Dropbox vs. Drop Box
I've been a .mac/MobileMe user for about five years now. I've primarily used the service because of course it's networking features, and its integration with with other iLife application. I've tolerated over the years its inadequacies, such as, until recent updates, its low storage space, the troublesome Backup features, it's very awkward file sharing capabilities, and the sometimes stormy "cloud" syncing feature of the upgraded MobileMe service.
Primarily I use MobileMe for business purposes, including web and photo gallery hosting, and some limited personal backup and archiving needs. But as any long-time Mac users knows, nearly every feature of MobileMe can be had for much less than $99 per year.
Point and case: Dropbox vs. Drop Box
Apple's Drop Box comes installed with Mac OS X. It's a shared folder feature "with ACL permission set so that certain users can only copy files into the folder, but can't see its contents." The Drop Box or folder can beconfigured for limited use by other guest users, but it works primarily with users sharing the same network.
MobileMe also has a file sharing feature in which users outside a computer's network can access. You can upload nearly anything to your Sites folder and create an URL download for individual items in your Sites folder. But I would wager few users know how to do this. Also there has been, for me anyway, problems with sharing the public folder with PC users.
The last time Steve Jobs talked about MobileMe and iDisk, he said that it the feature and service would be faster and easier to access. But I've experienced numerous problems with them both. Uploading and syncing documents using iDisk is somewhat slow. I'm frequently hit with messages to "resolve conflicts" with files on my computers and on my MobileMe account. So file sharing on the Mac to say the least is not user friendly and powerful as it ought to be.
Well, enter Dropbox. With the two names and features so similar, I can imagine how the developers of Dropbox brainstormed the numerous ways they could outdo Apple's Drop Box and Public Sites folder and make it five times better. And indeed they have.
The extra features and ease of use of Dropbox are awesome. I first read about the application and service as I was working on updating and stabalizing the 1Password keychain application on my computer. Switcher's Blog recommends Dropbox as a better way of synching 1Password files between computers. They discuss other suggestions as well, but after spending a few minutes checking out Dropbox I was sold. And even better, I haven't paid a dime for the application or the service. Of course, though, if I need more than the allotted 2gigs of storage space, I can sign up for the pro plan at $9.99 month, or $99 per year. Sound familiar?
I won't go into detail about Dropbox's features because they're clearly spelled on their site. But I will share some of my experiences with the Dropbox so far. After you download the application and create a personal account, Dropbox connects you to your account where you can view your stored files, as well as get a list of recent activities that you have performed using the application. Small files upload instantly, and so far I haven't experienced in any storms in its "cloud" syncing feature. When I drop a file in my local Dropbox, it appears a few seconds later in the local Dropbox on my laptop. Syncing files between Apple's networked Drop Box is also instant, but unlike Drop Box, Dropbox contains both public and private access to the data dropped into it. The networking is all in one place. Plus, there's the added feature of having dropped files stored instantly online for easy access.
What makes file syncing in Dropbox a little faster is that it "only transfers the piece of the file that changed (also known as block-level or delta sync), making it easy to work with big files like Photoshop or Powerpoint documents." Whereas with Apple's iDisk document folder, it has to copy over or make a copy of any changes made to an already synced file.
Larger files, such as short movie clips, of course, take longer to upload and sync on both drop boxes, but I uploaded a folder of 850mb files to Dropbox and it took less than five minutes.
Public and Private Folder
With Dropbox you can do file sharing with other users outside your network. Just as with MobileMe, Dropbox members can create a shared folder with one another. Dropbox provides you with 10 invitations for share folder collaboration. Your collaborators can have access to your shared folder, but not access of course to items outside your shared folder.
Also when you right or control-click on your public folder, inside your local Dropbox, you and others can browse and download from that public folder via the web. Again, this can be done with MobileMe's Public Site folder, but web access to a MobileMe public folder is not as straightforward as with the Dropbox approach.
You can also right or control-click on individual files in your Public folder and create a specific link to that file. If it's a movie file, the movie will simply download from the link. This also can be done with MobileMe but not as conveniently.
Plus, with the way Dropbox is developing, I can see that once they make their API available to developers, there will be more ways to further customize your Dropbox Web Interface. Your web account comes with a photo sharing gallery feature, but I can also see future updates featuring links to your Flikr, blog site and Paypal account. It's easy cross platform capabilities makes Dropbox a perfect solution for business and organizations.
I'm not eager to switch away from MobileMe, but applications like MobileBox keep me looking for similar alternatives.