Dropbox has been praised, receiving the Crunchie Award in 2010 for Best Internet Application, and Macworld's 2009 Editor's Choice Award for Software. It has been ranked as one of the most valuable startups in the US and the world, with a valuation of over US$10 billion, and it has been described as one of Y Combinator's most successful investments to date. However, Dropbox has also experienced criticism and generated controversy for issues including security breaches and privacy concerns.
Dropbox brings files together in one central place by creating a special folder on the user's computer. The contents of these folders are synchronized to Dropbox's servers and to other computers and devices where the user has installed Dropbox, keeping the same files up-to-date on all devices. Dropbox uses a freemiumbusiness model, where users are offered a free account with a set storage size, with paid subscriptions available that offer more capacity and additional features. Dropbox Basic users are given two gigabytes of free storage space. Dropbox Plus users are given two terabytes of storage space, as well as additional features, including advanced sharing controls, remote wipe, and an optional Extended Version History add-on. Dropbox offers computer apps for Microsoft Windows, ApplemacOS, and Linux computers, and mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone smartphones and tablets. In March 2013, the company acquired Mailbox, a popular email app, and in April 2014, the company introduced Dropbox Carousel, a photo and video gallery app. Both Mailbox and Carousel were shut down in December 2015, with key features from both apps implemented into the regular Dropbox service. In October 2015, it officially announced Dropbox Paper, its collaborative document editor, in a reported effort to expand its operations towards businesses. As of March 2016, Dropbox has 500 million users.
Dropbox founder Drew Houston conceived the Dropbox concept after repeatedly forgetting his USB flash drive while he was a student at MIT. In a 2009 "Meet the Team" post on the Dropbox blog, he wrote that existing services at the time "suffered problems with Internet latency, large files, bugs, or just made me think too much". He began making something for his personal use, but then realized that it could benefit others with the same problems.
Houston founded Evenflow, Inc. in May 2007 as the company behind Dropbox, and shortly thereafter secured seed funding from Y Combinator. Dropbox officially launched at 2008's TechCrunch Disrupt, an annual technology conference. Owing to trademark disputes between Proxy, Inc. and Evenflow, Dropbox's official domain name was "getdropbox.com" until October 2009, when it acquired its current domain, "dropbox.com". In October 2009, Evenflow, Inc. was renamed to Dropbox, Inc.
In an interview with TechCrunch's "Founder Stories" in October 2011, Houston explained that a demo video was released during Dropbox's early days, with one viewer being Arash Ferdowsi. Ferdowsi was "so impressed" that they formed a partnership. In regards to competition, Houston stated that "It is easy for me to explain the idea, it is actually really hard to do it."
Dropbox founder Drew Houston
Dropbox founder Arash Ferdowsi
Dropbox has seen steady user growth since its inception. It surpassed the 1 million registered users milestone in April 2009, followed by 2 million in September, and 3 million in November. It passed 50 million users in October 2011, 100 million in November 2012, 200 million in November 2013, 400 million in June 2015, and 500 million in March 2016.
In July 2012, Dropbox acquired TapEngage, a startup that "enables advertisers and publishers to collaborate on tablet-optimized advertising". The following December, Dropbox acquired two companies; Audiogalaxy, a startup "allowing users to store their music files and playlists in the cloud then stream them to any device", and Snapjoy, a company that allowed users to "aggregate, archive and view all of their digital photos from their cameras, phones and popular apps like Flickr, Instagram and Picasa, and then view them online or via an iOS app". In July 2013, Dropbox acquired Endorse, a "mobile coupon startup".
In May 2014, Dropbox acquired Bubbli, a startup that has "built some innovative ways of incorporating 3D technology into 2D views, and packaging it in a mobile app".
In January 2015, Dropbox acquired CloudOn, a company that provided mobile applications for document editing and creation. At the same time, Dropbox told TechCrunch that CloudOn's base in Herzliya would become the first Dropbox office in Israel. In July, Dropbox acquired Clementine, an enterprise communication service.
In April 2014, Dropbox acquired photo-sharing company Loom (which would be shut down and integrated with the then-recently announced Carousel), and document-sharing startup Hackpad. Dropbox later announced in April 2017 that Hackpad would be shut down on July 19, with all notes being migrated to Dropbox Paper.
Dropbox's apps offer an automatic photo uploading feature, allowing users to automatically upload photos or videos from cameras, tablets, SD cards, or smartphones to a dedicated "Camera Uploads" folder in their Dropbox. Users are given 500 megabytes of extra space for uploading their first photo, and are given up to 3 gigabytes of extra space if users continue using the method for more photos.
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.
Dropbox received initial funding from seed acceleratorY Combinator. Dropbox also raised US$1.2 million in Series A funding from Sequoia Capital in 2007, that "along with interest (on that amount) converted to equity as part of the Series A investment, which included a fresh slug of US$6 million", bringing the total amount to US$7.25 million, with the round closed in 2008 and documents filed in 2009.
A May 2010 report in The Wall Street Journal said that "since [founder Drew Houston] started reading Eric Ries' Lean startup blog about a year ago, the company has started trickling out new features when they are ready instead of waiting to launch a fully featured product. That helps test customer appetite, he says, dubbing the practice "minimum viable product".
TechCrunch reported in July 2011 that Dropbox had been looking to raise between US$200 and US$300 million, and had a valuation "to end up in the $5 billion to $10 billion range. [...] quite a step up from its previous funding rounds which have totalled a tiny $7.2 million". As noted in a Forbes article, Dropbox had "revenue on track to hit $240 million in 2011".
In April 2012, Dropbox announced that Bono and The Edge, two members of the Irish rock band U2, were individual investors in the company.
In February 2018, Dropbox filed an IPO to be listed on the Nasdaq. The company's initial intent was to raise $500 million. Dropbox's stock rose 42 percent to $29.89 in its first day of trading on March 23, 2018.
As of May 2018, Dropbox has never been profitable, but reports positive cash flow.
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.
Dropbox Basic users are given two gigabytes of free storage space. 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 megabytes of storage space. Dropbox Basic users can earn up to 16 gigabytes through the referral program.
The Dropbox Plus subscription (named Dropbox Pro prior to March 2017) gives users 2 terabytes 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.
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.
"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.
In November 2013, Dropbox announced changes to "Dropbox for Business" that would enable users to connect both their personal Dropbox and their business Dropbox to the same device, with each of the folders being "properly labeled for personal or work, and come with its own password, contacts, settings, and files". Furthermore, Dropbox announced shared audit logs, remote wipe for business administrators, and account transfers, as new features of its Business offering. In January 2017, Dropbox introduced "Smart Sync" for Business and Enterprise customers, a feature that lets Windows and macOS users see all files in the Dropbox folder, but only download specific files on-demand.
Similarly to Dropbox Basic, Dropbox Plus users can also earn extra space through referrals. Plus users earn 1 gigabyte per referral, up to 32 gigabytes.
Dropbox Business is Dropbox's application 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. 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.
In July 2016, Dropbox announced a new "AdminX" administrator dashboard for Business customers, offering improved control of company files and users. In June 2017, the AdminX dashboard was given a redesign and additional administrator functions, such as log-in durations, custom password strength parameters, and more granular[clarification needed] subdomain verifications for specified teams.
In September 2012, Facebook and Dropbox integrated to allow users in Facebook Groups to share files using Dropbox. In 2013, Samsung pre-loaded the Dropbox mobile application on its Android devices and Dropbox provided extra space for users owning Samsung's devices. In November 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.
On July 10, 2018, Dropbox announced its partnership with Salesforce aiming to improve brand engagement and team productivity.
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. 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.
When a file or folder is deleted, users can recover it within 30 days. For Dropbox Plus users, this recovery time can be extended to one year, by purchasing an "Extended Version History" add-on.
Dropbox accounts that are not accessed or emails not replied in a year are automatically deleted.
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.
Originally, the Dropbox servers and computer apps were written in Python. In July 2014, Dropbox began migrating its performance-critical backend infrastructure to Go.
Dropbox originally used Amazon's S3 storage system to store user files, but between 2014 and 2016 they gradually moved away from Amazon to use their own hardware, referred to as "Magic Pocket", due to Dropbox's description as "a place where you keep all your stuff, it doesn’t get lost, and you can always access it". In June 2017, the company announced a major global network expansion, aiming to increase synchronization speeds while cutting costs. The expansion, starting with 14 cities across 7 countries on 3 continents, adds "hundreds of gigabits of Internet connectivity with transit providers (regional and global ISPs), and hundreds of new peering partners (where we exchange traffic directly rather than through an ISP)".
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.
In March 2013, Dropbox acquired Mailbox, a popular email app, with Mailbox CEO Gentry Underwood saying that "Rather than grow Mailbox on our own, we've decided to join forces with Dropbox and build it out together". Under the deal, the developers of Mailbox joined Dropbox, but kept Mailbox running as a stand-alone app. Mailbox CEO stated: "We are still struggling to keep up with the demand from those who want to use it", and Dropbox CEO Drew Houston said "We felt we could help Mailbox reach a much different audience much faster". The acquisition was reported to cost $100 million.
In December 2015, Dropbox announced the shut-down of Mailbox. In a blog post, Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi explained that "We'll [...] be using what we've learned from Mailbox to build new ways to communicate and collaborate on Dropbox".
In April 2014, Dropbox introduced Carousel, a photo and video gallery that "combines the photos in your Dropbox with the photos on your phone, and automatically backs up new ones as you take them." Carousel sorted photos by event and date. In December 2015, Dropbox announced the shut-down of Carousel. In a blog post, Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi explained that "We'll be taking key features from Carousel back to the place where your photos live - in the Dropbox app."
In April 2015, Dropbox launched a Dropbox Notes collaborative note-taking service in beta testing phase, prompting speculation if Dropbox was planning to bring out a product to compete with Google Docs. TechCrunch noted that Dropbox Notes appeared to be a new version of "Project Composer", a previous iteration of the service with roots from the acquisition of Hackpad in April 2014. In October 2015, Dropbox announced the upcoming launch of Dropbox Paper, its collaborative document editor, noted by the media as the result of its development of a Dropbox Notes service earlier in 2015. Dropbox Paper entered open beta in August 2016, allowing anyone to join and test the product. Mobile apps for Android and iOS were also released. In January 2017, Dropbox Paper was officially launched. Aimed for businesses, Dropbox Paper was described as "one part online document, one part collaboration, one part task management tool, one part content hub" by Rob Baesman, Dropbox's head of product, and allows for importing, editing, and collaboration on "a number of other file types from Google, Microsoft, and others".
In 2011, Business Insider named Dropbox the world's sixth most valuable startup, and in 2017, the publication ranked Dropbox as the eighth most valuable US startup, with a valuation of $10 billion. It has been described as one of Y Combinator's most successful investments to date.Apple launched its own cloud storage service later in 2011, iCloud, but this didn't hold back Dropbox's growth.
Dropbox's mobile iPhone app release in 2010 was among the top 10 "best apps" selected by Alex Ahlund, former CEO of two websites focused on mobile apps, and the company's Android app was also selected as one of the top five "best apps" in a list compiled in 2010 by Jason Hiner for ZDNet.
Founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi were named among the top 30 under 30 entrepreneurs by Inc. in 2011.
The Dropbox headquarters, located in San Francisco, were originally on Market Street, until its expansion to the China Basin Landing building in July 2011, allowing for a significant space increase. As the number of employees grew, the company again needed expansion, and in February 2014, it signed a lease for two buildings in Brannan Street. Not needing the substantial amounts of space after all, the company started shopping the remaining available space to other companies for sublease in November 2015.
Dropbox expanded into its second U.S. office in Austin, Texas in February 2014. 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.
In December 2012, Dropbox set up an office in Dublin, Ireland, its first office outside the United States.