As Web 2.0 becomes more and more ingrained into our every day lives, theres a growing need for our information and documents to be available on any device we use throughout the day. According to Web 2.0 expert Tim O’Reilly the emergence of web 2.0 has enabled users to know longer be limited to a PC platform. O’Reilly goes on to say how web 2.0 has enabled this device flexibility and despite it not being a new phenomenon its more of a realisation of the true potential of the web platform, and how you should design your application from the get-go to integrate services across handheld devices, PCs, and internet services.
As for myself, i could use my MacBook, iPhone, a Windows Desktop or an iPad at any point on any given day. One way i try to keep all my information together is via Dropbox. Dropbox for those of you who are not familiar with it is a Web-based file hosting service – A Cloud Service. The idea is simple – you save files such as documents, photos, or videos to a folder on your computer – Mac or PC – and the files automatically sync to any other computer or mobile device you use – you can also share any folder with a friend. It was started in 2007 and has since grown to 25 Million users, whats even more impressive is the fact that Dropbox reported 4 million users in January of 2010 and 1 million users in April 2009, thats a substantial increase in users – and a clear sign that Web 2.0 and Cloud computing is becoming part of mainstream culture.
But more importantly Dropbox is a prime example of a “Software Above The Level Of A Single Device” is succeeding in today’s web driven environment. Dropbox is currently offered on 7 different devices (Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, Blackberry, iPhone and iPad), by developing the software to work on an abundant number of devices, not only does it open up the number of possible users but also allows users to access there data anywhere by virtually any means. According to Watson (2011), in order for these pieces of software to be successful on a magnitude of devices they often have a number of key characteristics in common, below is these characteristics and how Dropbox echoes them.
- Design from the start to share data across devices, servers and networks: Dropbox was designed to work within a web browser or via the official app, as smart-phones have hit the mass market Dropbox grew and has develpoped device specific applications. And there not stoping there – according to a recent press release: “Next up, it will be TVs, cameras and even automobiles”, said Drew Houston, CEO and co-founder of Dropbox. “It’ll be everything with an on switch,” Houston said. “Literally, anyone with an Internet computer or phone can find Dropbox useful. That’s really all walks of life.” (Drew Houston – Dropbox’s Chief Executive, 2011)
- Extend Web 2.0 to devices: Dropbox not only has a standalone app on all aforementioned platforms, but also has a fully working website for computers and mobile devices, allowing users to get hold of their data from even more devices.
- Use the power of the server to make the devices smarter: With very little storage space provided on modern phones, Dropbox and its servers have enabled users to carry around their information and data without taking up precious space on there phone. Furthermore from a desktop standpoint, the service has enabled users to get rid of those pesky flash pen drives that often get lost or damaged.
- Leverage devices as data and rice media sources: One of the features Dropbox pushes the most is how the service can enabled mobile devices to data-capture sources for photos, videos, audio, and text and how easy these are too share with friends and family. This was mentioned during the recent press release: “The company is working on a lot more in the photo space, and today released a new version of its iPhone/iPad app that enables people to mass upload photos to Dropbox. In the future, finding a way to sync and manage photos among a variety of photo services from iPhoto to Picasa seems a natural next step.” (Drew Houston – Dropbox’s Chief Executive, 2011)
- Work around limitations in input and display: With such a wide variety of offerings on numerous devices, Dropbox has considered the different hardware limitaions of each device and applied extra effort on interaction design to optimize customers ability to use your service.
- Enable data location independence: Dropbox’s killer feature as your all aware by now is its ability to allow users to seamlessly keep data synchronized across a magnitude of devices and allows users the opportunity to have accesses to their information 24 hours a day.