Dropbox – The Lightweight, heavyweight.

Tim O’Reilly’s 8th web pattern is about “Lightweight Models & Cost-Effective Scalability”. This week will I will examine what it means to incorporate cost effective scalability into a successful web 2.0 endevour and examine the best practices involved in doing so. I highly recommend the following video, I think its perfect to tie the entire semester together, yes it’s long at 55 mins but it’s Tim O’reilly. He’s essentially the reason this subject exists and not only does he talk about the 8th pattern, he provides an excellent summary of how all the patterns work together.

If the model for Web 1.0 companies was “get big fast”, now it’s “small is the new big” why? For a start consider the up front costs involved in the antiquated thinking associated with web 1.0. A company could invest untold amounts of money, construct a website that they thought was great and hoped would be successful, and then watch it fail very quickly. This outdated thinking was to burst onto the scene, to take the internet by storm and be the new big thing without thinking too much further than that. The burst of Dot.Com bubble in May of 2000 is testament to this type of thinking just not working. 
There has been a paradigm shift, companies now realise that they need a defined strategy of approach, that re-use and leveraging from other sources is important, that they don’t need to do everything themselves. It is now about working the smartest and not necessarily about spending the most amount of money.
Dropbox adheres to these best practices in an examplary fashion. I think much of it has to do with it being a text book example of what a business needs to get right in order to become a true lightweight heavyweight.
Dropbox had humble beggings, essentially developed by Drew Houston as a program he could utilise himself after becomming frustrated with forgetting / losing USB sticks. Dropbox was essentially a one man development team responsible for a piece of software, that did everything right on a small scale. Let’s examine exactly how Dropbox grew to having over 100 million users, being responsible for .29% of the entire bandwidth on the internet by adhering to the best practices for this, the 8th O’reilly pattern.
Scale with demand
Scaling with demand is Dropbox’s forte. From it’s humble beginnings as a single user piece of software, it quickly established right away that it was indeed a force to be reckoned with (on a very small scale at least). As Dropbox gained clientele through strategic marketing it was simply a matter of acquiring more server space and keeping the service exactly the same fundamentally (of course there will always be feature add ons), and leveraging the long tail of the internet to reach more users.
Syndicate business models
Dropbox is has gone to great lengths to ensure that it is integrated into most online storage offerings. There are a plethora of addons and applications available that offer seamless integration with Dropbox. One click to Dropbox from many applications,  smart TV’s, smartphones, and its almost “part of the original package” appearance in the windows 7 operating system ensures it is exposed to a host of mutually beneficial revenue generating opportunities. In 2012 the Dropbox integration with Facebook groups was yet another display of innovation that has become synonymous with the name “Dropbox”
Outsource whenever practical and possible
Dropbox utilises amazon s3 data hosting services adhering to the “rent-a-server” model. This strategic move allows them to concentrate on what they do best, seamless integration with other programs without suffering the expense involved with establishing a physical data bank.
Provide outsource infrastructure, function, and expertise

Dropbox is a popular choice for infrastructure outsourcing, and its easy integration over almost any platform is particularly enticing to business ensuring adoption costs are low. Real time file synchronisation for all business team members, excellent reliability and backup offerings, as well as mobile access to files at all times makes it a perfect fit for many organisations.

Scale your pricing and revenue models

Dropbox caters for almost any type of user. They offer anyone a basic 2GB account, but offer extra storage space to those who refer the service to their friends, or purchase certain products or services. Recently, connecting the latest Samsung Galaxy to Dropbox via their application resulted in 50GB of bonus space. The high end of the market is also catered for offering businesses and large organisations a range of services for greater amounts of data with flexible pricing options.

Market Virally

There is incentive to use Dropbox almost everywhere and again this is in many ways as a result of its seamless integration with the products and services that matter. Offering users free space through third party programs is a win-win situation. Display a small Dropbox advertisement or integrate a plugin and gain the ability to offer your users storage space through you. 

Further Reading;


I’m not just surfing the net…I am legitmately being productive… with web 2.0!

Web 2.0 = Greater productivity

This week I will be discussing how I have harnessed web 2.0 in my every day life to make me a more productive human being!

Let’s take for example that horrid, horrid combination of words “Group” & “meetings” *shudder* Yes, they are painful, but also unfortunately a necessary evil at universities around the world.  What if we didn’t have to meet up every week though? What if it was possible for all group members to work on the same document, at the same time, in the same place, without leaving their bedrooms (or family rooms, or cars, or boats). It isn’t that long ago that this would have been merely fanciful daydreaming but, through the utilisation of web 2.0 applications like dropbox  and Skype, we are able to do just that!

Drop box is far more than just an application that allows you to share documents. It is cloud hosted space that is yours, for free. I have downloaded the optional application that runs in windows (with a windows explorer feel) but you can use it via any web browser, or even download the app for android or iOS. When you sign up you are allocated 2GB but you can earn more space by simply spreading the word and referring your friends.  Drop box allows me to invite friends to share folders and all associated content (music, videos, pics, games, any data) and notifies me when an item is added or altered in one of my shared folders. I have used dropbox for every group assignment I have ever submitted and saved myself countless unnecessary trips to university and houses of other group members. I cannot rate this application highly enough!

Ok, so you have the document thing sorted but there are still issues you’d prefer to sort out face to face. Not a problem, use Skype. With a $20 dollar webcam and any microphone and speakers your computer is transformed into a fully fledged video conferencing suite. Through skype you can see one, or multiple contacts and communicate in  a way that resembles actually being in the same room. I relied very heavily on skype for preparation for a consulting competition I entered last semester, and won. I  know that without it we would not have had the chance to practice as a team nearly as often.

As I inserted this picture I thought to myself “really?, do I really need to tell people about this?” I think that in itself is true testament to face book’s place at the top of the social networking tree for most users. Officially it is rated as the number one site by nearly everyone you can think of including the washington post. But why? I have to admit I was among the slow adopters, I have never really been the type of person to do something just because everyone else was doing it. I eventually got a Facebook account in mid 2010 and wondered what had taken me so long. I now have a large network that I communicate with regularly. I keep track of University group assignments through the groups feature, I keep in contact with many old friends that otherwise would not be part of my life, and have actually gained employment through a friend of a friend that I met for the first time through face book. I am able to establish what people are up to in their lives by scanning the facebook feed and if I want to announce something I have an instant audience. It is basically every friend you have ever had at a glance, and that is why I love it.

RSS Readers


Web 2.0 tools and applications provide a plethora of information, sometimes too much to get through in the time I have to scan the different networks I am connected to. To solve this problem I use an RSS reader and you can read about those here. The way I look at my RSS feed is like a filter, I am able to tag what I am interested in and get that information only. I might be interested to know if a work colleague has joined another network via linkedin but care little about Kate baking a cake on the weekend. It really is that simple and saves me a lot of time.


The Instant Messengers

For me there has really only ever been two, first ICQ and then later, much later MSN (and of course facebook chat). ICQ was popular in the United States and Europe in the early 2000’s but it’s popularity slowly tapered off because it was not packaged with windows. Personally, I think it was a better instant messaging tool than the MSN messenger of it’s day – do any of you remember the ‘oh oh’ ICQ notification sound? I utilise instant messengers because they allow for no fuss, limited contact list communication and I find these work best when I am strapped for time or want to contact someone specific, if and only if they are online at that moment.  You have set people that you have invited to become part of your lists and are notified when they are online and can chat . It’s simple, it’s old school and it’s effective. In my opinion these relatively basic tools paved the way for more complex social networking like Facebook, Skype and dropbox.

I increase my productivity through being aware!

Not everyone likes the same things. I am sure we can agree there, so in your group of friends, your university peers, even your work colleagues you will notice that some people use some web 2.0 tools and applications that others would not even consider downloading. Why? … Why is winter cold? People like different things so I make myself available to everyone. I keep up-to-date with what is out there, I know what people use, and I know what I should have installed to connect with the people and places I want to connect with.

Without out web 2.0 tools like those listed above  there is little doubt in my mind that I would have studied something other than IT. It was that social overlap, that feeling of accomplishment, building something, creating something, sharing something that spawned my love of everything ICT. Without utilising web 2.0 tools throuought my university career I would have had to approach assignments in a very different fashion and have no doubt that my GPA would be far less impressive.