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Dropbox (service)

File:Dropbox logo (September 2013).svg
Developer(s) Dropbox, Inc.
Initial release September 2008
Stable release 3.4.6 (May 5, 2015; 5 years ago (2015-05-05)[1]) [±]
Preview release 3.5.66 (May 12, 2015; 5 years ago (2015-05-12)[1]) [±]
Development status Active
Written in Python[2]
Operating system Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Symbian, BlackBerry OS, MeeGo Harmattan
Available in
Type Online backup service
License Proprietary software (Windows & Mac clients and Linux Dropbox daemon), Combined GPLv2/Proprietary[4] (Linux Nautilus)
Alexa rank 11px 88 (February 2015)[5]

Dropbox is a file hosting service operated by Dropbox, Inc., headquartered in San Francisco, California, that offers cloud storage, file synchronization, personal cloud, and client software. Dropbox allows users to create a special folder on their computers, which Dropbox then synchronizes so that it appears to be the same folder (with the same contents) regardless of which computer is used to view it. Files placed in this folder are also accessible via the Dropbox website and mobile apps. Dropbox uses a freemium business model, where users are offered a free account with a set storage size and paid subscriptions for accounts with more capacity.[6]

Dropbox was founded in 2007 by MIT students Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, as a startup company from the American seed accelerator Y Combinator. [7] Dropbox provides client software for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, iOS, BlackBerry OS, Windows Phone and web browsers, as well as unofficial ports to Symbian and MeeGo.



File:Drew Houston (Dropbox) (6478266407).jpg
Dropbox founder Drew Houston.

Dropbox founder Houston developed 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."[8] He began making something for his personal use, but then realized that it could benefit others with the same problems.[8] Houston founded Dropbox, Inc. in June 2007, and shortly thereafter secured seed funding from Y Combinator.[7] Dropbox officially launched at 2008's TechCrunch50, an annual technology conference.[9] Owing to trademark disputes between Proxy, Inc. and Evenflow (Dropbox's parent company), Dropbox's official domain name was "" until October 2009, when they acquired their current domain, "".[9] OPSWAT reported in their December 2011 market share report that Dropbox held 14.14% of the worldwide backup client market, based on number of installations.[10]

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.[11]In May 2010, Dropbox users in China were unable to access Dropbox. Later, Dropbox confirmed they 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.[12][13][14][15][16] As of October 2011, Dropbox had more than 50 million registered users.[17]


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 SkyDrive.[18]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.[19] On November 12, 2012, Dropbox announced it had reached 100 million users.[20]

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.[21]As of February 2013, Dropbox was responsible for 0.29% of all worldwide Internet traffic.[22] On March 15, 2013, Dropbox acquired the email management application for iOS Mailbox.[23][24][25]On July 20, 2013, Dropbox acquired mobile coupon startup Endorse.[26]On November 13, 2013, Dropbox announced it had reached 200 million users, and announced changes to "Dropbox for Business".[27]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.[28]


Dropbox was unblocked in China in February 2014, although the reason for this is still unclear.[29] 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,[30] prompting protests from some users who were concerned about her appointment.[31] 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.[32]

On April 17, 2014, Dropbox acquired Hackpad, a real-time collaborative text editor.[33][34]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.[35]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.[36][37][38]

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.[39][40][41]On January 21, 2015, Dropbox acquired CloudOn a leading company for document editing and creation. With the acquisition, Dropbox users will now have the power to create documents from their file sharing service, something they haven’t been able to do in the past [42]


Dropbox is funded by Sequoia Capital, Accel Partners, and Amidzad.[7] Starting in mid-2009, it began releasing new features gradually to help measure customer interest, a Lean Startup technique.[43]In 2011, technology entrepreneur Praveen Yajman speculated that Dropbox's valuation was more than $1 billion.[44] TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Business Insider, and Financial Post speculated that Dropbox's valuation could be up to $5 to $10 billion,[45] 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.[46]

Business model

Dropbox uses a freemium business model, where users are offered a free account with a set storage size and paid subscriptions for accounts with more capacity.[47] All basic users are offered an initial 2 GB of free online storage space.[48]The desktop client has no restriction on individual file size; files uploaded via the website are limited to no more than 10 GB per file.[49] To prevent free users from creating multiple linked free accounts, Dropbox includes the content of shared folders when totaling the amount of space used on the account.[50]For free accounts, the total amount of traffic that all links together can generate without getting banned is 20 GB per day. For Pro and Business accounts, the limit is 200 GB per day.


Dropbox consists of cloud-based services for user identity and management, data storage, access, management, and programmatic interfaces (APIs); clients for data access and storage on desktop and mobile operating systems; and web applications for data and service management.

The Dropbox client 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 client installed.[51] Users may also upload files manually through the Dropbox web application.[52]

Originally, both the Dropbox server (running on the cloud) and desktop client software were primarily written in Python.[53] From mid-2013 Dropbox began migrating its backend infrastructure to Go.[3] The desktop client uses Python GUI toolkits such as wxWidgets and Cocoa. Other notable Python libraries include Twisted, ctypes, and pywin32. Dropbox ships and depends on the librsync binary-delta library (which is written in C). Dropbox’s full browser-side codebase is written in CoffeeScript instead of JavaScript.[54]

The Dropbox client supports synchronization and sharing along with personal storage. It supports revision history, so files deleted from the Dropbox folder may be recovered from any of the synced computers.[55][56] Dropbox supports multi-user version control, enabling several users to edit and re-post files without overwriting versions.[citation needed] The version history is by default kept for 30 days, with a 12-month recovery option called "Pack-Rat" available for purchase.[57]

The version history is paired with the use of delta encoding technology. When a file in a user's Dropbox folder is changed, Dropbox only uploads the pieces of the file that are changed when synchronizing, when possible.[58]

Dropbox uses Amazon's S3 storage system to store the files;[citation needed] though Houston has stated that Dropbox may switch to a different storage provider at some point in the future.[59] It also uses SSL transfers for synchronization and stores the data via AES-256 encryption,[60] though this is done with Dropbox's own encryption keys, and not the users'.[61]

Dropbox also provides a technology called LAN sync,[62] which allows computers on a local area network to securely download files locally from each other instead of always hitting the central servers. LANSync was developed by Dropbox Engineer Paul Bohm.[63]


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 IM chat logs; BitTorrent management; password management; remote application launching and system monitoring; and as a free Web hosting service.[64]


There are official and unofficial Dropbox add-ons, mostly created by the Dropbox community. These add-ons are both in the form of web services such as SendToDropbox[65] (which allows users to email files to their Dropboxes), Mover (which facilitates online backup of FTP, Git, MySQL, and other services to Dropbox accounts),[66] and desktop applications such as MacDropAny[67] (which allows users to sync any folder on their computer with Dropbox).

There are a number of client applications for operating systems that Dropbox does not officially support, such as Maemo, Symbian, and webOS.

An open source tool called Dropship provided unauthenticated access to Dropbox-hosted files by using the Dropbox API to access files by their hash. Dropbox attempted to suppress this project by requesting its suspension where it was being hosted, and by issuing an erroneous DMCA takedown notice,[68] later said by Dropbox co-founder Arash Ferdowsi to have been incorrectly auto-generated by a support tool used to ban the public links.[69]

In July 2014, Dropbox added a new function to sync large files in a much faster way, stating that this new feature can increase the upload speed up to 2x compared to the previous version.[70]

Dropbox for Business

Dropbox for Business is a paid service targeted for use by organizations, providing administrative controls and auditing to IT departments while allowing users the option to create separate cloud containers for their work and personal documents. Dropbox for Business allows for restrictions on sharing to limit the accidental disclosure of intellectual property outside an organization.[71] The two Dropboxes come with two different passwords. Users are able to organize different types of file in different cloud containers while viewing both Dropboxes side by side. Administrators of the Dropbox for Business account cannot access users' personal accounts, nor directly access data stored in users' Business accounts unless the username and password for the account is provided to the account administrator or the account is transferred.[72]


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.[73][74][75][76] 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.[77][78][79][80]

In 2011, Dropbox was named as the world's fifth most valuable web startup after Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, and Groupon,[81][82][83] and has been described as Y Combinator's most successful investment to date,[84] and in 2010 was among the top 10 iPhone most popular apps of all time, according to TechCrunch.[85] In 2011, it was voted among the top 10 Android apps of all time, according to ZDNet,[86] said to be one of the top 50 emerging companies by TIEcon,[87] and called one of the 20 best startups of Silicon Valley in the preceding year.[88] Houston was called the best young tech entrepreneur by Business Week in 2010,[89] and he and co-founder Arash Ferdowsi were named among the top 30 under 30 entrepreneurs by in 2011.[90] In January 2012, the company was named startup of the year by TechCrunch.[91]

Privacy concerns

Dropbox has been criticized by the independent security researcher Derek Newton, who said that Dropbox stores authentication secret (not password) on disk in plain-text (this was fixed in version 1.2.48)[92] 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.[93]

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 "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.[94]

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.[95] The error was caused by an authentication code update made at 1:54 p.m. Pacific Time;[96] 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.[97][98]

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".[99] 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."[100]

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.[101] In March 2013, users reported additional spam resulting from the July email leakage.[102]

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.[103][104]

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,[105] 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.[106]

In February 2014, Dropbox added an arbitration provision to their terms of service, but allows users the opportunity to opt out of arbitration any time within 30 days of when they accept the new terms of service (or of the date of account opening, if the account is opened after the revision to the terms).[107][108][109][110]

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.[111]

According to Dropbox, the cloud service provider has strict policies on security of users files, data, and maintained privacy implications. Any Dropbox accounts require login verifications. 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 security code on top of usual username and password login.[112] On users behalf, Dropbox offers the service of encrypting users files and folders. Dropbox employees will not be able to access users files without users username and password. Nonetheless, Dropbox policies have certain exceptions to their policy.[113] 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 higher security option.[114]

In May 2014, Dropbox suddenly disabled access to links that have been previously shared, although the decisions 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 .[115]

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.[116] Dropbox had been considering switching to a model similar to SpiderOak's, where users have control over their encryption keys.[116]


Dropbox headquarters were located at 760 Market Street in San Francisco, until moving to larger premises in July 2011.[117]

From that date Dropbox's corporate headquarters are at Suite 400[118] on the fourth floor of the China Basin Landing building in San Francisco.[119] The company occupies the fourth floor of the 1991 section of the facility, with Script error: No such module "convert". of space, and an option to take more space.[117]

Dropbox expanded into their second U.S. office in Austin, Texas in February 2014.[120] 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.[121][122]

See also

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External links