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Update 2022-10-13: Since writing this post i’ve discovered Nextcloud, which I did not know about at the time and which has proven to be a pretty great replacement for dropbox. Especially when it’s managed by someone else (by Hetzner in this case).
Dropbox sucks. There, I said it!
This has not always been the case. Dropbox used to be a pretty great service, back when you could host your website on it and share files directly (i.e. without any Dropbox UI involved).
Unfortunately, that Dropbox is no more. Instead, we have an uninspiring cloud storage provider that charges a premium for a user experience that works against you.
This may sound harsh, and it is, but hear me out.
The gist is this: Cloud storage is useful for many different use cases—Dropbox supports almost none of them.
As a Dropbox pro subscriber I have a hefty 2 terrabyte allotment of storage on their servers. However, there are lots of things I cannot do with Dropbox:
- Serve files directly. Things like images for my blog or releases of a software project.
- Automatically backup my computers in full.
- Selectively ignore files to sync based on file path.
- Script dropbox via CLI.
I recognize that some of these use cases are quite niche, and Dropbox cannot be expected to support every use case. However, my gripe is that Dropbox used to allow some of these features and no longer does. The value prop has diminished over the years while the price has crept up.
This point deserves a special call out because it is particularly egregious. If you share a file on Dropbox you can obtain a link which is publicly accessible. You can send this link to someone and they can access your file.
However, as I discovered while sharing a file with my dad, Dropbox tries to acquire the user before they let them open the file. Dropbox prompted my dad to log in or create an account. Luckily this nonsense can be skipped without actually creating an account, but the dark pattern makes it confusing.
Moreover, you—as the link sharer—will have no idea that Dropbox is doing this unless your recipient tells you.
Another mixed bag offered by Dropbox is their rich text editor, Paper. It is a really nice document editor, and was once my go-to.
The problem is, Paper does not save files. Your Dropbox Paper documents are not accessible via your disk even if Dropbox is configured to sync all your data.
In a vacuum this doesn't matter much—Paper is a pretty great rich text editor and it's specifically designed for online use in collaboration with others. However, Dropbox itself is a file storage and sync service, so why aren't Paper files actually files? I'll refrain from speculating. I could guess but I don't have any data or inside knowledge of the situation.
Data transfer is not free, so it is in part understandable that Dropbox tries to limit users' ability to share files directly. Doing so could spike their network traffic in unpredictable ways. If I host an image on Dropbox, post it on my blog, then (somehow) make it to the front page of Hacker News that image file will see a spike in traffic.
This is nothing Dropbox couldn't handle, but that network traffic costs them money. A tiny amount at the margin, but in aggregate it may be substantial.
"Unlimited" bandwidth would also be a tempting target for abuse by a minority of users looking to pay a fixed, cheap price to host unlimited traffic to their files.
Having acknowledged that, I still find it egregious that they no longer give users the option to host/share files directly because they could use rate limits to avoid the pitfalls while still providing great value for the majority of users who have very little traffic.
Well, to be honest I'm not sure, but this is what I'm thinking?
- SyncThing (https://docs.syncthing.net/)
- A great open-source tool for syncing files around. In my limited usage so far it works great.10/10 would sync again.
- This does leave the question of where to actually store things though...
- B2 (Backblaze: https://www.backblaze.com/b2/cloud-storage-pricing.html)
- $5/mo/tb is, as far as I can tell, the competitive rate for cloud storage. Also, 10gb for free!
- s3 compatible. Good for using existing tooling. You can automatically deploy electron releases to b2 for this reason, because elecron builder is compatible with s3.
- If you want to download your terabyte of data its going to cost you $10 though.
- Wasabi (https://wasabi.com/paygo-pricing-faq/)
- $6/mo/tb. Still competitive.
- Similar benfits to b2, but they don't charge you for downloads if you keep your volume "reasonable," which does indeed sound quite reasonable.
None yet, but I'll know more once I make the switch.
Yes, despite my earlier ranting Dropbox does have at least one very nifty feature that I haven't seen elsewhere: Smart sync. They let you represent all your files on disk without taking up any space and only sync the data if you request it.
Broadly speaking, Dropbox has excellent OS integration. I haven nothing but respect for the effort it must have taken to make their client work as well as it does.
However, while awesome, smart sync is not enough to keep me on their service given the downsides listed above.