Minbox: The way file-sharing should work
It's 2013. We've got computers in our pockets, on our wrists, and directly in front of our eyeballs. An increasing number of tools, from Google Drive to Editorially and Fidus Writer, are trying to make it easier for us to collaborate and share with each other. Everything is connected and, frankly, amazing. Why, then, is it still such a pain in the ass to share files and documents?
We've all probably encountered this problem at least once. Should this file be shared with Dropbox or another file-syncing service? How about Evernote? Maybe we should just send it over Skype, or AirDrop. (Do people even use AirDrop?) Actually, you know what, I'm just going to tie this thumb drive around a pigeon's leg and hope for the best.
Minbox wants to save us (and those poor pigeons) from that frustration. The service is launching today to help users quickly share large files with naught but their contacts list and a simple desktop utility, alleviating the pain of dealing with the file-sharing rigmarole even as it shows how much easier it would be if email services would give a shit about file-sharing in the first place.
"What we're focused on is sending. If you want to send me a movie, or a bunch of files, or if you're a designer or creative professional, you're sending stuff all the time that might be as large as a gigabyte," says Minbox founder Alexander Mimran. "I feel as though incumbents don't handle that very well." They're still imposing seemingly-arbitrary limits on what can be uploaded, how large attachments can be, and how they're sent; while most files could be easily sent via email, those large files Mimran references would likely encounter at least one of those issues.
Minbox doesn't limit what users can send. Files of any size or type can be shared via the service -- Minbox will store them for 30 days and then delete them. Mimran says that this is meant to help users see the benefits of the declining cost of data storage and infrastructure and, because the files disappear after a month, a way to make it clear that Minbox is a file-sending utility and not a backup service like Backblaze or SpiderOak.
"We think that email is a great vehicle for dynamic grouping and creating smaller sets of recipients that you're in control of," Mimran says, adding that email is "the right place to be" for file-sharing services. The problem, he says, is that email providers don't care to help users send and store large files on their own servers. (Even Gmail, which recently upped its attachment limit to 10 gigabytes, does so by using Google Drive's backend.) Minbox wants to take advantage of email's ubiquity while also helping users work around email's problems.
Of course, there's nothing stopping those same email providers from changing their ways once Minbox starts attracting attention, or from independently improving their file-sharing capabilities as email becomes an increasingly important aspect of our everyday lives. Minbox faces the same problem that Mailbox and Sparrow faced before being acquired by Dropbox and Google, respectively: It's good, and really should be a standard feature of most email services and applications -- someday it just might be.