DropBox: Review, Invites, and 7 Questions With the Founder

Dave Drager 17-03-2008

A program called DropBox has recently entered public beta and has been making the rounds on networks like Digg and Reddit. I’ve been a private beta member since January and have been using it pretty heavily in my daily processes – and it has worked absolutely wonderfully. Dropbox is currently available for Windows and MacOS X, and we are told that an Ubuntu or Linux client is in the works.dropbox 1


I recently interviewed the Founder of Dropbox, Drew Houston, to answer some questions I had about the service. You can read the interview below, after my short review of the service.

Dropbox Review

After installing Dropbox, there is a folder placed in your My Documents named “My Dropbox”. To sum the service up in 1 sentence: any files placed into this folder will both be uploaded to the Dropbox servers, and will be synchronized with any other clients in your account.

So, in a single computer situation, this Dropbox folder is effectively a backup solution. If you have more than one PC in the account, any files placed into this folder on one computer will automatically be synchronized onto all others running Dropbox in the same account.

This creates a nice way to send files to and fro – my old method was either a) email to myself or b) put them on my USB keychain. Although those old methods work, Dropbox makes the process of transferring files to and from work absolutely effortless.

Installing Dropbox is easy and after the installation, there is nothing to manage. Files placed into this folder are sent to the Dropbox servers in a secure manner, and once they are there they are encrypted. Dropbox currently uses Amazon S3 storage system “in the cloud” for their data storage.


In addition to this basic use, I have found the following features to be very handy:

Revisioning System

dropbox versions

The ‘killer’ feature for me is that Dropbox also includes a versioning system. For those not familar with versioning systems, it allows you to keep multiple versions of a file. This helps in case you need to ‘roll back’ a change if you are coding, or just for general use and tracking of updates. It also helps on the backend because if only changes of a file need to be sent to the server, so much bandwidth can be saved.

Photo Gallery

Another neat feature is a built-in photo gallery. Drag photos to the “photos” folder and they are automatically available for viewing on the web in a simple manner (Hi Grandma!)


dropbox gallery
In summary, I think Dropbox is the best online storage solution I have seen. It combines online file storage, folder syncing, and versioning control in one simple to use package. They are constantly rolling out new updates, so look for more features soon! If you would like more information before you sign up, please check out the screencast bellow. It’s both entertaining and informative — and there are lots of easter eggs! :)
Plus since you got this far, read my interview with Drew and get an invite at the bottom of this article!

Interview with Dropbox Founder Drew Houston

1) The first obvious question – what makes Dropbox different from the other online backup / storage solutions?

Drew: Unlike other companies, which tackle only backup (e.g. Mozy), or only sync (e.g. Foldershare), or just putting files online (e.g., we provide one solution to all of the problems people have managing their files. I was looking for some kind of continuous rsync + subversion + tortoisesvn-style-shell-integration + web access holy grail, found it didn’t exist, and then got to work.. Arash even dropped out of MIT with just a few months left :)

2) I understand you are using Amazon S3 for storage on the backend; do you have any other sort of data backup plans in case S3 would go down or sustain data loss? Can customers use DropBox for sole storage of their data, or do they need to be concerned with other backups? [An alternative view of this question — is Dropbox considered a file sharing solution or a backup solution?]

Drew: We’ll be exploring other options (e.g. our own data store), especially for paid customers who want extra redundancy. I will point out though that Amazon does a pretty damn good job of handling large volumes of data and does a great job storing billions of objects and petabytes of data redundantly across multiple data centers. This isn’t easy, and many companies that first built their own data center (e.g. smugmug) found that they could lower costs and drastically increase reliability by using s3. We may not be on s3 forever, and will build our own store in addition, but for now this lets us focus on both the client software and the performance of the layer we’ve developed on top of s3.

The other major point that people might not realize is Dropbox is replicating copies of your data both across all your computers in addition to the online copy. So copies your data are always stored on your own computers, unlike other services which are online-only, Where the one and only copy of your data rests on their servers. This also means you aren’t locked into using Dropbox; if you decide you don’t want to use the service anymore, you’re in complete control of your data.

3) Security is a big concern for many people — how is data secured in transit and on the data store? The more geeky the explanation the better! :)

Drew: We have our own protocol that runs over “https” that combines binary diffing and compression, so no file data or metadata is *ever* sent over the wire in plaintext form. On the back end, we encrypt all file data using AES-256 before storing it on S3 (this is in addition to the security that Amazon provides.) We are working on a way for people to provide their own private keys or passphrases for people who choose to do so as long as we can preserve the simplicity of the user experience. What some people might find unusual about our team is all of us have been using Linux since the 90’s and so the usual server-side security precautions, etc. are second nature to us.

4) Do you have an ETA on a Linux client? A lot of Ubuntu users would love to get on the boat with this.

Drew: No eta right now. (Though we will tease you and say we’ve had a working client in-house for months, and nearly all of the client code is written in Python.) We want to make sure we can provide at least a decent experience on Linux, even though many Linux users would be comfortable with a CLI version or don’t care about having icon overlays/tray icons.

5) What are the details on the paid accounts? Do you have any specs on online storage, transfer limits, and prices?

Drew: Still finalizing this, but we’re planning to have a free account with some amount of storage and paid accounts for people who want richer sharing options and more storage.

6) Do you plan on targeting home users, business consumers, or both? Why?

Drew: Initially, consumers/professionals, with businesses/teams/enterprise coming later. As you go up the spectrum, you need more bells and whistles/collaboration options, management/configuration options, and things like direct sales teams and/or resellers and other channels — which we’ll definitely tackle later on, but right now we think Dropbox seems to resonates with individual users and small groups in its current form.

6) As a company, what are your goals?

Drew: We want to change the way people think about files and storage. It’s 2008, and despite all the hype around services/storage “in the cloud”, the most common way people manage their files is by carrying around USB drives, emailing themselves attachments, and manually uploading files to websites.

We’ve always thought that in “the future”, you sit down at any computer and your stuff is always there, always backed up, always version controlled, etc, but for some reason no one had made it practical. Plus it’s a hell of a lot of fun designing a distributed filesystem to support tens of millions of people.

7) Finally – Your screen cast was reminiscent of the “You suck at Photoshop” screen casts. Coincidence?

Drew: I’ve seen a few of them and they’re hilarious, though there is no deliberate connection. Trying to sneak surprises under the radar made making the screencast a lot more fun and hopefully more entertaining than the usual pragmatic, slow-paced, corporate demos we’re all used to.

Invites to Dropbox Beta!

Dropbox kindly offered us 100 invites to hand out. Click the link below to sign up, or use the invite code “makeuseof” to sign up!

Related topics: Cloud Storage, Collaboration Tools, Data Backup.

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  3. Jenfer
    January 16, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    in case the other referal links expire, here's one

    you'll get an extra 250mb storage on top of the normal 2gb

  4. dookie
    December 1, 2009 at 7:22 pm
  5. ps
    September 26, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Please use this link
    and you will get another 250MB
    thx :)

  6. Sid
    August 26, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    I also have an invite that gives you an extra 250mb:

    I have been using it for over a year and it is the best of any such service, simply because the desktop app is fully integrated with you OS file management system and it is quick!

  7. jimbo
    August 21, 2009 at 4:49 pm


    thanks for using it

  8. Dropbox
    June 16, 2009 at 4:55 am

    It's perfect service. We share all our files between or team on all projects!

  9. Muslix
    April 21, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    If you use this link to sign up, we BOTH get 250 MB extra space...


  10. Angela Jhon
    October 25, 2008 at 12:42 am

    Hmm.. looks very similar to SugarSync ( which I have been using for some time now and its really great. Please send me an invite

  11. Stephen
    September 7, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    if anyone can be so kind, please send invite to


  12. Andy
    August 26, 2008 at 11:35 am

    If there are any invites left, invite me please

    Thank You!!!

  13. TicTac
    August 24, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Invite please!

  14. Mulder
    August 24, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    It looks like a promising service, so I'd appreciate your sending me an invite.

  15. Leon
    August 22, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Please send me an invite !!!

  16. escherichia
    August 20, 2008 at 7:56 am

    please send me an invite!!!!

  17. Joe
    July 15, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    Please send me an invite !!!

  18. Gunnar Steinn
    July 4, 2008 at 5:06 am

    Please invite me :)

    gunnarsteinn (at)

    thank you

  19. Karl Guðmundsson
    July 2, 2008 at 9:12 am

    The greatest of minds give us the simplest of things — simple, beautiful, useful things. The others graduate with honors. :)

  20. Freddy
    June 27, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Love you forever :)


    I have invites to swap ;-)

  21. Tommy
    June 17, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Invite me, oh pleeeease invite me!!

    Thank you


  22. realjons
    May 24, 2008 at 10:34 am


    May i have an invite, Plz send one to realjons(at)gmail(dot)com

    thank you very much

  23. Udit Agarwal
    May 24, 2008 at 5:32 am


    I'd love to have an invite.IF anybody has one.Please send one to uditaagarwal (at) gmail (dot) com

  24. Mark
    May 23, 2008 at 7:06 am

    Hi there,

    I would REALLY appreciate an invite and of course I would post my invites back on the web:

    mpeb613 (at) googlemail (dot) com

    Many thanks!!

  25. nka
    May 22, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    I have invites available: bkabb23 at gmail dot com

  26. nka
    May 22, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Hi, if there are any invites left, please send one my way and I promise to post invitations back.

    bkabb23 (at) gmail (dot) com

  27. Vasco
    May 20, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Pleease can someone send me an invitation? Txs a lot
    casquilho (at) mac (dot) com

  28. Gus
    May 19, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    If there are any invites, I would love one! I know I am late, but I'll be hapy to invite anyone else if i get one!

    gus.cuddy (at) gmail (dot) com

    Thanks in advance!

  29. Irfan Azher
    May 14, 2008 at 5:26 am

    Hay where is my invite ;)

  30. Franz
    April 12, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Hi there, I would appreciate if someone could invite me.

    franzlxhuber [aet] web [dot] de

    Thanks in advance =)

  31. Sean
    April 3, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    I would love an invite if someone is still handing them out.

    estese at gmail dot com

    Thanks in advance

  32. Chris
    April 3, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    I would REALLY love to have an acc, has anyone got an invite left for me? please...
    chris.sulzbach *at* gmail * com

  33. Jason
    March 31, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    Hey - I have been searching for some time. I hope everyone is paying it forward. I would love to get away from SkyDrive.

    Email address: jasonheas[.at] gmail (dot) Com


  34. dupree
    March 31, 2008 at 1:03 am

    I would love an invite if anyone has one to spare.

    jonnyl (at) gmail (dot) com

  35. Dennis
    March 30, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    I'm trying to find an invite since day1, unfortunately no luck, if anyone got an extra invite it will be really appreciate. Thanks in advance!

    keys80 (at) gmail (dot) com

  36. robounix
    March 29, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    $20 to the first to provide me with a dropbox invite for testing and write-up.

    robounix aht gmail dizot com

  37. Chris
    March 27, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    If anyone can spare an invite.

    AL_moranas (at) hotmail (dot) com

  38. Nick
    March 27, 2008 at 8:53 am

    I’d love a dropbox invite. I’m having such a hard time getting one. (I forgot my email address)

    dropbox [at]

  39. Nick
    March 27, 2008 at 8:52 am

    I'd love a dropbox invite. I'm having such a hard time getting one. :(

  40. sredlums
    March 26, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Same here, I would very much like an invitation...

    Thanx in advance!

    marc at matrabike dot nl

  41. Tyler
    March 26, 2008 at 11:50 am

    I missed the invites...can someone send one to me?


    lyonrt at gmail com

  42. Dre
    March 22, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    I was looking for some information on if it was possible to move the location of the 'My Dropbox" folder from within "My Documents" to another location when I accidentally came across the following PDF document titled "Why You Can’t Trust MyDropBox". Is this referring to the same company/organization?

    Personally, I think the service/program is great so far. Though, I'm not sure how comfortable I am with putting private or work sensitive files within My Dropbox folder, however.

  43. JohnD
    March 19, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Rats! I missed the invites! I've been waiting for this site to open! If anyone has one to spare I would deeply appricate it. johnd101web, Thanks a million!

  44. susan
    March 19, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    I'd be eternally grateful for an invite as well -- pretty please???

    aliyahbukra [ at ] gmail dot com


  45. Dave
    March 19, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    @Malar, Dave, and others - I've been using a service called Syncplicity ( that seems to combine the best of all three worlds: sync and backup of any folder, a lightweight but useful client UI with shell integration, online access to your files, unlimited storage, and folder sharing. They don't have a Mac client yet and versioning support is in the works, but all the other pieces are in and working pretty well.

  46. Sean
    March 18, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Wow, this website looks really awesome. Can't wait till it's out of beta, or somebody throws me an invite (

    Thanks for pointing out such a great service.

  47. Jackson
    March 18, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Hey Dave,

    I checked out DropBox for Mac. It integrates really well into the OS. It even has its own context menu to show the external link of the file that you're sharing.

  48. Richard
    March 18, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Oh, and BTW I ckecked out -- cool site.

  49. Richard
    March 18, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Karl, thank you very much, but something is amiss. I followed the link and it promps for username & password. below that, it says "don't have an account? create one free" so I click there and enter my info and use the long alpha numeric sequence from the email for the beta code and it tells me: "That invitation has already been declined." Anyone have an ideas why this is happening? Thanks!

    shuez [ at ]


    • Karl L. Gechlik |
      March 31, 2008 at 11:44 am

      It looks like they stopped allowing more than 2 invites to be launched from within a single account. I am waiting on some more invites hopefully they will come through in the next little while.

      It really is a great service!

      And thanks for the kind words Richard!! AtA thinks you are cool as well :)

  50. Karl Gechlik |
    March 18, 2008 at 10:35 am

    I just sent you an Invite Ari - courtesy of . Don't say we never did anything for you :)

    Anyone else want one email Betas at askTheAdmin dot com

  51. Ari
    March 18, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Hey, no fair, I've been trying to get an invite for this service, and they are all gone already!
    If someone has extra, I would be forever grateful.
    Aritrash [at]

  52. DrUnKtAnK
    March 18, 2008 at 8:13 am

    very cool. Too late for the beta invite, but if more are given I'll take one! :)

  53. Richard
    March 18, 2008 at 6:59 am

    Dave Drager, it would be nice if you got more invites, but I think it would be BETTER to see at least SOME of the people who got in today with the first 100 to pay-it-forward. Come on makeuseof readers, you now have 5 invites to give out each...500 potential invites. even if everyone gave only 1 back here, it would still be a 100% return. So........

    Anyone want to make my week and send me one? Pretty please? Spread some joy my way with the email: shuez [ at ]

    Thank you to someone in advance!



    • Dave Drager
      March 18, 2008 at 9:58 am

      DropBox doesnt have a way to really invite people, but you can create a shared folder and invite others to use that folder which automatically gets them into the DropBox beta! :)

    • Karl Gechlik |
      March 18, 2008 at 10:39 am

      On its way Richard!

  54. Dave Drager
    March 18, 2008 at 4:52 am

    Trying to get some more invites :)

  55. g
    March 18, 2008 at 2:07 am

    anybody have any concerns about privacy with these types of services?

  56. Shrihari
    March 18, 2008 at 2:05 am

    Need more invites :)

  57. Malar Edu
    March 18, 2008 at 5:30 am

    There is a service called sugarsync that seems to be identical to this one. Basically Foldershare plus backup. What I don't like about sugarsync or dropbox is that they require the folders being synced to be moved to a particular folder which will be difficult if I have files on different drives. Foldershare design is best for this one. There was yet another service tubes [Broken URL Removed] that promised identical service and it is no longer there. What is the viability of drop box or sygar sync? Should we just continue to use foldershare?

    • Dave Drager
      March 18, 2008 at 6:51 am

      I see three major differences between Sugarsync and DropBox. Someone please correct me if I am wrong because I'm not on the Sugarsync beta.

      1. Sugarsync requires a client to do all of the transferring. At least that's what I can tell from the screenshots. Dropbox is integrated in the shell.
      2. Sugarsync does not include a versioning system.
      3. Sugarsync has a "lite" sync feature which just uploads to the server and not synchronize across all devices. With DropBox all files are replicated across all systems, which probably is not the best way to handle large files you might not need on all systems.

      I'd love to get into the Sugarsync Beta if anyone has an invite!

  58. Arpit Jacob
    March 17, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    wow those invites got over rather fast. are you sure there were 100 invites :(

  59. RSD
    March 17, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    Koselara, I was think the same thing. I tried minutes after I saw his post in my RSS reader and it already said expired. Even more odd is the fact that 2 of these comments (like g) were posted about an hour how does someone get an invite to work an hour ago, but I received “Sorry, that beta code has expired. Sign up for the beta below!” within the same hour this was posted? I will call upon the lucky readers (specifically the 100 that got a beta account) to please share on of their invites with me, please, please, please. I need a service like this starting this week and I really do not want to use M$ foldershare. Thank you in advance! - Richard

    Please send it to: shuez [*at*]

  60. Tina
    March 18, 2008 at 3:16 am

    Wow, those 100 signups poofed in light speed. Post was viewed 118 times and they're all gone. Too bad for me. :)

  61. Koselara
    March 17, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    Neat review -- but WTF, only four comments & about 4 hours after it's posted, yet clicking the link says: "Sorry, that beta code has expired. Sign up for the beta below!" Otherwise, there's nowhere I can see on the site to put an invite code in during signup, just a place where it says "sign up for the beta" but actually is a mailing list.

  62. g
    March 17, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Thanks a lot for the invite. I only discovered this website ( a week or 2 ago and I am so hooked.

    Thanks again,

  63. I.Vassilev
    March 18, 2008 at 2:04 am


    You could also try the - Backup Solutions Network.
    We provide professional backup services - all communications are encrypted and you have SECURICO to double secure your files as you can encrypt them on you computer before uploading. You can have your files from all over the world thanks to the unique time expiring links, that you can generate for all of your files and then download with any browser or download client.
    Thank you

  64. Keith
    March 17, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Im very thankful for the invites, I saw this on Digg awhile ago and was hoping for an invite. This will help my parents show me their pictures from Hawaii easily.

    Thanks again!

  65. Aibek
    March 17, 2008 at 6:06 pm


    Same here, thanks for the invites :-)

  66. Jeton
    March 17, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Many thanks for the invites. I've been waiting for one.

    A great service!

    • dropboxfan08
      May 3, 2008 at 3:07 pm

      Hi Ive been waiting for something like that for ages TY