Dropbox recently updated it’s terms and conditions. They included an arbitration clause (with an option to opt-out within 30 days, although it’s not clear whether new users would get that option), along with a restriction on class action law suits by its users (no opt out here). I am a paying user of its services, but I’ve already removed my automatic renewal and will switch to another service when my current term expires in the next couple months.
Dropbox is great. I love its simplicity. I love the way it “just works”. I save a file in the folder and that file is available on all my devices. I don’t worry about losing connectivity. The software updates itself in the background without bothering me (take note Adobe+Flash and Oracle+Java). It provides great peace of mind with its automatic file history (which has saved my skin more than a couple of times). I obviously felt it was worth the cash to purchase a subscription.
So why switch? Firstly, while it provides encryption in transit and at rest on the server, it also holds the encryption keys server-side which means my data is only as secure as their systems. And this has been issue. Second, during a recent outage they did an incredibly poor job informing people what was going on, who it affected, and how long it was going to last. Note that they don’t list anything about communication in their post mortem. Now this third strike of restricting their users’ legal rights means they are out as far as I’m concerned.
I don’t want to get too much into arbitration, a topic others have covered in much better detail. To put it simply, any time a corporation asks you to waive a personal right like this, you can be assured it isn’t because they are looking out for you. Cash rules everything around us, right?
Free markets work great to foster competition and innovation until the business persons involved realize how much more money they can make (typically for a lot less effort) if they corner the market or collude. Rapid application development techniques and technologies can do a great job of fighting against this in the software application sector. They lower one of the biggest costs to entry – time. Companies cannot collude when a small team of dedicated developers can create something equal, better, and cheaper in a matter of months. Add in great new services to rapidly provision and scale back-end systems, and you have an environment where challengers can field robust, fully featured products to usurp restful incumbents in record time.
An open web filled with bright minds who can move mountains in minutes will bring us great things.
Fast development leads to choices and competition, which increases the quality of the end products, and more importantly gives consumers power to avoid staying with companies that are making bad decisions.
*(Okay, okay – for open social network we probably also need an Open Standard and not just fast development, but that’s a subject for another post.)