Are Dropbox and Box the Sleeping Giants in Photo Tech?

February 5, 2014

1:00 pm

The death of Everpix led to many postmortems about why the company failed and what that means for other startups in the consumer photo management space. But what wasn’t widely talked about is what the big companies in the space that have built up major stores of photos — Google, Facebook, Dropbox, Box, for example — are doing in the space of photo management.

First, let’s tackle the big social networks. For them, storing photos is a strategy to support the grander business. Facebook appears to be uber-focused on growing their advertising business above all other product changes, although there’s the potential for Facebook to release new vertical apps more targeted to photography in the future. Google has been using Google+ and Snapseed (acquired in 2012) to court photographers and showcase the potential for photographers to store photos in Google Drive and Google+, but it’s mainly an effort to build traction for Google+. Twitter has been making a number of product changes that help surface image content, although I would surmise that the rationale is more about ads than photo sharing. Flickr continues to carry on, but there hasn’t been clear direction from Yahoo about what they are going to do with the site, other than give away a lot more storage space.

For Box and Dropbox, it’s a different question. I’ve slotted both into the Consumer Photo Management space in the photography industry landscape, yet neither have particularly robust products and feature sets for managing photos. Dropbox has released many new feature changes in the past year aimed at helping people store their photos in Dropbox, with iPhoto import, iOS and Android app changes to auto-upload photos, and some slight changes in the UI within Dropbox to scan through photos quicker. Yet the product for true photography management remains very raw, with no support for tagging, albums, facial recognition, location, metadata, or other ways to organize, find, and resurface photos, all of which are being done by the new class of photo management apps.

Even though Dropbox is making a shift to emphasize their enterprise business, they still have the potential to develop a robust consumer (and professional) photo management solution. Their acquisition of Mailbox last year indicated they could be thinking innovatively about how to combine storage with communication utilities. Perhaps they are thinking about how to combine storage with messaging. Perhaps instead of focusing on consumer photos, they will be focusing on business use cases (like Trovebox). Perhaps instead of building their own features for the space, they’ll let third-parties focus on developing photo-related apps using Dropbox for storage.

But whatever they are thinking, Dropbox and Box (and potentially Bitcasa) are sleeping giants in the photo tech world. And with likely millions of people using them to store their photos, I’d imagine there are a lot of people hoping they wake up.

Author Taylor Davidson writes a weekly newsletter about the intersection of photography and technology.

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