The Desk

December 8, 2008

Demise of File Sharing Sites

Filed under: Management — Yvonne LaRose @ 9:46 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

This past Monday, it seemed a universal recruiting scream went up. Although it’s not been discussed in the public domain since it’s launch about two years ago (as I recall the date), apparently it’s become one of the golden grails of file sharing and collaboration around the Net and especially in the recruiting community. Whoddathunk!

Pownce is closing down. Well, technically it isn’t really closing down. It’s becoming part of the Six Apart family of services along with MovableType, TypePad, and Vox. The last day for Pownce to live in its own stead is December 15.

I finally carved out some time to go to the site to find out first-hand what’s going on. On December 1, Leah Culver blogged the announcement of the changes. The Pownce team will still be blogging but on Vox. Leah also includes instructions about how to export and import files to whatever service a member chooses to use. “Visit pownce.com/settings/export/ to generate your export file. You can then import your posts to other blogging services such as Vox, TypePad, or WordPress.” Her message is quite upbeat and reassuring. You get the impression that they’re not really going away; it’s just a sham announcement. Please don’t rest on that delusion. Otherwise, you won’t move your files and then you won’t be able to access them after December 15.

You say these folks are like family to you and you don’t want to lose touch with them? Well, there’s a solution that’s also part of the December 1 announcement. Leah continues by saying, “As for the Pownce team, we’ll continue posting on Vox. You can find me at leahculver.vox.com, Mike at mjmalone.vox.com, and Ariel at arielwaldman.vox.com. The Six Apart announcement can be found on their company blog.”

Maybe someone can explain to me why Pownce seemed to enjoy so much popularity that there was a major outcry out its close four days after the official announcement. In sharp contrast, I’ve heard no exclamation whatsoever about the closing of Xdrive, one of the oldest of the file storage and sharing sites that still survives on the Net. Xdrive, taken over by AOL about three years ago, will be closing on January 12, 2009. The site’s home page has instructions about how to access your files in order to download them. It also has suggestions as to other sites that can be used as an alternative. They are:

Just out of curiosity, I checked on another file sharing site that’s of the same approximate vintage as Xdrive. Freedrive still exists and offers 1 GB of storage space. The iteration of it that I know was absorbed by Xdrive several years ago. I would venture to guess that since the name was available, someone chose to use it in order to start a service that essentially offers the same services at the former one.

The only thing I can see that accounts for the survival of the new form of Freedrive from Xdrive is that the site enjoys sponsorship from a company for a period of time. What Freedrive does if it cannot find a sponsor is a question that cannot be answered at this moment. But they exist. And they offer file back-up service — something that seemed to spell the end of Xdrive.

This sponsorship theory doesn’t hold water very well. Another of the vintage names in file storage is Driveway. This was one of the first file storage sites I learned of circa 1998. It was fast, efficient, reliable. They must have had too much demand. They were absorbed and eventually became what was Xdrive. It was disappointing to see them go away. Everything about Driveway was more than just good. The new version offers 2 GB of storage. They are now part of IDrive, another of those file storage and backup sites of the late ’90s that went underground for a while.

The end of Xdrive was blowing in the wind about two years ago. They stopped collecting for the service. In addition, it became increasingly difficult to upload files. Adding to its woes, contacting Support meant reaching someone who barely spoke English and had about as much technical knowledge as the caller.

So while we’re talking about apples and apples, compared to oranges and oranges, let’s go a little crazy and just compare an apple to an orange.

As all of these sites seem to be turning into phoenixes and coming back to life, it was more than interesting to investigate what has happened to some of the other names in online storage. I looked for @Backup and Mozy. They still exist. Backup.com has maintained the same pricing but the amount of storage they provide has grown with the size of files that are needed to be stored. As I recall, their service was more than easy to establish and use. I was disappointed with Mozy as it was available but didn’t work. After publishing a review of their service in my forum, I received a very prompt reassurance about the stability and efficiency of the service from the home office and an offer to help with any future difficulties. Mozy’s pricing and storage capabilities are comparable to Backup.

While file sharing services seem to be winking and blinking for some reason, file backup services are holding their own. It isn’t clear why the sharing services aren’t taking hold. They’ve been around since ’98 and should have gotten themselves established by now. But some things take a little longer than others.

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