Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

An open letter to Dropbox

Posted on 10 April 2011 26 comments

Article illustration for An open letter to Dropbox

Earlier this week, I wrote about a potential new Mac set-up; one reliant on Dropbox, not for its back-up capabilities, but for its main function: the ability to seamlessly sync multiple files across multiple computers.

I’ve been a big fan of Dropbox for quite some time, and in all honesty, I don’t think I personally know of a web professional who doesn’t use the service in at least some capacity. 2010 seemed to be the year that the app fell into mainstream use, too, as numerous not-particularly-web-savvy clients started sharing Dropbox folders with me and non-webby friends started using it for online back-up. 2010 was also the year that I moved the majority of my files into Dropbox, having subscribed to the largest plan at the beginning of the year. And over time, I managed to increase my storage space through referrals (yes, that’s a referral link).

However, as happy as I am with the service, there are three key improvements I’m hoping we’ll see implemented in the near future. These could be vital in using Dropbox to embrace the concept of ‘the cloud’ in our everyday lives.

  • Larger storage, please! I don’t mind that this will cost more. I’m happy to spend money on such a great service. But right now, I’m limited. I have all of my client work on there, my personal paperwork, and various application resources such as libraries for FontExplorer X, TextExpander, Little Snapper, and The Hit List, but the space isn’t big enough to hold my photo, music, TV, or movie libraries.
  • The second request relates to the first: Please let us store our Dropbox on external drives! Although the main reason my media libraries aren’t stored there is down to space, it’s also because I intentionally keep these libraries on external drives.
  • The third request relates to the second: Please allow us more than one Dropbox folder! There would be no point in allowing the folder to live exclusively on an external drive because it would only be able to sync and back-up from one location, so the only way for this to work realistically is if we’re able to set up multiple Dropboxes. They might all live on the internal drive; they might live on external drives; they might exist on a combination of both.

When the Amazon Cloud Drive arrives in the UK, or when Apple eventually release their iTunes Locker service, I’ll most likely use one of them to back-up my music library and play it back across multiple devices. Granted, that kind of ‘sync’ (really just cloud access) is different to the service Dropbox offers, but if I could, I would prefer to use Dropbox for all my cloud-syncing needs.

If even one of the three ‘wish list’ items above was implemented soon, Dropbox would be better placed for multimedia management and therefore in a much better position to compete with Amazon and Apple’s services. Right now, Dropbox’s web interface displays a folder of images in a gallery; the interface reflecting the folder’s content. What if that was taken one step further for the playback of music or video?

Dropbox, you’re great. You’ve changed the way I work, and now you’ve changed the way I buy computers. I can’t wait to see what you have up your sleeves.


  1. Yan


    10 April 2011 @ 11:42PM #

    I’m using an alias to run my Dropbox folder off of my Drobo, but I agree I would love those features as well.

  2. Bill


    10 April 2011 @ 11:45PM #

    Hear you on the storage size, but the multiple folders can be handled easily via symlinks.

  3. Dave S.

    Dave S.

    11 April 2011 @ 01:14AM #

    A fourth request: allow us to place shared folders we’ve joined somewhere other than the root of our Dropboxes. It gets unwieldy quickly, especially when you have an established personal hierarchy in place.

  4. Jason


    11 April 2011 @ 01:36AM #


    That is true, I do the same myself. That said, there is nothing simple about symlinks to those who don’t already know what they are.

  5. Jonathan


    11 April 2011 @ 01:40AM #

    I think that lack of storage space is going to become a regular complaint/request from Dropbox users, as existing customers start to bump into their plan’s ceiling.

    I’m still on the 50Gb plan, but from the outset I saw storage space as a potential issue with the service. But the cost of storage space is always falling, so I imagine it is innevitable that Dropbox eventually offer a larger plan, or bump up the storage limits for their existing plans.

    It will be interesting to see how they respond to the challenge laid down by Amazon’s Cloud Drive, when you consider that the cost of Cloud Drive is half that of Dropbox (e.g. $100/mo for 100Gb), and storgage limits go 10 times higher (up to 1000Gb).

  6. Matthew Buchanan

    Matthew Buchanan

    11 April 2011 @ 04:21AM #

    @Dave S. I believe this is handled already. I drag all shared folders into a “Clients” folder in the root of my Dropbox and they continue to sync as normal. They can also be renamed and still work.

  7. Vince Gonzalez

    Vince Gonzalez

    11 April 2011 @ 06:23AM #

    I think some of the features you want are supported by SugarSync. https://www.sugarsync.com/ Mainly the ability to sync any folder you want and such. Pricing is also better and goes up to 250GB.

    It will get the job done and allow you to store your files however you please.

  8. Marcelo


    11 April 2011 @ 12:30AM #

    Great points! For #3, have looked at Symlinks? There’s some free, easy to use utilities that let you mirror folders from other places in your computer to Dropbox.


  9. Martin Lucas

    Martin Lucas

    11 April 2011 @ 09:59AM #

    I like the multiple Dropbox folders idea – I could set it up to further replicate the look of my current documents folder set up, instead of everything having to be inside my one Dropbox folder – symlinks included. Nice.

  10. Neil Sweeney

    Neil Sweeney

    11 April 2011 @ 10:03AM #

    Just to second Vince Gonzalez, I use SugarSync for my current set-up, which is to be your future set-up it seems, and it works perfectly. It’s a bit more robust than DropBox and it’s my main solution for backups and syncing.

    FYI, I use both DropBox and SugarSync for a number of reasons, but SugarSync is my main solution.

  11. Alexander


    11 April 2011 @ 10:15AM #

    When you said you’d most likely move on to other services, that reminded me of 37 Signals’ Rework, specifically about Customers Are Not Always Right. I see you point though!

  12. Matthew Smith

    Matthew Smith

    11 April 2011 @ 01:49PM #

    Well said Elliot.

    I’d simply add to your thoughts on the size limitation that I’d also like to up my size to about 250GB and pay something comensurate to what a 50GB costs rather than have to jump to the massive sizes available for teams with a really difficult price tag.

    I currently pay for the 50GB account and love it. I hope they hear us on this one.

  13. Jonas Flint

    Jonas Flint

    11 April 2011 @ 02:44PM #

    I really needed folder syncing with more then one folder and to an external drive… so I had to go with sugar sync. I’m not happy with them, as the service seems unreliable, but I really need to be able to sync to multiple folders and to an external drive. Please dropbox hear this out!

  14. Dave S.

    Dave S.

    11 April 2011 @ 04:35PM #

    @Matthew Buchanan — oh nice. I guess I assumed moving them would break the link, but after trying that just now I immediately got the “You have joined shared folder xxx” Growl message, so I guess it did the right thing and re-linked. Thanks!

  15. g3orge


    11 April 2011 @ 11:35PM #

    I wouldn’t say I agree. Dropbox wants it to keep it simple with no configuration or advanced settings, nad it’s awesome. I agree with the storage thing, but come on…

  16. Kevin Bradshaw

    Kevin Bradshaw

    12 April 2011 @ 02:22PM #

    You might want to give Zendit a try.

    It’s essentially a web UI for cloud storage…storage anywhere.

    It’s not complete yet, but I think there’s enough at present to determine whether it might be a part of what you are looking for or not.



  17. Adrian Short

    Adrian Short

    12 April 2011 @ 09:31PM #

    Dropbox is a success because it doesn’t complicate matters with all these advanced power user features.

    I’m sure they’ll upgrade the storage and/or drop the prices at some point but the feature set is spot on. You’ve just outgrown it.

  18. Zara


    14 April 2011 @ 11:39AM #

    I have DB, but loving another service www.medialightbox.com that allows collaboration, groups and workflow…best of all..theres a free package!

  19. Elliot Jay Stocks

    Elliot Jay Stocks

    14 April 2011 @ 11:48AM #

    Thanks for the comments, everyone! Especially those of you who pointed out the power of symlinks. It’d still be nice if features were supported out of the box (no pun intended), though, rather than having to get involved with the command line.

    @ Zara: Media Lightbox is much more expensive: its maximum storage capacity is only 30GB and they charge £180 a month for that. Dropbox’s maximum storage capacity is 100GB and that only costs approximately £12 a month!

  20. Orionlogic


    15 April 2011 @ 03:13PM #

    Dropbox is on the mercy of Amazon its simple as that. So whatever you wish for storage upgrade just expect improvements in thier deal.

    By the time, you may check www.crashplan.com .

    Personally i expect to drop dropbox with an integrated cloud type of solution from Apple. Not very near future though.

  21. Webbdesigner


    16 April 2011 @ 11:20PM #

    One annoying thing with dropbox is that it glithces when i create new folders and try to name them. Really irritating, however i love the simplicity!

  22. Jack


    18 April 2011 @ 05:12PM #

    I have a feeling you’re misunderstanding the point of DropBox. It’s designed to be your remote portable storage in the cloud – not a facility to power a roaming profile.

    The reason they provide such limited storage capacities is likely to prevent people using it to store everything. Being selective about how you use it is precisely why it has taken off – it allows people to see a direct use case for the product rather than it being a service that can do everything.

    I’d agree with @Adrian Short’s comment – I feel you have outgrown the service rather than it needing to provide more functionality.

  23. Eddie Forero

    Eddie Forero

    19 April 2011 @ 07:19AM #

    He’s not outgrown the service. Dropbox has become the defacto leader in this space.

    Dropbox is a disruptive technology that has in fact jump-started the cloud storagen"revolution".

    When the iPhone came out no one imagined it would become as powerful and capable as it has become. Dropbox is the same. What started as a simple way to store random files online has grown to become a hard drive replacement.

    I agree with Elliot. Dropbox has to develop it’s offering to accommodate this new reality. And I have no doubt that they are working very hard to do this

    Don’t be surprised if they add many of the things Elliot wrote about later this year b

  24. dmd


    19 April 2011 @ 11:03AM #

    might want to try iSCSI for offloading your dropbox folder/library…

  25. Indisk Design

    Indisk Design

    19 April 2011 @ 06:32PM #

    I actually use DropBox all the time, both at home and work. I would call myself an average computer user, I don’t really store anything really heavy on DB, but I still have a shortage of storage!!! DB is a great service and I’m sure people are willing to pay for extra storage!

    Over all though, just like you said…
    Dropbox, you’re great!!

  26. Homemade Beer

    Homemade Beer

    25 April 2011 @ 06:50PM #

    I use dropbox in Ubuntu 10.10. It works perfectly. It is available in the “Ubuntu Software Center”, so it is really easy to install.

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