Monday, February 11, 2013

Files as UI vs. API

Steve Streza:

The Dropbox file UI side of things is optional for users; they have to seek it out, either on the website or by having one of the Dropbox apps - there’s nothing stopping you from having a Dropbox account purely for syncing data, without ever installing the Mac app or viewing a directory on the web site. But their syncing of files works. Apps can build better UI on those files whether they’re stored locally, stored in Dropbox, or stored in iCloud. But Dropbox has proven it’s reliability, and iCloud hasn’t.

Rene Ritchie says that “iCloud is the right idea still not realized, Dropbox is the wrong thing done brilliantly well.” Instead, I think that it’s not yet clear whether iCloud is the right idea; the current feature set is inadequate, and we don’t know in which direction Apple will take it. I would liken Dropbox to Unix. It’s not the pure, modern system that one would design from scratch today. But the plumbing works, and a good user experience can be built on top.

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3 Comments

The article makes a lot of good points. Only point I am not quite sure is: "And it’s this basic file/folder synching mechanism that is apparently flawed, as there have been many reports of iCloud-based apps that have had problems, whether they’re based on Core Data, on documents, or on other storage with files."

I thought the issues with CoreData + iCloud are in the implementation layer they did on top of file/folder syncing. Apart from the mention the other day (http://mjtsai.com/blog/2013/02/07/why-all-my-ios-apps-are-on-hold/), I have not really seen complaints about the file syncing itself.

@charles I’m not sure where the Core Data issues are. I rarely use iCloud document syncing, but I’ve seen problems with it and the iWork apps, and I’ve read other accounts as well. So it seems plausible to me that Core Data syncing is falling down in part due to problems file-syncing the transaction logs. It may simply be that the failures are more apparent with Core Data. With bad document syncing you may not see that you got an internally consistent file containing the wrong data.

"I would liken Dropbox to Unix. It’s not the pure, modern system that one would design from scratch today. But the plumbing works, and a good user experience can be built on top."

One more UNIX analogy is the essential cross-platform / cross-app nature of Dropbox compared to iCloudy with Meatballs...

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