09 March 2015

The Dropbox Space Race

The Dropbox Space Race program ended on March 4 2015. This was a marketing event to get as many students as possible to install and use Dropbox. The more students of your university sign up, the more space Dropbox will give you. It was quite effective: the National University of Singapore had more than 20k students enroll, TU Delft 13k, MIT 11k, and so on. While the help page currently says that the extra space goes away after 2 years, it was not as clear at the time. So Dropbox sent an email early March 2015, titled Your Dropbox Space Race promotion has now expired, get Dropbox Pro.

I think the Space Race was a great marketing idea when it launched. It promoted school spirit as students united for a common cause. It was framed as a challenge. And it was free and fun. But Dropbox is pulling the space away, and I think it is a terrible move for several reasons. First, Dropbox gave a toy to the kids, and is taking it back just to make money. Students are realizing that the whole Space Race was a marketing scam. It was too free to be true. Second, I expect that most people were not even filling half of their Dropbox. What is the point of taking away something people are not even using? Third, the Space Race only involves cheap and broke students. How many are actually going to pay, rather than grudgingly shrink their Dropbox to fit 4 GB? And last, what does 8 GB of space cost Dropbox? Google offers 15GB for free, so if space really mattered to me, nothing prevents me from switching from Dropbox to Google Drive. I am giving a try to Copy, Barracuda Network's version of Dropbox, offering 20 GB for free. I don't need 20 GB, but Dropbox's move made me try others. My research lab switched to BTSync, with our own servers backing up our data.

So the Dropbox Space Race is like cheap wine: exciting at first, but bitter at the end.

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