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DropBox Schema [1]
Type Cloud Storage
Launch Date September, 2008 [1]
Status Active
Product Line DropBox
Platform Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS, Android, Symbian, BlackBerry OS
Website www.dropbox.com

is an online "cloud" storage service, making files accessible across the web. It uses the Cloud computing model and allows synchronization across many devices, including Android and iOS products as well as BlackBerrys and the Kindle Fire[2]. The files are accessible from a user-made account through Dropbox.com. Dropbox was founded by Drew Huston and Arash Ferdowsi, two MIT students who were fed up with not having their files accessible to them on more than one computer. [3] Users are provided with an introductory amount of online storage and have the option of purchasing more. Dropbox also provides a corporate option. The folders can be accessed on multiple platforms across mobile and computing devices. Because of the massive amount of file sharing on Dropbox, many privacy and copyright issues arise, leading to some noteworthy ethical implications.


The founder and CEO of Dropbox, Drew Huston, developed the idea for the company because he found himself consistently forgetting to bring his USB flash drive as a student at MIT. He set out to solve the problems with existing storage websites and thought his ideas could be expanded for more users. Huston and his co-founder, Arash Ferdowski, launched the website in 2008 after securing enough funding and gained over 50 million users in under three years. The site currently has over 200 million users. [4] In 2009, Apple offered Huston a partnership, but Huston declined.

Dropbox was the output of Y Combinator's 2006 class. The company consisted of two employees in 2006, the founders themselves. As a start-up investment, the founders acquired $15,000 from Y Combinator and $1.2 million from Sequoia Capital. By 2008, the total start-up investment was raised, and investments came in from Sequoia Capital, Accel Partners, Y Combinator and individual investors to raise $7.2 million. By late September, Dropbox closed investment deals with seven of Silicon Valley's elite venture capital firms[5].

How it works

Dropbox's model based on cloud storage allows sharing amongst people as well as within the user's account. Other users can be invited to share a particular file on the account and every member can add, edit and delete contents within the folder. Dropbox's system does not allow access to other folders on the account, and access to the folder requires an invitation from the host user through email. The enclosed folder can also by made public, and access to the folder can be provided with a given hyperlink.

To install Dropbox, the user has to download the file from the official site. Downloads are available for most mobile devices as well. The folder is then installed on the hard drive, and files can be dragged or pasted into the Dropbox folder, and will automatically update on all devices. Access to the folder from multiple devices and sharing requires an account to be made on the website. To make an account, the user needs to simply provide basic information and set a password. The email provided links to the Dropbox account and sharing requests are delivered through the given email id.

Cloud Computing

Before Dropbox, users moved files between computers using thumb drives, or by e-mailing files to themselves. With the advancement of technology, four phenomenon arise: multiple gadgets, mobile workforce, faster networks, and dramatic drop on the price of digital storage. These trends were the main reason why cloud computing plays such a significant role today. The cloud enables users to access photos, files, videos, or documents from any computer with an internet connection. Dropbox offers their users with 2GB of storage for free.

Connecting Dropbox to social media for added storage

Social Media Integration

Dropbox has been slowly increasing its place in social media networks, by installing incentive systems. For example, an additional 768MB of storage is added onto a user's Dropbox account for every social media account linked to the Dropbox account. Users can also gain up to an additional 16GB of space (for a total of 18GB) by recommending the service to peers (500MB of space is awarded for every new user the original enlists) - and this referral offer was utilized 2.8 million times [6]. The recommendation system featured on Dropbox makes it more widespread, and easier to share files for project work and collaboration. Dropbox has also entered email clients such as Sparrow, and users can drag files into a designated space on messages under composition, which are sent to the receiver through Dropbox.

Security Measures

The flow of protected user data within Dropbox

Dropbox works to have constricted security features. Only those who are personally invited to use DropBox are allowed to share files, receive access into these files, and join folders with shared files. In addition, each user can remove access from any file or folder at any time if preferred. To prevent hacking, information is encrypted. Drobbox employees do not have access into the files and their attempts can be detected through this encryption. Public files cannot be searched, and therefore only the users who have the specific link to a file are able to retrieve that file and its content. [7]

In 2012 there was a security breach within Dropbox where users' usernames and passwords were stolen. According to their blog, this was due to third party integration but they still had a security update and cracked down.[8] To combat this from occurring again, they increased their security measures and illustrated the path that a user's data takes in they system to help remedy their previous mistakes.[9]

Mobile Device Access

Access to Dropbox is permitted through mobile devices running operating systems such as Android and iOS. In order to maintain access, the user must have a Dropbox username and password. Once these are entered, a user is granted full access to all files on Dropbox that are located on computers in addition to other mobile devices. Dropbox will sync this information from the mobile device to the computer or other device instantaneously so files are always up to date across platforms [7]

Auto Upload

Dropbox recently introduced a new feature for uploading pictures from your camera, phone, tablet, and computer automatically. [10]. When users opt into the service, photos they take are sent to a Dropbox folder of their choice without having to perform any additional steps. Many users have adopted this new feature, while others are hesitant due to issues of privacy.

Mailbox and Carousel Services

Mailbox is an email app that Dropbox purchased for $100M dollars. Mailbox was officially shut down in February 2016, when users had to find a new mail app to use. Carousel is a photo gallery app which shut down on March 31st, 2016 that Dropbox also purchased. However, any photos a user has stored on Carousel will remain on Dropbox and soon the functionality of Carousel will be incorporated into Dropbox. These apps enhanced network effects for Dropbox because they allowed users to communicate with one another (Mailbox) as well as share pictures/albums with one another (Carousel) [11].


In addition to Dropbox’s official services and features, the application also has a number of both official and un-official add-ons available across many different platforms. SentToDropbox is an official supported Dropbox add-on that allows users to send files directly to Dropbox over email. The service is free and claims to be both fast and secure.[12] Mover is another official supported Dropbox add-on that allows users to back-up, migrate, and transfer files from services such as Git or MySQL to Dropbox. The Mover Dropbox add-on is utilized by companies such as BuzzFeed, bandwidth, and Dolby.[13]


Dropbox Web Interface
Dropbox Android Mobile Interface

Dropbox uses a Freemium business model, which provides free core services, but charges premium for special or additional features[14]. As a result, most of their revenue comes from 4% of their clients.[15] The initial storage size provided is 2GB and upgrades up to 50GB are available. The model also allows for developers to implement a Value Sensitive Design (VSD) through the upgrades in technology for corporate clients.

Dropbox also offers a referral program. For every third friend referred, the client receives an additional 500MB of storage. This program allows a user to receive an additional 16GB of free storage, pushing the maximum amount of free storage offered to 18GB. For plus and professional accounts, users gain an additional 1GB per referral. This allows the user to gain another 32GB of storage added on to their plan for free[16].


Dropbox has three main interfaces: web, desktop, and mobile. The web UI displays the user's folders upon login and features shortcuts along the sides and top of the screen. Dropbox also offers a desktop interface, which is available as a download. It becomes synthesized with the user's operating system, and looks like a generic folder. This is linked through the online network to an account on the site, to sync with the cloud storage facility and provide the folder on Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, and BlackBerry. The mobile Dropbox interface is very similar to its offerings on the web, but not all options are available on one screen.

Competitors & Marketing Strategy

Google Drive

Google Drive is another web service that allows users to upload and share files. Drive allots users 5 gigabytes compared to the 2 gigabytes allotted to Dropbox users. Google Drive is a service offered to all Google users with an active gmail account. However, while Drive and Dropbox both allow for file sharing, Drive also allows users to collaborate in real time, sometimes making it a popular choice for those seeking a service for collaboration. Both services also support sharing features so that files can be sent easily and edited by others.

Box is another popular online storage service similar to Dropbox and Google Drive. Box is known to partner with universities to offer students special storage opportunities and additional space. Box at the University of Michigan offers 50 gigabytes of storage.

Many other companies and websites offer online storage, such as iCloud, Ubuntu One, and Skydrive . Most services offer a baseline amount of storage with the option of purchasing additional space. iCloud, for example, charges $20/year for 10GB of storage [17].

Dropbox was regarded as one of the first online companies to offer freemium pricing in the cloud storage market and competitors have soon followed suit. Freemium offers users an opportunity to try out the product risk-free, but doesn't give them full access to all the features of the product. After early testing, Dropbox decided to offer 2GB of storage space for free, with paid tiers of 50GB for $9.99 a month and 100GB for $19.99 a month. Given Dropbox's success, other Internet firms and services soon started to look at this strategy as a way to acquire new customers and attention for minimal costs. While only less than 4% of Dropbox users are either paying business users or paying consumer users, this group alone has helped Dropbox earn more than $400 million in revenue.


As of February 2010, the Dropbox demographics show 32.7% users in the United States, followed by 6.7% from the United Kingdom and 6.5% from Germany. Dropbox reached a milestone of 100 million users on November 12, 2012 [18][19]. In an attempt to garner support by more colleges around the world, Dropbox recently announced the "Great Space Race" campaign. Students participating in the Space Race register their account with their university and can receive additional storage space each time a fellow student does the same, up to 25GB [20].

Ethical Issues

Privacy Concerns

With cloud storage increasing in popularity, privacy concerns are also increasing. Those concerned with the privacy of files uploaded to Dropbox should consider the following points:[21]

  1. Ensuring that the online data storage provider has an enforceable obligation to preserve confidentiality and security
  2. Investigating the online data storage provider’s security measures, policies, recoverability methods, and other procedures to determine if they are adequate
  3. Employing available technology to guard against reasonably foreseeable attempts to infiltrate the data that is stored
  4. Investigating the storage provider’s ability to purge and wipe any copies of the data, and to move the data to a different host

In June 2011, 68 accounts were hacked into and exposed due to a password breach. Dropbox demonstrates an open file sharing utility, and free users are offered only a core protection level for the information put on the folder. The easy accessibility of the application can also be contested as a privacy risk, as power over the account is held by a basic username and password key.

Another security breach occurred when a hacker disseminated gambling site spam to Dropbox users via email by stealing users’ login names and passwords. According to Dropbox, usernames and passwords that became exposed on another web site as a result of a separate breach were tested on Dropbox’s accounts. One of the tests was successful and the hacker gained access to an employee’s account that contained a document of all Dropbox users’ email addresses. [22] Upon receiving the unwanted spam, users began to question the reliability of what they assumed to be a trustworthy website.

The shares accounts feature also fringes on potential privacy risks, as the invited user has the ability to tamper with any contents in the folder, and the access to the folder is through a simple email invite. For the kind of information that Dropbox is created for, especially regarding team information, this could prove dangerous. While the privacy is also infringed, the open model of sharing could inspire plagiarism or copyright issues.

Furthermore, security risks now extend to all professional fields, which use cloud sharing and storage. Lawyers and doctors alike pack massive amounts of data and client information into cloud storage databases such as DropBox with the understanding that these services are safe. Dropbox formerly represented that all information and data stored within it was encrypted in such a manner that even Dropbox employees would not be able to decrypt the data. However, in April 2015, Dropbox came out with a statement that indeed their staff did possess and maintain keys that could decrypt the data stored to Dropbox. Moreover, Dropbox quickly updated their Terms of Service, which now allow for the disclosure of this decrypted data to third-parties for a variety of reasons beyond the traditional compulsion by legal process—for example, to protect Dropbox’s “property rights.” Also, Dropbox added more language to protect themselves from privacy failures and shift the responsibility for maintaining and encrypting confidential data to the users.

Copyright Concerns

Dropbox's main goal is to facilitate sharing over a wider network using cloud computing. Music and movies included in this can cause copyright concerns, as piracy might grow through the sharing utility. Artists and labels do not receive compensation as Dropbox is not responsible for the content shared by its users, based on a contract the users must agree to while creating the online account. It is very easy for content such as music, movies, and even educational materials such as textbooks to be available over Dropbox.

Universities and corporate clients with an established Dropbox account receive upgrades and a more secure intra-network, but the information between the users shared over the official internet gives the authority access to all files. This could, in turn, create privacy issues amongst the individual users. Unless the network employed by the authority is closed, Dropbox could also be facilitating plagiarism as the sharing of information becomes more ubiquitous.

See Also

External Links


  1. Wikipedia.com. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dropbox_(service) Retrieved April 9, 2017
  2. "Mobile". Dropbox.com. https://www.dropbox.com/mobile Retrieved April 9, 2017
  3. "About". Dropbox.com. https://www.dropbox.com/about Retrieved April 9, 2017.
  4. Williams, Madeline. "The History of Dropbox". GCCentrepreneurship.com. Oct 12, 2014. http://gccentrepreneurship.com/history-dropbox/ Retrieved April 9, 2017
  5. "Dropbox: The Digital Storage Service". https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/c8/02/e2/c802e2251ea3f646bf1810c9d92fd61c.jpg Retrieved April 9, 2017
  6. "Pricing". Dropbox.com. https://www.dropbox.com/pricing Retrieved April 9, 2017
  7. 7.0 7.1 Mayank, J. "Dropbox Features". Ehow.com http://www.ehow.com/list_7274086_dropbox-features.html Retrieved April 9, 2017
  8. Agarwal, Aditya. "Security update and new features". July 21, 2012. https://blogs.dropbox.com/dropbox/2012/07/security-update-new-features/ Retrieved April 9, 2017
  9. Dignan, Larry. "Dropbox bolsters security: Will businesses be wary?". ZDNet.com. August 1, 2012. http://www.zdnet.com/article/dropbox-bolsters-security-will-businesses-be-wary/ Retrieved April 9, 2017
  10. "Using the Dropbox camera uploads feature". Dropbox.com. https://www.dropbox.com/help/289/en Dropbox Retrieved on December 11, 2012
  11. Teixeira, Thales & Watkins, Elizabeth Anne. "Freemium Pricing at Dropbox". HBS.edu. November, 2013. http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=45910 Retrieved on April 24, 2014
  12. SendToDropbox.com. https://sendtodropbox.com/ Retrieved April 9, 2017
  13. Mover.io. https://mover.io/ Retrieved April 9, 2017
  14. FreemiumBusinessModel.com. http://www.freemiumbusinessmodel.com/ Retrieved on Dec 9, 2012
  15. Barret, Victoria. "Dropbox: The Inside Story Of Tech's Hottest Startup" Forbes.com. October 18, 2011. http://www.forbes.com/sites/victoriabarret/2011/10/18/dropbox-the-inside-story-of-techs-hottest-startup/#743a8ad28639/ Retrieved on April 24, 2016
  16. https://www.dropbox.com/help/space/earn-space-referring-friends
  17. "iCloud storage upgrades and downgrades". Apple.com. http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4874 Retrieved on December 9, 2012
  18. Ying, Jon. "Dropbox around the world!". Dropbox.com. Febuary 16, 2010. https://blog.dropbox.com/2010/02/5-million-dropboxes/ Retrieved on December 9, 2012
  19. Houston, Drew. "Thanks (a hundred) million". Dropbox.com. November 12, 2012. https://blog.dropbox.com/2012/11/thanks-a-hundred-million/ Retrieved on December 9, 2012
  20. " Great Space Race". Dropbox.com. https://www.dropbox.com/spacerace Great Space Race Retrieved on December 9, 2012
  21. "Ethical Considerations of Online File Storage". DigitalWorkflowcle.com. [http://www.digitalworkflowcle.com/11/2010/ethical-considerations-of-online-file-storage/ Retrieved on December 9, 2012
  22. Perlroth, Nicole. "Dropbox Spam Attack Tied to Stolen Employee Password". NYTimes.com. August 1, 2012. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/01/dropbox-spam-attack-tied-to-stolen-employee-password/ Retrieved on December 9, 2012
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