"If it takes really long [to explain], then there’s probably a problem with the product," Houston says with a laugh.
It’s that stripped-down approach to product design that’s turned Dropbox into a cloud powerhouse. The service, which offers arguably the simplest solution to accessing your files across PCs, tablets, and smartphones, has rocketed to well beyond 50 million users, and was said to be on track to hit $240 million in revenue last year. Today, the startup introduces its most convenient tool yet: the ability to share any files, right from your desktop, in just two clicks.
"It’s open sharing right from your desktop," Houston says. "In a couple clicks, you go from having a big PowerPoint or a bunch of photos on your computer to having them shared with a coworker or friend." To share a file, simply right-click on the item or folder in your desktop Dropbox, and click 'Get Link.' That’s it. The link can then be shared by any means—emailed, texted, tweeted, whatever—to give others access to your files, even if they don’t use Dropbox.
If it sounds simple—obvious, even—that’s because it is. But what makes the feature all the more remarkable is that neither Microsoft nor Apple have yet to introduce such a streamlined, light-weight desktop solution. Sharing on Windows and Mac OS is a headache—a shockingly confusing and non-intuitive process of fiddling with system preferences and network settings.
Microsoft and Apple are trying to simplify this process with their own cloud alternatives, SkyDrive and iCloud, but Houston and his team knew the hassle average consumers faced every day with sharing files.
"As a company, we really think about how mainstream, normal people use computers: What are hidden problems that bother them?" he says. "It’s crazy. They have to use all these different file-sending sites; sign up for some website; upload something; deal with progress bars; get a link; and then open an email—all this stuff. It drove us nuts, which is why we built this."
In fact, Dropbox has been internally using this feature for a long time to avoid the headache of traditional sharing services.
"It was pretty straightforward to us: There were way too many steps involved," Houston says. "We knew there had to be an easier way."