December 23, 2011, 11:17 AM — Got some time on a plane, a train, or just to yourself this holiday weekend? Save Wired’s excellent and detailed profile of Dropbox, the software service that’s hard to describe because it does so beautifully little, for later reading. The profile is a great balance of storytelling, characterization, and just enough detail for geeky wonks. But let’s get just a bit more inside-baseball with how this handy little tool won the hearts of minds of so many--especially those with smartphones and tablets.
Basically, Dropbox is a big folder (2 GB on freebie starter plans) that automatically backs up every little change you make to any file on any system you’re using. And that means any system: Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone, iPad, Android, or BlackBerry, plus the clever standard and mobile-sized versions of Dropbox’s web site. As Rachel Swaby’s profile points out, Dropbox installs easily, and all it really does is create a folder in your home folder (Mac and Linux) or your Documents folder (Windows). It’s a folder with an etched Dropbox logo and a very reassuring check mark, but it is, essentially, just a folder. Whatever you drop in that folder is backed up the second it lands there, and then it lands on all your other systems where Dropbox is installed (or is available for download, at least, on mobile devices). Sharing files through Dropbox is darned simple, too: either copy a link from a right-click or from the Dropbox web site, or share entire folders with other Dropbox users for real-time collaboration.
Getting that system just right took a whole lot of work, both on the front end and (moreso) the server side, but, still, there are a few intangibles that made Dropbox such a big success among the early adopting, tech-loving crowd. Here’s my stab at a few of them: