Jun 12, 2015

Dropbox and the Snake Oil Sales Model of Tech Firms

I hope you will all indulge me in one last rant about Dropbox that seems to have nothing at all to do with film or art, but with capitalism, and the pernicious form of that economic system that has been allowed to grow with the advent of technology and the Internet.

Dropbox followed the "get rich" technology growth model, what I think of as the Snake Oil Sales Model, that leaves behind those of us who are not in marketing or business. Dropbox began with the offer of a free product, one that many writers and artists and photographers need—a digital storage room. Since most blogs do not support PDF files for print articles, writers use Dropbox to give their readers (and editors who may want to pay them to write) access to print articles they have written that are not on the Internet. We all know, when we sign up for a service like Dropbox that, in a few years, when the company has built a user base of a few hundred thousand people, we will have to pay a fee in order to continue using it. That is the Snake Oil Sales Model: Take it for free, try it, and get hooked. (Drug dealers apparently use the same model.)

If you are under 40, you are so accustomed to this model that you do not even give it a second thought. But Dropbox has done something even worse that is generally reserved for companies like Microsoft and Apple. They have discontinued the service—read as "app" or "program"—they originally offered, that of a free storage room to which anyone can gain access. Now they have a fee-based "share" model for businesses. That's it. So, users like me who have depended upon the service, and expected at some point to be asked to pay, are being harassed so that they will drop out and leave gig space for the businesses. If you are snickering at this point, pause for a moment and think: Do you want a fee-based Internet for the 1% or the Wiki model—and the Blogspot model that you are reading right now, neither of which charges a dime?

Here is Dropbox's response to my e-mail about my pre-2012 account which should allow completely free access to my Public Folder, and has for the last three years. That means the many links that exist on this page to PDFs stored in my Dropbox Public Folder should work without you having to use your Dropbox log-in to read them. Below is what a response looks like in the Snake Oil Sales Model, a "fix it yourself" for something that cannot be fixed—unless you are a hacker.

Dropbox Support, Jun 12, 12:03 AM:
Thanks for writing in. While we'd love to answer every question we get, we unfortunately can't respond to your inquiry due to a large volume of support requests. Here are some resources for resolving the most common issues:

Restore files or folders - https://www.dropbox.com/help/969
Reset your Dropbox password - https://www.dropbox.com/forgot
Reset/Disable two-step verification - https://www.dropbox.com/help/364
Learn about sharing files or folders - https://www.dropbox.com/help/category/Sharing
Learn about Dropbox's desktop app - https://www.dropbox.com/help/category/Desktop
Learn about Dropbox's mobile apps - https://www.dropbox.com/help/category/Mobile
Ask a Community expert on our Forum - https://www.dropboxforum.com
For all other issues, please check out our Help Center - https://www.dropbox.com/help
We're sorry for the inconvenience,
The Dropbox Team

Needless to say, none of these links have anything to do with the recurring problem, which is that readers of this website must now use their own Dropbox log-in to get to my public folder.