October 3, 2014

IMG_0531.PNG
The importance of Dropbox

I’ve been a paying Dropbox user since forever, and I don’t intend to stop, despite some pretty serious competition. Assuming Dropbox won’t go all evil on us, it’s a resource I want to use. I’m trusting it with the bulk of my data right now, and I have for years.

That said, I trust Apple more than I trust Dropbox. Apple entering the cloud game with iCloud Drive is great news, and my initial reaction to the announcement was, literally, ABOUT FUCKING TIME!!! That still stands, but I think Dropbox is more important than ever. The recent iCloud outages notwithstanding, I’m just not sure if Apple is ready for this. Data is important, and while an online sync and storage service isn’t a backup (seriously, backup your stuff elsewhere), the nuisance of losing data because of weird things happening is bad enough. And while I’ve yet to lose data from iCloud in any way, I have had some pretty poor syncing experiences. Granted, most of those are in third-party apps and the developers might be to blame, but still. That rarely happens with Dropbox, and when shit hits the fan, Dropbox has its versioning safety net, which I’ve been forced to use on a few occassions.

I trust Apple with my data. I just don’t think they’ll be able to deliver the consistency I need. The whole iCloud to iCloud Drive thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Since Apple isn’t moving both OS X and iOS to iCloud Drive simultaneous, you’ll have sync issues. To put it plainly, I can’t save a Pages document in iCloud on my iPad, and open it from iCloud on my Mac, because the former uses iCloud Drive now. Sure, I could’ve waited to upgrade to iCloud Drive, that option is there, but that’s beside the point. This is not frictionless, this is a poor execution of a company who seems hard pressed to deliver operating systems that actually work. There are so many issues, so many negative headlines, about iOS 8 that I’d be embarrassed had I been involved in any quality testing there whatsoever. The raw truth is that iOS 8 just isn’t ready yet, and Apple obviously pushed it out too early since they wanted it to coincide with the iPhone 6 launch. I hope they’re regretting this now, and I hope they’re reassessing the release schedule for iOS and how they’re managing it. This is, after all, the same song and dance as iOS 7, and iOS 6 wasn’t exactly exempt from controversies either.

Now, I’m not saying that Apple is losing it. That’s nonsense. They’re so obviously years before the competition in terms of execution. I have yet to use a mobile device even worthy of sharing the same living space as what Apple’s putting out there. But they’re not without fault, and I think it’s sound to be a bit wary about this company who’ve had several bumpy launches the past few years. It’s not just iOS either, hardware issues exist too. This runs deeper.

Perhaps everything is too rushed now, too forced out on the market, a 1.0 version that’s really an early beta. I’m not prepared to believe that, because it’s such a simplification of a situation we’ve no insight into, but something’s wrong.

That’s why I feel that Dropbox is so important. I made the conscious choice to upgrade my iOS devices to iOS 8 and iCloud Drive. I understood what that meant for sync, although some issues I’ve been having are between iCloud Drive enabled devices and not with Macs or pre-Drive iCloud accounts. Still, I understood the ramifications, and I’m not saying anything about that. I do think it’s an utterly stupid thing to do, to even give the user this choice. Why not wait until OS X Yosemite, with iCloud Drive, rolls out? Several other features have been delayed, but not iCloud Drive. Sure, it’s integral in the cloud-focused Apple, but it’s just another thing rushed out prematurely. Let’s reiterate the previous example and think about that for a moment: It’s not possible to sync Pages documents from your iPad to your Mac using iCloud if you upgrade. If nothing else works, that’s something that has to.

That’s not just pretty bad, that’s fucking nuts.

Dropbox lives its own little life, outside of iCloud and app containers. It’s the file system that doesn’t care what you do with your devices, as long as the developers continue to support Dropbox and its API. This is why I dared to move to iCloud Drive, despite the sync issues with Macs, because I know that Dropbox has my back. That’s where I’m writing the draft for this post, on an iPad Air, in Writer Pro, which recently got Dropbox support. I’ll open it on my Mac at the office, dot the final edits, and then publish. Dropbox is oblivious to delayed features and clumsy executions across platforms. Dropbox is just Dropbox.

And yet I still trust Apple more than I do Dropbox. With all the snooping around from governments and whatnots, it’s almost ironic that Apple stands tall, telling them all to turn around or face the consequences. They might not do that forever, they might turn bad, and they might fail in delivering on their promises, but they’ve yet to do this. For now, it’s just software released too early, whereas Dropbox has Condoleezza Rice on their board. It’s hard to believe anything they say after that, despite their best efforts with the transparency report.

Where does that leave us, or at least me?

With a botched iCloud Drive launch that leaves me wanting.

With the safety of Dropbox, but also with the fear of who’s snooping and what really pertains to security for users over there.

It’s hard to be a cloud advocate when things are like this.

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere. There is also a newsletter.