Dropbox proactively asking users to reset old passwords

Dropbox users that haven’t updated their passwords prior to mid-2012 will prompted to change it when they next sign in. The company made this announcement yesterday in a blog post by Patrick Heim, Head of Trust & Security for Dropbox. As Heim described their motivation,

Our security teams are always watching out for new threats to our users. As part of these ongoing efforts, we learned about an old set of Dropbox user credentials (email addresses plus hashed and salted passwords) that we believe was obtained in 2012. Our analysis suggests that the credentials relate to an incident we disclosed around that time.
Based on our threat monitoring and the way we secure passwords, we don’t believe that any accounts have been improperly accessed. Still, as one of many precautions, we’re requiring anyone who hasn’t changed their password since mid-2012 to update it the next time they sign in.

 
The incident he mentioned was in 2012, and involved usernames and passwords that were stored in a file, and which recently have been used to access some accounts.
Users are also being asked to set up two-factor authentication, which many avoid because of increasing login time, but which is a wise security move.

Apple services are growing, hardware slowing

Apple posted quarterly results, and received a standing ovation: the stock rose 7% at the opening this morning.
What’s intriguing is that the numbers show lower sales of iPhone (down 15% compared to last year), Mac (down 10.5%), and iPad (down 8.3%). But Apple has pulled off some hand jive, and drawn attention to what may be the future of its growth engine: services.
In the release, Luca Maestri — Apple’s CFO — wrote ‘our Services business grew 19 percent year-over-year and App Store revenue was the highest ever, as our installed base continued to grow and transacting customers hit an all-time record’.
As I mentioned earlier this week (see What’s going on in Phoneland?), the market had already priced in the negatives coming in Apple’s quarterly results. As others — like Chris O’Brien — have pointed out, Apple has done a great job managing the expectations of Wall Street, and drawing the analysts’ attention to the figures Apple wants us to pay attention to. And the trend in services, and the growing margins in iPad sales, are the figures that are causing the stock to soar.
Tim Cook stated that the services side at Apple is on track to be ‘the size of a Fortune 100 company next year’.
So, once again the maturation theme is front and center: Apple’s sales of new hardware is dropping, but with a huge installed base, what can Apple do to make money? Sell — or more aptly, rent — services to all those folks with iPhone, iPads, and Macs. (Oh, and Watches, but that’s too tiny to matter, and might never.) So if Apple can continue to grow services to the installed base — plus get some additional boost in iPhone sales in the fall when new models come out — the company will remain a Wall Street darling.
Relative to enterprise sales, the better margins in iPads has got to be a proxy for increased sales in the enterprise based on the new larger iPad Pro. But, at present, Apple doesn’t have much of a story for enterprise services. Maybe it’s time to the company to revisit the plan to buy Dropbox or Box, and replace/rework iCloud (iCloud Pro?) with a cloud file sync-and-share solution –including a deep integration with Apple’s productivity suite — that makes more sense for the enterprise?
 

Zenefits makes more cuts; Twitter Selfies; Dropbox profitable*

Zenefits, the online HR platform that ousted its founding CEO recently as a part of a regulatory investigation regarding insurance sales (where the company makes its money), has announced more layoffs, an additional 9% of the company’s workforce, around 100 people. 250 were cut in February, as part of a revamp of sales and operations, following David Sacks — the former CEO of Yammer — assuming the helm as CEO. The company was valued at $4.5 billion in a raise of capital last year, and has disrupted the market for HR tools. Sacks has also jumped on the Zappos’ model of offering money for employees to leave in this reduction of force, he calls this ‘the Offer’. Sacks say he is making a new version of Zenefits: Z2. He spoke with William Alden of Buzzfeed, saying

The company isn’t making The Offer because we don’t want you. We do want you, but we want the best of you.


Twitter now allows self-retweeting, or what I want to call Twitter selfies:
Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 10.38.00 AM


Dropbox CEO Drew Houston says that the company has achieved a milestone that investors will like: the company is free cash flow positive, meaning operating cash minus capital expenditures. This will set the stage for an easier IPO, which is anticipated.

‘Work Processing’ and the decline of the (Wordish) Document

I’ve been exploring a growing list of web-based tools for the creation and management of what most would call ‘documents’ — assemblages of text, images, lists, embedded video, audio and other media — but which, are in fact, something quite different than the precursors, like Microsoft Word and Apple Pages documents.
The big shift underlying these new tools is that they are not oriented around printing onto paper, or digital analogues of paper, like PDF. Instead, they take as a given that the creation, management, and sharing of these assemblages of information will take place nearly all the time online, and will be social at the core: coediting, commenting, and sharing are not afterthoughts grafted onto a ‘work processing’ architecture. As a result, I am referring to these tools — like the pioneering Google Docs, and newer entrants Dropbox Paper, Quip, Draft, and Notionas ‘work processing’ tools. This gets across the idea that we aren’t just pushing words onto paper through agency of word processing apps, we’re capturing and sharing information that’s critical to our increasingly digital businesses, to be accessed and leveraged in digital-first use cases.
In a recent piece on Medium, Documents are the new Email, I made the case that old style ‘documents’ are declining as a percentage of overall work communications, with larger percentages shifting to chat, texting, and work media (enterprise social networks). And, like email, documents are increasingly disliked as a means to communicate. And I suggested that, over time, these older word processing documents — and the use cases that have built up around them — will decline.
At the same time, I believe there is a great deal of promise in ‘work processing‘ tools, which are based around web publishing, web notions of sharing and co-creation, and the allure of content-centric work management.
Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 11.19.25 AM
Chat-centric work management, as typified by Slack-style work chat, is getting a tremendous surge in attention recently, and is the now dominant form of message-centric work technology, edging out follow-centric work media solutions (like Yammer, Jive, and IBM Connections).
Workforce communications — relying on a more top-down messaging approach for the mobile workforce — is enjoying a great surge in adoption, but is principally oriented toward the ‘hardwork’ done by workers in retail, manufacturing, transport, security, and construction, and away from the ‘softwork’ done by office workers. This class of tool is all about mobile messaging. (Note: we are planning a market narrative about this hot area.)
Today’s Special
Today, I saw that David Byttow’s Bold — a new work processing app — has entered a private beta, with features that line it up in direct competition with Google Docs and the others mentioned above. Bold raised a round of $1 million from Index Ventures in January 2016.
The competition is hotting up.
Work Processing Will Be The New Normal
What I anticipate is the convergence on a work processing paradigm, with at least these features:

  • Work processing ‘docs’ will exist as online assemblages, and not as ‘files’. As a result they will be principally shared through links, access rights, or web publishing, and not as attachments, files, or PDFs, except when exported by necessity.
  • Work processing apps will incorporate some metaphors from word processing like styling text, manipulating various sorts of lists, sections, headings, and so on.
  • Work processing will continue the notions of sharing and co-editing from early pioneers (Google Docs in particular), like edit-oriented comments, sharing through access-control links, and so on.
  • Work processing will lift ideas from work chat tools, such as bots, commands, and @mentions.
  • Work processing will adopt some principles from task management, namely tasks and related metadata, which can be embedded within work processing content, added in comments or other annotations, or appended to ‘docs’ or doc elements by participants through work chat-style bot or chat communications.

I am pressed for time today, and can’t expand on these ideas with examples, but I plan to do so quite soon in a companion post to this, called Work Processing: Coming soon to a ‘Doc’ near you.

For tech companies, tis the season for cleaning house & killing apps

Now is the winter of tech companies’ discontent. By that I mean December is fast becoming the time of the year for tech companies to shutter apps and services that haven’t quite made their mark.
Most recently, LinkedIn has decided to fully discontinue its Pulse News reader application, which it first acquired back in 2013, on December 31. The move isn’t very surprising, considering that the company launched a completely overhauled version of Pulse (officially called LinkedIn Pulse) back in September that doesn’t look much at all like the old service.
Need more evidence that December is the month of cleaning? Well, it started with Dropbox’s announcement that it’s going to pull the plug on its Mailbox and Carousel apps. That revelation is supposed to help the company focus on collaboration features, like the business-focused Paper service, and finally give it the evidence it needs to prove that it’s more than just a feature.
Then it continued with Facebook shuttering its Creative Labs, which gave the company’s workers an outlet for their creative energies. (Or at least their desire to work on something tangential to the jolly blue giant — the products were mostly rip-offs.) The company also pulled all the Labs’ output from app stores.
Mozilla joined in the action earlier this afternoon. The company plans to stop developing and selling devices featuring its Firefox OS, which was designed to offer a cheaper, more open mobile platform. It also plans to “disentangle the technical infrastructure” of its Firefox browser and Thunderbird email client.
Soon it will lead to even more abandoned products. Oyster’s planning to “sunset” its all-you-can-read book service in January 2016 after much of its team was hired to work at Google. Outerwall, makers of DVD rental kiosks Redbox, isn’t getting killed — but as of today its stock certainly is after the company confirmed that business is way down. And while AOL’s dial-up (aka “membership”) business is still around, many of the folks employed to run that portion of the company were just “gifted” pink slips. Though it technically happened last month, Rdio finally threw in the towel, too.
At this point it wouldn’t be a surprise if even more products disappear. Blogger? AOL Instant Messenger? Facebook Paper? Yahoo News Digest? Chances are that most of us won’t even be able to think of the apps most likely to be put down: The problem with most of these services is that they’ve already been forgotten by so many people.

Unsurprisingly, Dropbox to shutter Mailbox and Carousel, focus on businesses

Dropbox has abandoned its efforts to take over your smartphone. The company announced today that it will shutter two applications, Mailbox and Carousel, in 2016 as a result of its new focus on helping workers collaborate with each other. But it’s hard to see how chasing business workers instead of targeting consumers will change Dropbox’s core problem: That it remains a feature convinced it was a product, then a startup, and then a company that’s raised more than $1 billion.
This isn’t a new argument. People have been saying that Dropbox is a feature instead of a product almost since the company’s file storage service first debuted. There’s no denying the convenience afforded by that service. Being able to trust that files would appear on multiple devices, or on the Web, without having to carry around a bunch of flash drives filled with important documents was huge. But was it a strong enough lodestone for a billion-dollar company to be built on?
In December 2009, Steve Jobs warned Dropbox co-founders Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi that Apple would compete with their service if they declined an acquisition offer. He kept that promise. Apple released iCloud in 2011. Google followed it with Google Drive in 2012. Microsoft introduced several cloud tools. And other companies like SpiderOak, Box, and Amazon introduced tools that either competed indirectly with Dropbox or operated on a much different scale.
Dropbox’s core feature is still as amazing as it was a few years ago. It’s just that no-one can purchase a smartphone, tablet, or laptop without being prompted to use a competitive service. Using an iPhone? Set up iCloud. Created a Google account because of that new Android tablet? Use Google Drive. Replacing that Windows ME-running hunk of plastic with a newer PC? Here, try OneDrive. People can use sync services without ever having to know that Dropbox exists.
The same is true of the services being shuttered. Mailbox was ahead of its time: I remember downloading the app, swiping through my inbox, and wondering how I could ever live with another email app. But then it languished, seemed to be ridden with bugs that were never fixed, and I switched to Gmail’s official app. Other companies improved their email apps all the while, with Apple updating Mail, Gmail tinkering with Inbox, and Microsoft debuting a brand-new Outlook.
Carousel also worked fine. But that was exactly the problem — it was just fine. All the cloud services that Dropbox competes with for file synchronization also offer photo storage services. Products like Google’s new (and popular) Photos service takes it a step further by automatically sorting images and generating montages. Carousel doesn’t do anything that iCloud, Photos, and other services don’t do. So why bother setting up a service that can, and now will, disappear any moment?
Now, Dropbox will focus on its business customers. That begins with services like Paper, a collaborative writing app, and new-yet-boring features like PDF-editing. Are either of those going to be enough to convince businesses to choose Dropbox over competitive services that do the same things? (There are many, like Google Docs and the Microsoft Office suite, for starters.) The company seems to think that focusing on these apps and shuttering its consumer products might help.
No matter what happens, you have to give Dropbox credit. It survived after Jobs warned it about its prospects in 2009. Then, when Farhad Manjoo wrote in 2012 that Jobs was right, Dropbox kept moving along. Now, three years after that, the company is in the same position. Critics keep saying it’s a feature, and Dropbox keeps proving them wrong — or delaying the inevitable. The question is which.

Dropbox beta tests Paper, a collaborative writing tool

Dropbox has revealed a new collaborative writing tool. It’s called Paper — not to be confused with Facebook’s news reader app, FiftyThree’s drawing app, and likely a dozen other less prominent software products — and right now Dropbox is inviting select consumers to beta test it.
Paper is the next iteration of the Notes service Dropbox previewed earlier this year. It works a lot like a trumped-up version of Google Docs: People can use the service to write together, communicate, and assign each other individual tasks.
Here’s what Engadget, which got a preview of the service, had to say about it:

When asked what differentiated it from the rest of the field, [Dropbox product manager Matteus] Pan pointed to Paper’s focus on building documents that let users work and share multiple content types regardless of what’s used to create them.
He cited Paper as a way to collaborate that keeps things from getting overly ‘messy’ in terms of both clean design and organization. The last differentiator is organization and helping teams find their work quicker. ‘Creation and collaboration are only half the problem,’ he said. ‘The other half is how information is organized and retrieved across an entire company.’

Dropbox picked a funny day to reveal Paper to the public. Another company, Quip, announced just this morning that it has raised $30 million from a number of investors to keep working on its own collaborative office tool. Given the inevitable competition between these services, it wouldn’t be hard to believe Dropbox revealed Paper to try and steal some attention away from its new rival.
Not that Quip is the only service Paper will have to compete against. There’s also Google Docs, Microsoft Office, and who-knows-how-many other tools out there. The service will have to fight an uphill battle to become something more than another interesting service Dropbox introduced only to let it become stagnant. (Say hello to Carousel and Mailbox!) To state the obvious: Odds are against it.
Dropbox users can ask to be added to Paper’s waitlist through the service’s site. The company hasn’t said how many people it plans to allow on the beta service, nor when the service will exit beta and become available to the general public.

Dropbox and Adobe partner to make PDF editing less annoying

The PDF is the cockroach of file formats. Long after civilization has ended, an evolved form of one of the planet’s hardiest insects will attempt to read a PDF containing everything Homo sapiens learned before it went extinct. And it will not be able to do so because it’s using an outdated version of Adobe Reader.
Alright, so it might not be as dramatic as all that. But there is a certain sense of dread associated with PDFs: Even though many of us have to send them, I don’t think anyone’s ever particularly excited about having to work with them. Which is why Dropbox and Adobe have partnered up to make PDFs a little less terrible.
The partnership makes Dropbox the back-end for Adobe’s PDF-reading apps on Mac, PC, iOS, and Android. The desktop integration is available now; iOS will come next, then it’ll eventually make its way over to devices running Android. In doing so, it makes PDF transfer a little bit less of a hassle for office workers.
4. Composite_AdobeLink
Dropbox can already open PDFs in the company’s mobile apps. But you can’t edit them (beyond renaming them, which is all but useless), which means they have to use other applications. Soon, instead of having to open Dropbox, find a file, then send it to another app, you’ll see everything right inside Adobe’s app.
Here’s how Thomas Hansen, Dropbox’s global vice president of sales and channels and a former Microsoft executive, explains the partnership’s benefits:

This means you can do more with your PDFs, wherever you are. You won’t lose time waiting to get back to your computer to redline or electronically sign a contract, or add feedback to a design mock. And no more printing out a PDF, writing comments on it, scanning it, and emailing it as an attachment. Instead you’ll be able to open a PDF from Dropbox and edit it using the Adobe apps, then save and share your work easily through Dropbox.

That makes sense for mobile devices. But the integration on desktop is far less interesting. It’s not that inconvenient to locate a Dropbox file on a PC or Mac, and if you’re using a Mac you already have Apple’s PDF-handling app installed. It seems like this announcement was rushed out before its best part was ready.
Still, it could make things easier for some people who use Dropbox and Adobe Acrobat Reader (who knew they added the “Acrobat” in the middle there?) instead of any other combination of file synchronization service and PDF editor. The PDF is here to stay — we might as well take improvements where we can.

It’s time to revisit Apple buying Dropbox

Dropbox once told Apple’s Steve Jobs that it wasn’t for sale, but now might be a good time to change its tune.

The bottom’s dropped out of Dropbox’s market. In 2011, it was invaluable. But now, in 2015, it’s clunky — an unnecessary step that feels a bit too far removed from the dozen or so apps we use regularly. Dropbox is decently integrated, but it doesn’t feel like enough now, when we can easily send files through interoffice chat and collaboration platforms like HipChat and Slack that do much more than file-sharing. While many individuals did (and still do) use Dropbox for sharing photos and big, totally legal files, Dropbox is largely for business, used by colleagues to exchange big folders and files. In fact, Dropbox says that 60 percent of its basic and pro users use Dropbox primarily for business.

It’s vital to businesses, this service of making file-sharing easy. Unfortunately for Dropbox, file-sharing is just a portion of the connected service suite that digital work today requires. To put it simply, Dropbox is underpowered for 2015. And given it’s incredibly (read: actually insane) high valuation, that’s a big ol’ $10 billion problem.

A better solution than iCloud

While we’re on the subject of services that just don’t quite pull their weight in 2015, let’s chat about iCloud.

My mom calls me all the time to ask if a photo she mistakenly deleted is in iCloud. I tell her what I’ve told everyone else who has ever asked me anything about iCloud: “I have no earthly idea.”

I don’t know what’s in my iCloud. 22.1GB worth of miscellaneous things, apparently, but I don’t actually know what makes up all of those mysterious gigabytes (edit: I checked — it’s a lot of photos, Contacts, and maybe half of my total Reminders), and I definitely don’t know how I would go about retrieving any of that purportedly precious data in the event of a catastrophic iDevice meltdown. I’m confident that I could figure it out, but I haven’t attempted it.

I don’t use iCloud at all. And that’s because iCloud is garbage. It’s only recently graduated from “glorified landing page” to “somewhat usable interface”, but it remains a part of my Apple life that I feel no real need to interact with at all, unless something goes absolutely and horrifically wrong and I’m forced into the iCloud interface as a data Hail Mary.

To be fair, I’m glad that iCloud exists. I’m glad that Apple’s making an effort to save the data that I’m too stubborn or lazy to back up. I’m glad that it’s trying to save me from myself. Or maybe it’s just trying to save a Genius or two from having to explain to a customer that all of his photos are gone because he carelessly dropped his iPhone 6 Plus into a chocolate fondue fountain. Maybe it’s both.

Either way, the fact remains that iCloud is trash, even when it’s helpful, and that’s largely because it is so underachieving. iCloud could be better, but first it has to be useable, and maybe that’s where Dropbox comes in. Because iCloud, too, is underpowered.

When Dropbox founder Drew Houston met with Steve Jobs in 2009 to talk about Dropbox, Houston famously shut down Jobs’ approach to buy the file-sharing service. According to a report from Forbes in 2011, Jobs let Houston know that he was making something of a mistake banking on Dropbox’s service to sustain a company, telling him that Dropbox was “a feature, not a product.”

Now, it sort of feels like Jobs was right. Dropbox doesn’t feel like it’s future trajectory is up. In fact, it kind of feels like the rain has started and the Dropbox is getting soggy. Dropbox isn’t going to get much further without becoming easier, more meaningful and high-powered. Dropbox isn’t going anywhere but down as a standalone app, but if it can find a way to make itself a part of our lives the way it began to before iCloud, Google Docs, Box and the rest, it might stand a chance. And, well, if there’s one company that’s become the leading expert on making itself an essential part of daily life, it’s Apple.

Theoretically, if Dropbox were to see the soft, brushed aluminum, backlit writing on the wall and decided that it wanted to take Apple’s offer six years later, would Apple even want to buy?

Well, yeah. It should, anyway.

Tiptoeing into enterprise with iPad Pro

Apple wants a bigger piece of the enterprise pie. iPad Pro proves that. Dropbox has a very solid base of enterprise users (for now), and perhaps a more robust file sharing, synching and management platform for the super-sized tablet would tip the business scales in favor of Apple’s answer to the Surface Pro.

Furthermore, as previously discussed, Apple’s iCloud leaves a lot to be desired–bringing in the world’s most valuable cloud service is far from the worst idea Apple’s ever had (a right that I have assume is reserved for the rollerball on the Mighty Mouse). Beyond that, Apple could really benefit from something of an ecosystem overhaul. Between iPads, Apple Watches, iPhones, Apple TVs and iMac/MacBook/MacBook Pros, many people now find themselves with more than one iDevice. The better those devices communicate and sync data, files, photos, contacts, etc., the more things “just work”, as Apple likes to say.

Perhaps best of all, never again would a Genius have to try to explain what the hell iCloud actually does.

Do you use Gmail and Dropbox? Get this free, new extension

Even though I’m a Chromebook user with 1 TB of free Google Drive storage, I have multiple cloud storage accounts. That’s mainly for redundancy, but of course it can add complexity: Sometimes I’m not sure which cloud provider has what files or I have to open multiple tabs to get at a file I want to attach to an email.

Enter Dropbox for Gmail: A Chrome extension that adds a Dropbox button to the Gmail Compose screen. As long as you use Chrome for your browsing needs, the extension should work, so it’s handy regardless of your operating system, whether it’s [company]Microsoft[/company] Windows, [company]Apple[/company] Mac OS X, or [company]Google[/company]’s own Chrome OS.

One installed, you’ll see a Dropbox button in Compose screen when writing a new message in Gmail. Click the button and you’ll see all of your Dropbox files so you can choose to attach one or more of them to your message; there’s also a search function to help you sort through your Dropbox drive.

dropbox for gmail

Dropbox for Gmail inserts links to the files on Dropbox, not the actual attachments. Your message recipients will see a preview of the linked files so they get an idea of what you’ve attached before they even click the link and download the files.