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Dropbox Dropping Support for Older Operating Systems

Dropbox has begun notifying users of its service to inform them that, as of 16 January 2018, it will automatically sign out any computers running certain older operating systems. The Mac systems include those running Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard through 10.8 Mountain Lion; Windows Vista systems will also lose desktop support on that date. Not that it matters much, but you won’t be able to download or install the Dropbox desktop app on those systems after 3 November 2017.

Although the vast majority of Mac users have updated their Macs to later versions of OS X and macOS, some continue to run older versions. Many tend to be folk who, like me, have kept a Snow Leopard system operating in order to run PowerPC-based applications; Snow Leopard was the last Mac OS that supported Rosetta, the PowerPC emulator that enabled Intel-based Macs to run such apps (see “Rosetta and Lion: Get Over It?,” 23 May 2011).

This is not to say that such older systems will be completely cut off from accessing Dropbox files. Dropbox says that older systems running a “supported browser” should still be able to access files through the Dropbox Web site. We’ll see how long Web browsers compatible with those older operating systems remain supported. Dropbox provides more information about the end of desktop support for older systems in its help center.

There are undoubtedly many reasons, in addition to the Snow Leopard example I mentioned above, for users to stick with older versions of Mac operating systems — the old saw that “the way to recognize pioneers is from the arrows in their backs” comes to mind. Nonetheless, computer operating systems, like everything under the sun (and the sun itself), have finite lifetimes, and laggards now suffer the same fate as pioneers.

Adam Engst told us “Why You Should Upgrade (On Your Own Terms)” (4 September 2015), and his advice about upgrading still holds true: “wait if you want, but don’t wait too long.” Dropbox’s latest news illustrates why you don’t want to wait too long.


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Comments about Dropbox Dropping Support for Older Operating Systems
(Comments are closed.)

David   2017-09-01 10:14
This is a problem with “the cloud”. When apps depend upon “the cloud”, apps can stop working entirely. This is very different then the old days where obsolete equipment and operating systems may no longer get updates, but at least the obsolete apps on them continue to work.

We’re getting to the point where you can no longer keep old equipment even if it works good enough for you. You must keep it up to date.

Several sites for the ten year anniversary of the iPhone were going to use the original iPhone for a day or so to report what the original iPhone was like. However, AT&T no longer supports the EDGE protocol. The original iPhone no longer works.
I think you make a highly relevant observation.

It almost seems to me as if it might be time to experiment with simply refusing to update if you have a workflow that works for you. Why should you throw away working hardware or risk updating to a newer version of something if all it ends up doing is cost you time, money, and the risk of breaking your workflow while adding lots of never asked for fluff?

Sure people will be quick to point out the lack of new features. To that I say so what. Most of the new "features" coming out are gimmicks (Dropbox is a great example, the MBP TouchBar is another) that add clutter and complexity at best, instability and unreliability at worst. Others might point out the lack of security updates. But at this point I'd be willing to take that bet. Why should I be forced to keep up this senseless feature inflation just so I can remain safe? As a private citizen I'm not a prime target. I can surf, email, and use my apps carefully. That might just work.
David Illig  An apple icon for a TidBITS Benefactor 2017-09-04 20:32
This is not rocket science. Dropbox isn't going to stop working for me; I keep MacOS up to date.

If "works good enough for you" means that losing access to the Dropbox app (and other modern apps) is not a problem you're still good.

I also can't get teary-eyed over a 10-year-old iPhone no longer working. How's that battery?
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2017-09-09 01:32
And it might not. There's plenty of old malware around looking for people like you. You don't have to be a big corporation to be victimized.
David Morrison  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-09-04 21:37
One of the arguments in favour of upgrading is that you get security updates. I have never had a security problem even when I was up to date. This is largely because I am careful and perhaps a low target. I even suspect that running older operating systems is a security feature, as many of the newer exploits use newer bugs!
David Morrison  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-09-04 21:47
The biggest issue with using older systems, as you say, is finding software that will run on them. Web browsers are the main issue. Safari on Snow Leopard is unusable. Safari on Mountain Lion is a bit better, but Facebook just falls over. Fortunately, Firefox 48.0.2 still works, although it is not officially supported.

There is an active older systems community, and they are still developing software compatible with the older systems. Pale Moon uses the Gecko engine (Firefox) but is targeted at machines as old as Snow Leopard and Windows XP. (The Mac side could use a bit of help though.)

Skype recently logged out everyone using anything older than OS X 10.9 and told them Skype would no longer work for them, ie, upgrade OS or else. Fortunately, there is an easy hack that makes it work again, proving that there was no technical reason to exclude people with older systems.

Sometimes it is tempting to go to Windows where backwards compatibility is generally assured. Or Linux where no-one is forced to do anything.
Kevin Killion  2017-09-04 22:51
"Sometimes it is tempting to go to Windows where backwards compatibility is generally assured."

Amen! I dropped Snow Leopard on one last machine and have regretted it every day since. I look at the PC here and it's a very fast machine that can still run Eudora. Hell, a bit of compatibility magic and the PC can even run VisiCalc just to prove the point. Plus, high powered PCs have staggering expandability and wide software options.

I've been a hard core Apple loyalist since 1979, going through dozens of computers. But lack of backwards compatibility, lack of clarity on the direction forward (a trash can now and vague promises for later) and Cook's million bucks to hate group SPLC (which pretends to be anti-hate) suggest it's finally time to make the obvious move to Windows.
Dennis B. Swaney  2017-09-04 22:56
I expect Dropbox to be out of business within 5 years, 10 at the most. They ticked off thousands of their loyal PAYING customers by killing the Public folder feature. Thousands had used it to provide links to documents, photos, etc. for their websites. Dropbox could have just eliminated it for new users and grandfathered their older users for the feature, but noooooo they had to actively drive away their customer base. A lot are moving to pCloud.
David Morrison  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-09-04 23:20
The Public folder was redundant. You get better functionality from a specific link to the file. That said, it seems unnecessary to remove it.
Dennis B. Swaney  2017-09-07 14:23
Tell that to the thousands of paying Dropbox users who just had all their carefully crafted links on all their web pages disappear. The workaround(s) are too cumbersome to do the same job(s). Basically, DP just decided to say "Foxtrot Yankee" to a large group of their paying customers.
Bryan Nunweek  2017-09-04 23:19
The TenFourFox browser still seems to work perfectly well for dropbox in PPC Leopard…
Cherri Nelson  2017-09-05 13:43
There is a large community of us graphic artists who started with the first Macs, 512k, fat Mac, with software such as MacPaint & MacDraw. We were the first to use Illustrator 88, PageMaker, QuarkExpress and so on. We had to have those programs to work the occasional freelance jobs and keep up to date. We spent thousands of dollars on those programs, thousands!
Graphic artist don’t make a lot of money, most of are retired living on fixed incomes and can’t afford monthly subscriptions. I still use CS 6.5 for volunteer work, so do most my retired graphic friends. One friends last owned version is InDesign 3, horrors.
Adobe, Microsoft etc., makes no allowances for seniors, no discount for customers who began with them and want to continue to use what we’ve paid thousands for and still own.
This one makes me see red. We're stuck!
David Morrison  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2017-09-08 16:24
Now Google Drive is being wound up. No this is not bad news despite the headlines. It is being replaces by Google Backup and Sync which seems to be better. For one thing, you can choose which folders it backs up, rather than having to put everything a single folder. For another, it works from Lion up.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2017-09-09 02:00
This issue is as old as computers. Complaining about DropBox ending support for old systems is shoveling sand against the tide.

All the major web browsers stopped supporting anything older than OS X 10.9.x Mavericks last year. That doesn't mean you cannot run older versions, it just means you don't get feature and security updates. For some people these issues are trivial. On the other hand, if you want or need access to the modern web, you have to keep your stuff up to date.

The simplest solution is the one Michael mentions. Keep an old computer around to run the old software you need—and if you're smart you'll keep it off the web. Use a new computer where functionality and performance are important.

As for Microsoft supporting old systems, that is a thing of the past. They are following Apple's lead and leaving the laggards behind. Anything older than Windows 7 is dead meat. And even that has a definite EOL date. They are trying hard to move everyone to Windows 10. I have no doubt this is to reduce support costs, as it is with Apple.

The same imperative affects software developers. It costs time and money to preserve backwards compatibility at the same time you are trying to keep up with new hardware and new operating systems. As the saying goes, money doesn't grow on trees.