[Editorial] What Google’s Version Of Dropbox Must Do That Google’s Version of Facebook Didn’t

If the rumors are true and speculations are to be believed, looks like Google Drive is going to arrive next week as an advanced Dropbox prototype. With a big fat stomach, of course.

We haven’t heard any formal words from Google yet but according to several reports, it is expected that Google Drive will be available as a web based service, along with a desktop client which would allow users to sync files across computers and mobile devices. This is Google’s long awaited counter to Apple’s iCloud and the extremely popular file sync service, Dropbox. On another front, there is Windows Live SkyDrive, Microsoft’s free cloud storage service which is basically a sleeping giant, kept dormant for years; failing to make a significant impact on users.


The Need Is Not Gigabytes And Terabytes of Space. It’s Something Else.

You really don’t need 25 GB of cloud space for important files do you? A couple of Gigs should be just fine for day to day documents, photos and other random stuff that needs to be easily synced to multiple computers or mobile devices. If you’re using a cloud storage service as a storage or backup dump, that’s another case and a completely different perspective. Box.net, Windows Live SkyDrive and a slew of other cloud services offer hefty storage space for free but that is not the real point of cloud file management.

The point is sync, cross platform compatibility, mobility, ease of use and core features which even your grandma can relate to.

File Sync is a necessity , space is luxury – no one knows it better than Dropbox.

I am clueless why a billion dollar biggie like Microsoft never took SkyDrive to the next level (until recently). Three years without a desktop client, are you kidding me?  (I missed Windows Live mesh, which supports file sync from desktop. Sorry).Then we have a built in SkyDrive integration in Windows 8 but Dropbox has already won millions of hearts. Too late, Microsoft. It’s too late!

Dropbox has snatched the show and it will be difficult to beat the goodwill and trust Dropbox commands.

Boils down to that core Google philosophy – it is very important to do one thing really really well. Dropbox knows it, their introductory 2GB offering seems childish in front of SkyDrive’s hefty 25Gb free space but like I said, users don’t need terabytes of cloud space. They need ease of use, less hassles and auto sync, which Dropbox provides.

Why Google’s version of Facebook Is a Ghost Town

Now lets look at Google Plus.

Here we have, a Google’s version of Facebook, 150 million users and packed with Googlers from every corner of the world. Mind you, Google Plus is a serious affair these days, the SPY world is analyzing all the social signals and mixing it into SERP’s. Google Plus is everywhere, navigation bar, Gmail, Google Reader, YouTube, Google Adsense, but it is still nothing but a ghost town.


Let’s hear it through the words of an average internet user and a Google Plus fan boy who tries to convince his friend.

A: Why aren’t you using Google Plus? It is a superb social site where you can interact with friends, follow blogs, read news, join hangouts and do so much more.

B: Yea, but friends are on Facebook. Google Plus, I don’t know what it is and I don’t have the time or energy to maintain another social site.

A: But it is better than Facebook as it is tied with other Google products you use e.g Gmail, YouTube and so forth.

B: Yes but you know what – I don’t care. Friends are on Facebook and I am happy with it. I used Google Plus for a day or two but could not find anyone.

A: But sooner or later, your friends will hop over to Google Plus. Then what?

B: Oh really? How did you guessed that?

A: Simple. Google has so many products we use everyday and now that Google Plus is merged across all of them, don’t you think it makes more sense to use Google Plus as your primary social channel?

B: Listen, I don’t care about Facebook, Google or Twitter. I care about my friends and they are on Facebook. If my friends abandon Facebook, which I don’t think they will anytime soon, I will follow them wherever they go. But I will go where my friends are, not to any social site made by a billion dollar tech company whose other products I am using. Please leave me alone!

The pitch is clear.

Friends, relationships and that comfy feeling. Facebook has already won millions of hearts, how would anyone counter that? Does that imply Facebook will rule the social sphere forever?

No. Certainly not, every tool wears out eventually. But a new social site will only prosper when it provides genuine value, something which has never been done before.

A revolution, a change.

Just look at Pinterest – there is something new in it and it is winning hearts without creating chaos or trying to snatch the meal from Facebook. Google Plus is not doing anything new. Same old thing, wrapped in a new cover and thrown over your face.

The same analogy might get repeated with Google Drive too. 5 GB sounds lucrative but then, users are already comfortable with Dropbox. It will be hard, if not impossible for Google to persuade users in moving their files from Dropbox to Google Drive. Trust me, once a movie becomes a super hit, the sequels merely performs. Human expectations is like a beast, you keep feeding it but it will still want more. At the same time, expectations love to remain glued to their complacent zone, it is very hard to persuade them to abandon their seat and try something new.

If it ain’t broken, why Fix it?

Some possible reactions:

Dropbox gives me 2 GB free space and that is more than sufficient for me. I don’t care about another file sync service, Dropbox just works, now can you please leave me alone for a while?

In 2006, I was using an external HD for backup. Then I found Dropbox and it is awesome. Then came a barrage of cloud storage services, I am sick and tired of trying a new storage provider every other day. Dropbox is cool, I have managed a hefty 10 GB space and it just works.

Google Drive is yet to be born so it is too early to jump into conclusions. But if Google wants to win this race, it has to do something new. Something that users want badly. Let users say “Hell yea, this is it”.

Following are some ways Google Drive can flank Dropbox (or Windows Live SkyDrive for that matter):

  • Auto sync into mobile will give Google Drive a huge edge. Dropbox’s mobile client is yet to support auto sync and if Google introduces this feature, it won’t have to worry about gaining early adopters.
  • Google Docs and Picasa has to be killed. I am sure Google will integrate these two sister services into Google Drive sooner or later, this will force encourage Google Docs users to move their files from Dropbox to Google Drive.
  • Referral bonus is a working viral trigger but Google needs a unique pitch here. Something like refer your Gmail contacts and get more space should work.
  • The ability to import Gmail attachments into Google Drive and sync those files to your desktop. This will lure Gmail users to try Google Drive and if the plan works, Dropbox has no counter for this move.
  • Music. Enough said. Something ground breaking here and Dropbox is in trouble.

Still fascinating to watch how Google gradually takes over every single aspect of our computers.

[image credit]

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Amit Banerjee

Amit has been writing for Techie Buzz since early 2009 and keeps a close eye on web apps, Google and all things Tech. He also writes at his own tech blog, Ampercent. Follow him on Twitter @ amit_banerjee