your details below

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Hqa6XQEodjs4JkwPcsls...

To individuals: If are looking for any employment and are open to sharing it to be discovered, please put your information here:

To companies: If you are looking to hire, please check out and reach out to any of the talented individuals below.


Starting this Google doc to help these people who laid off today. If you or someone you know has lost their job today, add your details below

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Hqa6XQEodjs4JkwPcsls...

To individuals: If are looking for any employment and are open to sharing it to be discovered, please put your information here:

To companies: If you are looking to hire, please check out and reach out to any of the talented individuals below.


As someone who was impacted by a past round of Uber layoffs, seeing this kind of messaging from the top is refreshing.

Everyone is at risk.

I just sold my position on DBX. I used to be bullish on Dropbox and I'm a loyal user, but the reality is that Wall Street doesn't appreciate this space given how commoditized it has become.

Unfortunately I have started to believe them. There's really no recent breaktroughs or interesting bets coming from Dropbox. Also the fact that migration is as simple as dropping their folder into the folder of something like Drive or iCloud makes that supposedly sticky factor not real.

Paradoxically what was their UX breakthrough will be their demise, given how easy is to migrate out.


Part of me expected the message to be "Your storage is running out, upgrade to dropbox pro"

Dropbox hasn't innovated in years and when they did they went into the wrong direction. I'm an existing subscriber for many years and will be dropping off when my subscription runs out in May. For an app that does one thing and one thing only, they sure are sloooooow in developing something. Case in point: Dropbox is still not native on ARM Mac. For god sake even Microsoft Office is and Adobe Lightroom. Not exactly small apps from small companies.

There's so much that could be done with storage. I have 50GB of images taken over the last 20 years. Do I really have to upload them to Dropbox file sync (I like to keep original files) AND to Apple/Google Photos just in order to be able to see them nicely on a mobile device. Yea the dropbox app kind of allows it, but it's a mediocre experience and not very fast either. Dropbox dropped the end customer, but also didn't really get big in Enterprises (who often run a homogenous ecosystem, e.g. based on Microsoft or Google and thus just upgrade to Onedrive/Google Drive). So then... who is the core audience? Is it big enough? Is it served well with existing offerings?


It's too bad Apple and Dropbox didn't hit it off in their earlier days. Apple's file management experience still isn't up to Dropbox's level.

A major advantage of dropbox is that it works everywhere. There is quite a change that wouldn't be the case had Apple bought them.

> I realize this is incredibly hard on the Dropboxers and their families who are impacted, and I take full responsibility for this decision.

What does it even mean to say you take full responsibility for the decision? Is the CEO taking a huge compensation cut for having arrived at this stage? What difference does that make for the ones who are let go (other than perhaps an official letter that they weren’t fired for cause)?


I've been saying this over and over this year. Here's where I feel Dropbox has missed the mark:

Dropbox understood long ago that it wasn't a document sync company, but a work collaboration company.

It's unbelievable that a company of this size has failed to create popular work collaboration tools for chat (Slack), video conferencing (Slack), document creation (Notion) and design (Figma).


Microsoft Office 365 with 1TB of OneDrive storage per person for up to 6 people for €69 a year is almost impossible to compete with.

Microsoft Office 365 convinces some companies to use Azure over AWS. Eating Dropbox lunch is plain sailing for Microsoft.

Dropbox probably has the best client sync across platforms (no GDrive, icloud, or onedrive for linux yet) but I find their plans too much for me.

I was using their free plan and used for sync custom config and bash files between OSs and distros, I would love to buy one of their plans, but 2TB it's too much for me. After their 3 devices limitation, I lost trust of investing into their plans, I would hate to pay a company that makes a bait and switch of their main product.

Anyway after the bait and switch, I migrated to a self hosted solution with an old laptop and syncthing, and works great. But I miss some of the dropbox features, but not that much to pay for 90% of storage I will never use.

Yeah, selfhost it's more expensive than their plans, and I'm responsible for the reliability; but I have more control and better features, so not so bad so far.


I agree, not only their pricing is high but I also tried to upgrade to the lowest plan to use it for my one-man company, but I couldn't do that as they don't provide a business invoice and you can't add a VAT number for their "Personal" plan. So I did actually purchase the plan than contacted support to refund me as they can't provide a proper invoice.

Which self-hosted solution did you go with? I am looking to switch from Dropbox to NextCloud.

Why does Dropbox need 2800+ employees?

I remember visiting the Dropbox HQ and Twitter HQ in 2017 as these companies were growing like crazy. There were so many people doing... not much? At the time I wondered why these companies needed so many employees. I still wonder.


I think the “build sustainable business” crowd should understand that part of what they imply is “don’t employ lots of people.” Layoffs reframe that idea in an interesting way: not employing lots of people also means not offering a job someone might want.

I use dropbox for saving import documents/receipts/statements. Being early adopter, have 5GB storage. All I need is a peace of mind that I don't loose important stuff if my computer breaks down or temporarily becomes unavailable. I don't need any other feature. If I had to pay about $10 per year, I would just use it happily. But their minimum plan is >$100. I occasionally use file-requests feature. If it was like pay as you go type, that would be good too. I think reasonable low tier pricing will get them consistent long term revenue.

I just paid money for managed NextCloud hosting last night and was starting my transition today. If all goes well, then $27/year is going to be a lot better than a kneecapped free tier or a $120/year paid plan.

How much storage do you get for $27/year, and where? (just curious)

On my side I've been happy with Hetzner: https://www.hetzner.com/storage/storage-share

Cloudamo. 100GB. I was managing something like 9.2GB on my Dropbox, so it'll be a big jump. They say you can upgrade storage space but I don't know how the pricing works for that.

Thanks. I checked, and it costs $15/year per additional 100 GB. Hence it reaches Dropbox’s $120 at 720 GB. Of course, you also get a managed NextBox instance for that price.

Thanks for sharing what you found!

Should've listened to this guy all along: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9224

For those that don't know you can get a free account up to 20gb using referrals (check out ebay), 20gb is more than enough for me to sync my core work between my three main machines.

When your feature comparison page doesn't include your free plan, that's a sign that the paid plans don't compare favorably. It's also not very user-friendly because it makes it hard for people to figure out which features they already have access to (I just learned they have a direct file-sending tool, and I have no idea if it's included in the free tier).

https://www.dropbox.com/plans


I was a pretty early user of dropbox. One of things I used dropbox for was storing some of my college homework assignments.

I estimate that these assignments occupied ~10 megabytes at most.

Dropbox deleted my stored files due to account inactivity. Yes, they sent me an email (to a email I do not actively monitor anymore) saying they would do so.

Storing 2GB worth of files on S3 Glacier for 20 years would have cost dropbox less than 2 dollars.

They lost me as a customer for life, and do not deserve sympathy.


Dropbox solved a problem that we all had 10 years ago.

Today, for new users, it isn’t much of a problem because every platform (Windows, Android, Mac, Adobe, etc.) gives you free or integrated cloud storage. Many have multi-platform clients.

There is just no growth path left for their original product. It’s not a solution to a problem that new users have.

I still use Dropbox occasionally, but now iCloud handles 99% of what Dropbox did for me. I didn’t even choose to use iCloud. It was just there one day.


Can anyone recommend a product similar in nature to the initial beginnings of Dropbox - a client that syncs a folder to the cloud and allows you to access/easily share those files? Not just rsync or a command line thing.

I tried the Google Drive client for this (for Mac) and it was just a huge memory/resource hog, way worse than the initial DropBox client. But if someone just had "Dropbox as it was in like, 2010", that would be killer.


At least in the customer space, I think Dropbox's main problem is that they have refused to offer lower space / lower cost packages. I can get 100 GB on Google Drive for $2 / month. The lowest package on Dropbox is $10 / month for 2 TB. I barely even fill half of the 100GB that I'm using on Google Drive. Why would I pay 6x as much for storage that I'm never going to use?

Sorry to hear, especially given the long history of high-scale, performant engineering.

If you are in infrastructure or SRE or developer tooling and looking, I am hiring at Peloton https://www.onepeloton.com/careers/software?city=%C2%A0%C2%A...


Dropbox are providing a commodity that is included by MS and Google for free, essentially, as almost all businesses have to buy office and/or gmail.

Unless you can differentiate significantly, you’re dead.

What does Dropbox do? It allows me to access my files anywhere.

That’s a pretty basic product. They’ve tried different features but failed to produce anything winning.

Best plan is a quick exit to salesforce before dropbox go bankrupt.


I’ve been a Dropbox paid subscriber for many years (since it was Dropbox Pro). I’m not going to renew it. The constant upsell nagging is too much. Dropbox would be perfect if it just STFU and synced files.

One of my clients opening files I shared by Dropbox on their mobile phone successfully got dark patterned into signing up for a paid subscription. That was a fun mess to clean up. Mission accomplished?


The standard practice of hiring close to you and in "famous" hubs is dying a slow and painful death as companies realize that after you skim the cream of the software engineers, there's no measurable difference between an engineer living and working in Africa vs US and (western) Europe. Hopefully they re-orient and change their processes to benefit.

Even smart good people have to fire people. Dropbox clearly overextended itself, which was a mistake and is entirely the CEO's fault. But the severance package is the best way to judge their ethics in these cases. It looks like they're behaving compassionately.

We should all refuse to work for well funded companies that do layoffs without ethical severance packages.


Unlike others in that space (I am looking at you, Slack), Dropbox is still innovating. Dropbox Paper is the best collaborative writing tool that I have at my disposal (O365, Gsuite, Overleaf being the others). I use it with coworkers all the time to draft things or just to keep notes. And hey, the .paper files are actually on my computer.

Sad for the people involved, but not surprising.

They restricted syncing to 3 devices only. And the only way to remove that was to pay some exorbitant price (I think it was like $20 a month). So I switched to OneDrive. And ended up paying for the extra space (at $7 a month) which also included office.

They really did not think their plan through, even after people complained.


I didn’t skimmed the article. Quick question, is it only Sales and Marketing or layoffs does include engineering too?

Dropbox has executed its business well. While I'm certain they are working on some things unrelated to their core business, I can't imagine you need thousands of employees to keep things running smoothly and make incremental improvements to their data compression and deduplication scheme.

If anyone who lost their job at Dropbox (or anywhere else) is reading this and needs help making a resume, email me and I'll give you a free month of https://standardresume.co.

riley@standardresume.co


Can you draw parallels between Zoom and Dropbox? Users love the product but it makes less sense for the IT department to pay for them when Microsoft and Google are offering similar and "good enough" alternatives for "free"?

Can Zoom survive?


Zoom didn't gain traction by being a pioneer in video conferencing, they gained traction by offering a far superior and easier experience, I agree some dark patterns are leveraged for that experience but at the end of the day a zoom meeting is easier to start and is of a higher quality than what Microsoft and Google have offered for years and especially in Google's case seemed to consider a solved problem.

Sad to hear - I never quite realised how awesome Dropbox was until we were forced by our company to migrate to OneDrive / Sharepoint.

I can't help but feel that 2021 is going to be full of companies who are re-structuring and announcing layoffs...


I stopped using Dropbox and starting using Microsoft OneDrive. For the same price, I get the same amount of storage, plus an Outlook account, Office 365 on-line, the iOS and Android apps, and installable desktop versions of the Office Suite.

The only trouble is that the last time I checked there was no sync client for Linux.

Dropbox locked me out of my account years ago and I'm sure they have locked out thousands of other people too.

I suspect loss of trust helps a company go into decline, especially when the company holds a vital assets.


Happy paid user here.

Dropbox has a polished app everywhere, syncs flawlessly and is reliable.

Saving a coffee/month doesn’t worth my time wasted on finding an alternative that works on a number of platforms that my collaborators and I use.


And yet, they are still hiring for many positions: https://www.dropbox.com/jobs/all-jobs

I know these letters are probably hard to write but when you do have to write one I think referring to people as "people" instead of "resources" would be better.

Dropbox is just one of those services that got turned into commodity as tech caught up to them over the years especially for regular consumers

Feels like they're setting up for an acquisition.

In other words, they fired the bottom ~ 10% of people incapable of being productive (to their definition) while working from home...

The writing has been on the wall for many years. Unpopular opinion: Zoom is next when everyone else improves their codec.

Just my personal observation, I think Dropbox is the perfect example of a company whose time has passed. Between Google drive, and OneDrive being pushed by Microsoft, Dropbox just can't do things all that much better to justify most people using a separate service.

Slack mainly because Google can't figure out which chat service they want to sell, somehow continues to buck the trend and sell itself as a standalone service.


COBRA? COBRA is a sad expensive joke

Healthcare needs to be disconnected from the employer. Public option and private and all healthcare benefits need to go to salary. It would make workers able to change jobs easier, businesses able to start and compete with others/countries easier, and would reduce ageism as well as going direct to consumer it would help the fixed pricing market of healthcare/medical services and supplies.

We don't get our auto/home/life insurance through work, why our most private healthcare/insurance? It is a legacy thing that needs to end and is harming wage increases, competition and worker/labor freedom.

Removing healthcare from employer responsibilities is actually pro-business and pro-worker and encourages the competition we need in that industry/service.

Side note: For some reason I really don't like Dropbox color schemes and fonts/typography. Feels like it was made in a machine with billions of AB tests but ultimately looks jarring. I miss the nice clean branding and the little illustrations.


I don't understand why this doesn't get more discussion. It's a much more conservative step than "medicare for all" and would do a lot of good.

As I understand it, you need collective bargaining against insurers to keep individual premiums down. Employers do that today, and if employers just pay out their insurance spend to employees, the employees will get less insurance as a result. A single payer system means the government negotiates on behalf of all of the citizens, allowing it to keep costs down much more than our current system.

Or you mandate that the insurers can only rate on certain variables (e.g. zip code) and/or you mandate a pooling system so that insurers who have many low risk people on their books subsidise insurers who have many high risk people.

Right, there are other solutions, but "just cut the insurance check to employees" isn't a good option for employees.

It has no clear advantages over M4A, and the critical problem is it has no cost-control consequence.

It astonishes me that a global health crisis can ironically trigger loss of healthcare for millions. That's such an abject failure of a system.

You're right, healthcare has no business being tightly coupled to employers -- or employment, in my opinion. Everyone should have healthcare.


My health insurance isn't taxed, or at least effectively not anywhere near what my top salary bracket is. Our tax law means there would be no short-term advantage for either me or my employer to shift that compensation into cash.

If my employer offered additional desirable insurance to replace an equal amount of pre-tax salary, I would gladly except that extra compensation too.


Self employed and businesses get a tax break/expense for that. It could be the same with personal insurance. Doing things only for the tax break leads you to all sorts of finagling twisted fixed markets.

I'd always take real wages over total/real compensation which is supposedly about 30-35% of your pay.

Binding healthcare to employers also makes for less competitive consumer markets as the target customers of medical services are insurers and employers, not the actual users of the service, individuals.

A good first step to break this legacy grip and fixed market would be allowing individuals to expense out their healthcare cost, it would also benefit people that have health issues and not make it so detrimental to their quality of life.

Right now healthcare is a cartel borg bureaucracy because of being tied to employers and not a direct consumer service.


COBRA's joke is just the joke of the most expensive healthcare in the world and a system that largely ties healthcare to employment. It's not like there's anything extra expensive about COBRA; it's just all the questionable expense of American healthcare without an employer subsidizing it.

They say “NAMER-based employees will be eligible for up to six months of COBRA”. Note that by law, a former employee is eligible to pay for up to 18 months of continuation health coverage under COBRA. So perhaps they mean that Dropbox will pay the premiums for up to 6 months, but it’s awfully unclear as written.

(Also I assume “NAMER” means North America. It’s a funny way to say “The United States” in this context, given that presumably Canada and Mexico, which are in North America, don’t have a law called COBRA which is about this.)


That's exactly what they mean. 6 months of cobra subsidization.

It's the lesser of three evils: losing coverage altogether, having to buy it as part of an open risk pool, or continuing coverage as part of the company's risk pool and rates the company has negotiated for its employees. It would be nice to have better options, but they will all be very expensive for the taxpayer. Either way, the money has to come out of someone's pocket.

By getting more people insured, Obamacare was expected to have bent down the rising curve of healthcare costs. I am not sure if that has actually happened...


Out of curiosity, is there something lower cost/better that employees who have recently quit or been laid off should look into?

Lower cost, sure any number of options on the market. I used https://www.ehealthinsurance.com years ago between jobs

Lower cost premiums maybe, but I doubt any low-premium marketplace plans will be lower deductible than the corporate/COBRA plans offered by a company like Dropbox.

They're covering 6 months of it, so it's free for 6 months. After those 6 months it does get expensive, yes.

> COBRA? COBRA is a sad expensive joke

COBRA and supplemental insurance as primary are great late stage capitalism for sure


Everyone is integral to the company until they are not. Only founders and investors win at the end

Not surprised.

Perhaps Im wrong but their price offering compared to Google Drive and iCloud is a bit much right?


I was JUST seeing job opportunities in my LinkedIn from these folks. That's just careless.

Lot's of companies have to make cuts in some areas while continuing to hire in another. Especially a company the size of Dropbox where there are many products and teams. However I agree that its a bad look and often tough to hire when you are in the news about layoffs.

Right, it's all about the optics. It smacks of desperation.

What were you seeing them for? The article quotes them saying that this cut is partially to allow them to expand some roles. That's not really careless if that's what they're doing.

Specifically they say they're cutting back some kinds of support staff due to office closures, and growing some product roles.


I was seeing them for engineering positions. (Front end if I recall correctly). As I've mentioned elsewhere though, the release of a significant portion of their workforce as "deadwood" speaks of a company that'll drop you too. These current times are not the best times to say, "hey, come give us a shot, we'll lay you off if things aren't looking so good". People are looking for a bit more stability. I get that Dropbox can't just keep a bunch of people around if it's doing nothing but costing them money. It just looks bad to let people go while still hiring.

I don't understand why you think cutting some jobs means they can't possibly also need to hire for other jobs?

For the reasons stated in other places. Seeing a company that's cutting a large portion of their workforce is just bad optics. Yes, YOU may perceive it as wise business, but those who are looking to have a job in a year might not feel good about hiring on with a company that just had a layoff of a significant part of their workforce. What's to stop them from laying you off when their new plan doesn't work out as well? Companies that are doing well do not do large sweeping cuts.They tend to do smaller more precise cuts. This one seems like desperation.

If you need to make people redundant for business reasons then you need to do it.

It's not careless to do something that needs to be done. What should they do instead? Try to conceal the layoffs? I think that's illegal in most jurisdictions.

And they also cannot stop hiring.

All the actions here are rational and as carefully done as they could be.


I too was planning on applying to them in the next few days. But I will first find out who exactly is being cut out. This article says that its some support staff (I assume these are mainly non-technical people), but it does raise some concerns.

It will be interesting to see if Sia or Filecoin can compete in this tight market.

Is no one going to talk about how Drake posted this article? /s

Was the COO a bad fit? She was only in the role for ~1 year.

Every company needs a scapegoat when things are going downhill, and a relatively new exec is the perfect one when the established leadership doesn't want to take responsibility.

>“The steps we’re taking today are painful, but necessary,” Dropbox CEO Drew Houston said in an employee memo Wednesday.

Did they consider the "painful, but necessary" step of not paying the CEO $110 million salary?


Thats not his salary, his salary is about 700k I guess.

> "The move will affect 315 people, who will be notified by the end of the business day."

I'm guessing more than a few found out from this article directly. What a rough way to find out you were laid off.


How do you find out if you are getting laid off from the article exactly?

Dropbox suffers hard from feature bloat!

... but then they will re-appear at the next sync.

steve jobs said that these are features not products and well.... he hasn't proven wrong yet imo.

They should do hosting for conservatives :)

off topic: I'm the type of person who likes to select text while reading, and this page is terrible for that. It seems to replace the select cursor icon with a highlighter icon, which is super jarring. It also adds a weird popup after you selected text.

I agree, on top of that the animation while scrolling feels like scroll-hijacking. At first I thought the page is somehow laggy, when it isn't.

On the topic of the page itself: the percent scroll bar on the top of the page is quite nice and I wish more articles did this.

That’s what the regular scroll bar should be for, instead of auto-hiding.

yet another instance of webapps going full circle when it comes to ui.

same, i guess dropbox went downhill from the day they did the UI/UX redesign

These egotistical CEOs need to work on how to deliver difficult news without making so much of it about how hard it is on themselves.

> This is a hard message for me to send

> This is one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make in my 14 years as CEO

No one asked how you feel, Drew. You'll be fine.


If no emotion was expressed, I think they'd face criticism for being cold and calculated.

The emotions you express are perhaps empathy, compassion, and regret.

Emotions about the affected people, not about how hard it has been on you personally.


It's with a heavy heart I deliver this difficult news to my team and our investors...

Emotion. But, not centered around the individual


Yes! If I'd just been fired, the last thing I would care about are their feelings, and how my firing is part of the "strategic goal" I am no longer involved in.

He also mentioned taking full responsibility. That line should have been followed by how he did that. Pay reduction for himself? Upper management?


They don't really care what the people they're firing think as long as they aren't upset enough to sue or cause other problems.

Messaging like this is for the people who are still at the company. Talking about "strategic goals" is trying to reassure them that the company isn't on verge of collapse.


Drew has always been this self-centered. About a year ago he got up in front of the whole company to whine about how engineers are eating too many potato chips from the kitchen, announcing "belt tightening". Completely ridiculous statements from a multibillionaire.

Around the same time the company paid out very little of nominal bonus plan. I quit over the bonus fiasco and many other people in my area left at the same time for the same reason.


haha, did this actually happen? i imagine him being in the kitchen discovering the empty remains of the last bag of potato chips immediately prior.

Yes it actually happened and it is not even the first time that I've had to suffer through a gazillionaire whining about how software developers' Doritos appetites were too costly. I had previously heard the same thing during Google's "scrappy" phase.

And no one really believes corporate communications to start with, when it comes to motives or feelings, so it's a double dose of "yeah right"...

I don’t disagree, but is it such a bad thing to convey some empathy?

"This is hard for me" is not conveying empathy, it's seeking sympathy.



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