Dropbox (service)

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Dropbox logo 2015.svg
Developer(s) Dropbox, Inc.
Initial release June 2007; 9 years ago (2007-06)
Stable release 16.4.30 (December 21, 2016; 31 days ago (2016-12-21)[1]) [±]
Preview release 15.3.17 (November 7, 2016; 2 months ago (2016-11-07)[2]) [±]
Development status Active
Written in
Operating system Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, Windows Phone
Available in 17 languages
Type Online backup service
License Combined GPLv2 and proprietary software[3] (Linux Nautilus)
Alexa rank Increase 72 (November 2016)[4]
Website www.dropbox.com

Dropbox is a file hosting service operated by American company Dropbox, Inc., headquartered in San Francisco, California, that offers cloud storage, file synchronization, personal cloud, and client software.

Dropbox creates a special folder on the user's computer, the contents of which are then synchronized to Dropbox's servers and to other computers and devices that the user has installed Dropbox on, keeping the same files up-to-date on all devices. Dropbox uses a freemium business model, where users are offered a free account with a set storage size, with paid subscriptions available that offer more capacity and additional features.[5] Dropbox Basic users are given 2 GB of free storage space.[5] Dropbox Pro users are given 1 TB of storage space, as well as additional features, including advanced sharing controls, remote wipe, and an optional Extended Version History add-on.[5]

Dropbox has computer apps for Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, and Linux computers,[6] and mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone smartphones and tablets.[7]

Dropbox was founded in 2007, by MIT students Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, as a startup company from the American seed accelerator Y Combinator.[8]



Dropbox founder Drew Houston
Dropbox founder Arash Ferdowsi

Dropbox founder Houston conceived the Dropbox concept after repeatedly forgetting his USB flash drive while he was a student at MIT. He says that existing services at the time "suffered problems with Internet latency, large files, bugs, or just made me think too much."[9] He began making something for his personal use, but then realized that it could benefit others with the same problems.[9] Houston founded Dropbox, Inc. in June 2007, and shortly thereafter secured seed funding from Y Combinator.[8] Dropbox officially launched at 2008's TechCrunch50, an annual technology conference.[10] Owing to trademark disputes between Proxy, Inc. and Evenflow (Dropbox's parent company), Dropbox's official domain name was "getdropbox.com" until October 2009, when it acquired its current domain, "dropbox.com".[10]

In May 2010, Dropbox users in China were unable to access Dropbox. Later, Dropbox confirmed it had been blocked by the Chinese government. Because the censorship usually focuses on popular services only, many considered this evidence of Dropbox's rapidly rising popularity and international user base.[11][12][13][14][15]

In May 2011, Dropbox struck deals with Japanese mobile service providers Softbank and Sony Ericsson. As per the terms of the deal Dropbox will come preloaded on their mobile telephones.[16]

Dropbox had more than 50 million registered users in 2011, increasing to 400 million by June 2015.[17][18]

According to OPSWAT's December 2011 Market Share Report, Dropbox held 14.14% of the worldwide backup client market, based on number of installations.[19]


In April 2012, Dropbox announced a new feature allowing users to automatically upload photographs or videos from camera, tablet, SD card, or smartphone. Users will be given up to 3 GB (initially 5 GB) extra space to accommodate the photographs and videos uploaded in this fashion, but the space is permanently added to the user's allowance and is not restricted to pictures. It is viewed as a move against Google's recently launched Google Drive and Microsoft's OneDrive.[20]As of 26 September 2012, Facebook and Dropbox integrated to allow group users to share files to Facebook Groups using Dropbox’s cloud-based storage system. The feature allows users to directly share inside Facebook's group pages without exiting the Facebook domain. This did not replace the built-in Facebook uploading feature, but added to it for any files that were already uploaded to their Dropbox storage account.[21] On November 12, 2012, Dropbox announced it had reached 100 million users.[22]

On December 19, 2012, Dropbox acquired Snapjoy, which provides a service for aggregating, archiving and viewing all digital photographs taken with cameras, phones, or popular photo applications. Financial terms were not released at the time of the acquisition.[23] As of February 2013, Dropbox was responsible for 0.29% of all worldwide Internet traffic.[24] On March 15, 2013, Dropbox acquired the email management application for iOS Mailbox.[25][26][27] On July 20, 2013, Dropbox acquired mobile coupon startup Endorse.[28] On November 13, 2013, Dropbox announced it had reached 200 million users, and announced changes to "Dropbox for Business".[29] On November 21, 2013, Dropbox released new application versions for iOS. The new design has a cleaner and simpler user interface which brings the app in-line with other iOS 7 offerings.[30]


Dropbox was unblocked in China in February 2014, although the reason for this is still unclear.[31] Dropbox was blocked again in June 2014, using DNS spoofing. On April 9, 2014, Dropbox announced that Condoleezza Rice would be joining their board of directors,[32] prompting protests from some users who were concerned about her appointment.[33] Rice Hadley Gates LLC, a consultancy firm which consists of Rice, former US national security adviser Stephen Hadley, and former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, had previously advised Dropbox.[34]

On April 17, 2014, Dropbox acquired Hackpad, a real-time collaborative text editor.[35][36] On May 21, 2014, Dropbox announced that it had bought 3D Photo Sharing App Bubbli. Bubbli's founders Ben Newhouse and Terrence McArdle said they were "thrilled" to be joining Dropbox.[37] On September 16, 2014, Dropbox discovered that Apple’s new iOS 8 introduces a compatibility issue that may prevent Dropbox and Carousel from properly uploading a user's photos and videos.[38][39][40]

In July 2014, Dropbox introduced "streaming sync" for its computer apps. Streaming sync was described as a new "supercharged" synchronization speed for large files that improves the upload or download time by up to 2 times.[41]

On November 4, 2014, Dropbox announced a partnership with Microsoft to integrate Dropbox and Microsoft Office applications on iOS, Android and the Office 365 applications on the web.[42][43][44] On January 21, 2015, Dropbox acquired CloudOn, a company that provided mobile applications for document editing and creation.[45] In July, 2015, Dropbox announced the acquisition of Clementine, an enterprise communication service.[46]

In June, 2015, Dropbox released a new connect feature for its iOS users to provide faster installation process by pointing a phone or tablet camera on a generated image.

On August 12, 2015, Dropbox announced the availability of its USB security key which provides two-factor authentication to its services. The Universal 2nd Factor technology adds another layer of protection when accessing your Dropbox account by implementing a two-step verification system.[47]

In December 2015, Dropbox announced the shut-down of two of its high-profile consumer services, Mailbox and Carousel.[48][49]

On August 30, 2016, Dropbox ceased support of all Windows XP computers.

In 2016, Dropbox was ranked #2 on the Forbes Cloud 100 list.[50]

Device availability[edit]

Dropbox has computer apps for Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, and Linux computers,[6] and mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone smartphones and tablets.[7]


Dropbox is funded by Sequoia Capital, Accel Partners, and Amidzad.[8] Starting in mid-2009, it began releasing new features gradually to help measure customer interest, a Lean Startup technique.[51] TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Business Insider, and Financial Post speculated that Dropbox's valuation could be up to $5 to $10 billion,[52] while its 2011 revenue was expected to be $240 million.[17] On April 3, 2012, Dropbox announced that Bono and The Edge, two members of the Irish rock band U2, were individual investors in the company.[53]

Business model[edit]

China Basin Landing, the headquarters of Dropbox

Dropbox uses a freemium business model, where users are offered a free account with a set storage size, with paid subscriptions available that offer more capacity and additional features.[5]

Dropbox Basic users are given 2 GB of free storage space.[5] This can be expanded through referrals; users recommend the service to other people, and if those people start using the service, the user is awarded with additional 500 MB storage space. Dropbox Basic users can earn up to 16 GB through the referral program.[54]

Dropbox Pro users are given 1 TB of storage space, as well as additional features, including:

Advanced sharing controls: When sharing a link to a file or folder, users can set passwords and expiration limits.[55]

Remote wipe: If a device is stolen or lost, users can remotely wipe the Dropbox folder from the device the next time it comes online.[56]

"Extended Version History": An available add-on, it makes Dropbox keep deleted and previous versions of files for one year, a significant extension of the default 30-day recovery time.[57]

Similarly to Dropbox Basic, Dropbox Pro users can also earn extra space through referrals. Pro users earn 1 GB per referral, up to 32 GB.[54]

Dropbox Business is Dropbox's solution for corporations, adding more business-centered functionality for teams, including collaboration tools, advanced security and control, unlimited file recovery, user management and granular permissions, and options for unlimited storage.[58] For large organizations, Dropbox offers Dropbox Enterprise, the "highest tier" of its product offerings, adding domain management tools, an assigned Dropbox customer support member, and help from "expert advisors" on deployment and user training.[59]


The Dropbox software enables users to drop any file into a designated folder. The file is then automatically uploaded to Dropbox's cloud-based service and made available to any other of the user's computers and devices that also have the Dropbox software installed, keeping the file up-to-date on all systems.[60] When a file in a user's Dropbox folder is changed, Dropbox only uploads the pieces of the file that have been changed, whenever possible.[61]

When a file or folder is deleted, users can recover it within 30 days. For Dropbox Pro users, this recovery time can be extended to one year, by purchasing an "Extended Version History" add-on.[57]

Dropbox also offers a LAN sync feature, where, instead of receiving information and data from the Dropbox servers, computers on the local network can exchange files directly between each other, potentially significantly improving synchronization speeds.[62]

Originally, the Dropbox servers and computer apps were written in Python.[63] In July 2014, Dropbox began migrating its backend infrastructure to Go.[64]

In September 2012, Dropbox's website codebase was rewritten from JavaScript to CoffeeScript.[65]

Dropbox originally used Amazon's S3 storage system to store the files, but as of 2016 they use their own hardware.[66][67] Dropbox uses SSL transfers for synchronization and stores the data via AES-256 encryption,[68] though this is done with Dropbox's own encryption keys, and not the users'.[69]

The functionality of Dropbox can be integrated into third-party applications through an application programming interface (API).[70]

User-created projects[edit]

Users have devised a number of uses for and mashups of the technology that expand Dropbox's functionality. These include: sending files to a Dropbox via Gmail; using Dropbox to sync instant messaging chat logs; BitTorrent management; password management; remote application launching and system monitoring; and as a free Web hosting service.[71]


Dropbox has been praised by many publications—including The Economist, New York Times, PC Magazine, and The Washington Post—for its simple design and ease of use.[72][73][74][75] It has also received several awards, including the Crunchie Award in 2009 for Best Internet Application, and Macworld's 2009 Editor's Choice Award. It was nominated for a 2010 Webby Award, and for the 2010 Mac Design Awards by Ars Technica.[76][77][78][79]

In 2011, Dropbox was named as the world's fifth most valuable web startup after Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, and Groupon,[80][81][82] and has been described as Y Combinator's most successful investment to date,[83] and in 2010 was among the top 10 iPhone most popular apps of all time since global release, a two-year period, according to TechCrunch.[84] In 2011, it was voted among the top 10 Android apps of all time, according to ZDNet,[85] said to be one of the top 50 emerging companies by TIEcon,[86] and called one of the 20 best startups of Silicon Valley in the preceding year.[87] Houston was called the best young tech entrepreneur by Business Week in 2010,[88] and he and co-founder Arash Ferdowsi were named among the top 30 under 30 entrepreneurs by inc.com in 2011.[89] In January 2012, the company was named startup of the year by TechCrunch.[90]

Privacy concerns[edit]

Dropbox has been criticized by the independent security researcher Derek Newton, who said that Dropbox stores client authentication secrets (not passwords) on disk in plain-text (this was fixed in version 1.2.48)[91] and by the software engineer Miguel de Icaza, who says that Dropbox's terms of service contradict its privacy policy, and that the company's famous claim "Dropbox employees aren't able to access user files" is a lie.[92]

In May 2011, a complaint was filed with the U.S. FTC alleging Dropbox misled users about the privacy and security of their files. At the heart of the complaint was the policy of data deduplication, where the system checks if a file has been uploaded before by any other user, and links to the existing copy if so; and the policy of using a single AES-256 key for every file on the system so Dropbox can (and does, for deduplication) look at encrypted files stored on the system, with the consequence that any intruder who gets the key (as well as Dropbox employees) could decrypt any file if they had access to Dropbox's backend storage infrastructure.[93]

On June 20, 2011, TechCrunch reported that all Dropbox accounts could be accessed without password for four hours. This was later widely reported in the mainstream press and caused some doubt about Dropbox's "cloud" technology model.[94] The error was caused by an authentication code update made at 1:54 p.m. Pacific Time;[95] it was detected at 5:41 p.m. and immediately fixed. About 1% of Dropbox's users were logged in at that time; all sessions were immediately terminated. All users with compromised accounts were notified by email.[96][97]

On July 2, 2011, Christopher White published an article in Neowin that made comments similar to those Nate Hoffelder published the same day in The Digital Reader article, "Dropbox Just Showed Us Why You Can't Rely on the Cloud".[98] In "Dropbox can legally sell all of your files [Update]", White reported: "Dropbox, a popular tool used for sharing files between computers and friends, recently updated their Terms of Service. They attempted to reduce some of the tedious legalese in order to make it easier for normal people to understand. It appears that they have succeeded in that mission and in the process have taken ownership of every file that uses their service. The section relating to "Your Stuff & Your Privacy" spells out the policy change as follows:

We sometimes need your permission to do what you ask us to do with your stuff (for example, hosting, making public, or sharing your files). By submitting your stuff to the Services, you grant us (and those we work with to provide the Services) worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable rights to use, copy, distribute, prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of, perform, or publicly display that stuff to the extent we think it necessary for the Service. You must ensure you have the rights you need to grant us that permission.

In an update, White reports: "After an initial public outcry, Dropbox has added the following line to the end of their license agreement: "This license is solely to enable us to technically administer, display, and operate the Services." In response, Neowin notes: "While this is a step in the right direction, it still makes no sense as to why a product that is used to move files from one computer to another needs the ability to "prepare derivative works of" anyone's files."[99]

On July 31, 2012, Dropbox announced that an employee's account had been hacked, resulting in a number of Dropbox users being spammed by email.[100] In March 2013, users reported additional spam resulting from the July 2012 email address leak.[101]

On June 6, 2013, The Guardian and The Washington Post publicized confidential documents suggesting Dropbox was being considered for inclusion in the National Security Agency's classified PRISM program of Internet surveillance.[102][103]

On January 10, 2014, Dropbox experienced an outage, which the company publicly acknowledged on the company's home page: "We are aware of an issue currently affecting the Dropbox site". It continued, "We have identified the cause, which was the result of an issue that arose during routine internal maintenance, and are working to fix this as soon as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience." A hacker group called The 1775 Sec tweeted that it had compromised Dropbox's site to honor the anniversary of the Internet activist and computer programmer Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide in January 2013,[104] and had stolen a list of emails, which they posted on the website Pastebin. However, Dropbox denied having been hacked, asserting the "hacker incident" was a hoax. The security researcher Wesley Mcgrew further pointed out the emails supposedly stolen from Dropbox have been found elsewhere on the web, and a known Anonymous Twitter account officially denied the hacker group's involvement.[105]

Dropbox prevents sharing of copyrighted data, by checking the hash of files shared in public folders or between users against a blacklist of copyrighted material. This only applies to files or folders shared with other users or publicly, and not to files kept in an individual's Dropbox folder that are not shared.[106]

According to Dropbox, the cloud service provider has strict policies on security of users files, data, and maintained privacy implications. Any Dropbox accounts require two-step verification.[clarification needed] For further privacy implications, Dropbox provides users option to choose above regular login verification. Two-step verification is another secure option for users account. This verification option requires users to enter a security code on top of usual username and password login.[107] On users behalf, Dropbox offers the service of encrypting users files and folders.[citation needed] Dropbox employees will not be able to access a user's files without the user's username and password. Nonetheless, Dropbox policies have certain exceptions to their policy.[108] According to Dropbox, users' privacy is one of their top priorities. Dropbox for Business is created and made available for users to store important files that require more advanced security options.[109]

In May 2014, Dropbox suddenly disabled access to links that have been previously shared, although the decision causes inconvenience to many users that are relying on the shared links in their workflow, and the intention of sharing a document as web link often is to make it publicly available. The decision was taken in response to an IntraLinks discovery that others than those the link was shared with could find it out. For example, the shared link may appear in referral statistics of other web sites when someone clicks on a link in the shared Dropbox document that refers to the external site.[110]

In a July 2014 interview, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden called Dropbox "hostile to privacy" because its encryption model enables the company to surrender user data to government agencies, and recommended using the competing service SpiderOak instead.[111] According to a September 2014 Wall Street Journal article, Dropbox had been considering switching to a model similar to SpiderOak's, where users have control over their encryption keys, however this has not been implemented.[111]

In October 2014,[112] there was concern that Dropbox may have been compromised, but it was later confirmed not to have been.[113]

In August 2016, it was revealed that hashed passwords for 68,000,000 accounts, stolen in 2012, were published.[114]


The Dropbox headquarters were located at 760 Market Street in San Francisco, until moving to larger premises in July 2011.[115]

From that date Dropbox's corporate headquarters are at Suite 400[116] on the fourth floor of the China Basin Landing building in San Francisco.[117] The company occupies the fourth floor of the 1991 section of the facility, with 85,600 square feet (7,950 m2) of space, and an option to take more space.[115]

Dropbox expanded into their second U.S. office in Austin, Texas in February 2014.[118] The State of Texas and City of Austin provided a $1.7 million performance-based incentives package to Dropbox in exchange for locating their office in Austin with up to 170 new jobs with a $59,000 average annual wage.[119][120]

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External links[edit]