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Dropbox Changes Pro to Plus, Drops Public Folders

There are a couple of changes coming to the Dropbox cloud storage service, one minor and one more significant.

First, the company is rebranding the paid Dropbox Pro tier as Dropbox Plus. No other changes are being made, as Dropbox repeats to a hilarious degree in its FAQ. The paid tier still costs either $9.99 per month or $99 per year and offers 1 TB of storage space. Nothing else has changed, it’s just called Dropbox Plus now.

Second, Dropbox is dropping its Public folder feature for Dropbox Basic (free) accounts. Dropbox has been threatening to do this since 2012 (see “Dropbox Public Folder Leaves and Returns,” 14 July 2012), and accounts created after 4 October 2012 weren’t given a Public folder at all. On 15 March 2017, Dropbox will convert all Public folders on free accounts to private folders, breaking existing links. Dropbox now recommends using a shared folder or shared link for sharing files with others. Dropbox Plus and Dropbox Business users can continue to use the Public folder until 1 September 2017.

Similarly, Dropbox removed the capability to render HTML files stored in Public folders from Dropbox Basic accounts last year (see “Dropbox to Discontinue HTML Rendering, Breaking Hosted Sites,” 7 September 2016). That capability will also disappear for Dropbox Plus and Dropbox Business users on 1 September 2017. Many users took advantage of this feature for free Web site hosting, and Dropbox apparently didn’t like that.

It may seem as though Dropbox is just removing features and not adding new ones, but that’s not entirely the case — the company added a few new things last year, as “Take Control of Dropbox” author Joe Kissell outlined in “Catch Up with the Latest Dropbox Features” (3 March 2016). Although it’s annoying to lose the Public folder and its HTML rendering capability, Dropbox remains useful because it’s integrated so well into the Mac and iOS experience, and it just works.


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"Although it’s annoying to lose the Public folder and its HTML rendering capability, Dropbox remains useful because it’s integrated so well into the Mac and iOS experience, and it just works."

But problematic due to the kernel extension and attempts to override Accessibility controls.
Simon  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-03-06 20:59
I realize this is a very broad accusation, but why does it always appear to be that as soon as a company or product gets really big, they start to remove good features and introduce annoying stuff?

Dropbox used to be simple and great. Obviously, they needed to monetize, but now they remove simple to handle functionality like the sharing folder or they install kexts just so they can paint pesky little icons into our MS Office documents, etc. Was that really necessary?

Or Apple. Remember when Apple with Mac OS X was the underdog at south of 5% market share and iOS wasn't around yet? They were trying really, really hard. Every OS X version attempted to be more stable or make something easier to do that a lot of people did all the time. Now Apple with iOS and the successful iPhone is king of the hill and look at them. New functionality appears to cater to niche interests, while tedious tasks performed by 80% of the people are still tedious and no signs of Apple interested in making them easier (why can't the iPhone just play any audio/video format?). Product testing is lackluster so stuff gets released that's buggy and by no means ready. Important functionality gets sacrificed (headphone jack or sending faxes), while loads of bloat gets added at questionable value.

I am starting to think MS wasn't bad because they had bad in their DNA. They were bad because they were big and powerful. Apple, Google, Dropbox - the bigger they get/got, the less they try to be good, the nastier they get. As if this were a law of nature. But I'm not willing to believe it always HAS to be that way.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2017-03-07 18:29
I think you misspoke. They are not removing shared folders. Public folders and shared folders are not the same thing. And I can understand why people using public folders to host their web sites would be a problem for Dropbox. No doubt some web sites are expensive bandwidth hogs. Web hosting is not in their business model. I expect they didn't foresee how many people would cunningly take advantage of public folders for high bandwidth activities. Or maybe it was a loss leader intended to promote business. Either way, the loss has become unsustainable, apparently even for paid accounts.

Eliminating public folders is not a result of Dropbox becoming too big. It's a result of public folders becoming too popular. Apple used to host web sites, too, but they gave that up when they dropped iWeb and Mobile Me, no doubt for similar reasons. Web sites usually don't take up a lot of room on a server, but they can use a lot of bandwidth.

I agree that Apple is callous in some ways. But Steve Jobs was always callous and even ruthless. Tim Cook is not callous, he's just clueless, which can have similar consequences for customers.

On the other hand, the cost of OS X upgrades has been dropping since OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard (it came down from $129 to $29); Mountain Lion was $19.99. And it's been free since October 2013, with OS X 10.9 Mavericks. A fact which no doubt influenced Microsoft's decision to make the Windows 10 upgrades free for home users. Though these decisions appear to be generous, they were made for sound business reasons. Both Apple and Microsoft were willing to take a loss on the front end to push adoption of new versions in order to reduce support costs down the line.

A common problem with companies becoming big, in my mind, is that their focus become diffused as they attempt to diversify their services. As a result, the quality of their products and services often declines. Then again, in some cases, quality has always been below par. This is certainly the case with Apple, which has never done cloud services well. They still don't; the multiplication of features in iCloud has not helped in the least. They are intended to expand the Apple ecosystem but instead it has just been cluttered with half-baked, inadequately realized and poorly implemented ideas. The exception to this pattern is, of course, Apple Pay, which has become an industry leader in point-of-sale convenience; and it adds real value to the iPhone.

Dropbox appears to be taking a more careful approach to their cloud services; as a result their reputation remains strong. They have maintained focus on their core business and new features generally enhance that business. They don't go in for flashy bells and whistles.

Others, like Google, are addicted to bells and whistles. Which is why there is a lot of churn in their offerings, with features coming and going regularly as they throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks. Facebook has the same problem, to a lesser degree.

Microsoft stumbled badly as they moved into the hardware business, but they finally worked out the bugs as they left Windows RT (and the Surface RT on which it ran) and Windows 8 behind. Windows 10 on a Surface Pro is a solid system on capable computers.

Apple, unfortunately, has become the Titanic. All they're doing now is moving the deck chairs around, with gimmicks like the Touch Bar standing in for real innovation. They are refusing to take up the challenge from Microsoft to develop a touch-screen Mac, instead putting all their apples in the iPad Pro basket, which is not a computer. For Apple this a feature, not a bug, but the iPad Pro can't really compete with the Surface Pro. Yes, security is better on an iPad, but functionality is limited; in some cases, like the app centric file system, it is crippled. Which means no Dropbox on iOS. So, you can sync your documents in iCloud, but you need to download them to a Mac to use collaboration software—or any non-Apple cloud services. Which adds extra steps to your workflow. Steps you don't need on a Surface Pro and other dual function laptop computers.

Tim Cook refuses to see that iceberg looming up in the distance. But denial is not a river in Egypt. It's a serious character flaw in a CEO and a dangerous prospect for a large company like Apple. If they stay on course, sooner or later the Titanic is going to spring a leak.
Scott M.  An apple icon for a TidBITS Benefactor 2017-03-09 19:40

"They are refusing to take up the challenge from Microsoft to develop a touch-screen Mac, instead putting all their apples in the iPad Pro basket, which is not a computer."

To me, that last part is a matter of perspective. To many people, an iPad is a computer. It will do everything that they need a computer to do...i.e. read/write email messages, browse the web, write word processor documents, view pictures, play movies, etc.

For you and me, however, we might not consider it a computer since it does not really have a true user accessible file system. However, I do still acknowledge, that I can still do many of the things that I need a computer to do. For those things that it cannot do (which is still a lot), then I do use my MacBook Air or MacBook Pro.

While I do not not necessarily thing that Apple not being willing to do a so-called "true" touchscreen computer (along the lines of a Surface Pro or Surface Book or any number of other non-Microsoft touchscreen, Windows running 2-in-1s) is a death knell for Apple (nor a huge iceberg), I do believe that it is a market segment that Apple is missing out on. Right now that market segment is likely still on the smaller side, but it is possible that it could become large enough that Apple would be really stupid not to tap into it. And while an iPad Pro does kind of tap into it (i.e. the part of that segment that does not need "true" computer aspects but more "light" computer aspects), there is still a part of that segment that an iPad Pro likely cannot effectively reach without dramatically changing how iOS works.
Simon  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-03-09 20:05
I wonder if Apple could simply refuse to enter that segment. Indeed, they make a good case why it's a segment to stay out of. You end up with a weak computer and a heavy tablet instead of having two devices (for those that really need/want both) which are both excellent at what they are intended to do.

I remember when netbooks became a thing and Apple simply refused everybody was saying in the long run staying out of that market would kill them. Of course it didn't and Apple was right to refuse to enter that market. Personally, I'd rather see them focus on the Mac (especially desktops) than worry about how to merge the iPad Pro and the MacBook to make some kind of Surface competitor.

(Just to play devil's advocate, that netbook jury might still be out since we just recently were reminded that apparently Chromebooks are killing Apple in education.)
Suzanne R Brown  2017-03-06 21:22
Well, dang! I used the Public folder so my two adult children could easily access all our family recipes without me having to be available to send them to them. It was SO useful!
Curtis Wilcox  An apple icon for a Friend of TidBITS 2017-03-06 23:35
You can still use the shared folder or shared link features to share a folder of recipes.
Bruce Blakely  2017-03-07 09:06
Correct. We have a shared family folder for all four of us, a shared folder between my spouse and me, and shared folders with each child (now adult, but we've had these since they were in middle school or for about as long as Dropbox has been around). Very, very, convenient.
Trevor Drover  2017-03-07 00:23
I am a great fan of Dropbox and have it installed on all of my computers and iDevices so that I can my important documents and programs on all my devices. Many families and friends also use Dropbox to share pictures and information.

Dropbox has introduced a limit of 2 computers you can sync on the free account in certain regions, including Australia it would seem.

There is no limit to the number of mobile devices you can link, and you can still access your account on

I recently updated my daughter’s MacBook Air and Dropbox came up with a warning message as her Dropbox account was linked to her MacBook Air, her iMac, my wife’s iMac (so she can work from our house) and her husband’s Windows PC. She had to choose which 2 she wanted to use.

She was prompted to unlink other computers, or to upgrade to Dropbox Pro for AU$139 per year or AU$13.99 per month. There's no limit on the number of computers you can connect with Dropbox Pro, but it is expensive for a home user.
Andrew Daws  2017-03-07 03:29
Same as Evernote. She could always move to the inferior OneDrive
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