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Summary:

Many cloud-based services start out as freebies — and stay that way — for better or worse. Now Droplr, is joining a trickle of companies daring to (gasp!) charge for their products.

Last month it was SugarSync. This week it’s Droplr that is dropping its free shared file service and trying to finesse the tricky business of converting users to paying customers. Next week … who knows?

In a Tumblr post on Thursday, Droplr set next week as the beginning of the end to the free ride. As of then, it will put all existing and new users on a 30-day trial. At the end of that period those who don’t subscribe won’t be able to upload more files although their existing data will remain accessible.

This whole free-to-paid journey is a very tricky issue. No one wants to pony up for what they’d gotten for free. On the other hand, there is the notion that you get what you pay for and, in theory, a paid model comes with service and support you can’t rationally expect from a free service.(Although plenty of people are not rational on that point.)

Another pioneer on the free-to-paid trail although outside  file sharing,  is Mailstrom, the well-reviewed product that cleans out your overburdened email box,  is also moving its users to a paid model. And the deadline is January 6, so chop chop, I guess.

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Some of the biggest name-brand trailblazers in cloud storage and file sharing will face this issue sooner or later. Dropbox, which in July claimed 175 million users but won’t say how many of them pay, is the obvious player to watch. That company has tons of funding and has been willing to sacrifice profits for reach. Enterprise-focused Box also claims millions of users, but again, won’t break out how many pay.

When one of those big boys drops free for paid only, that will indeed be huge news. Right now, it looks like these smaller players are blazing the trail in this fraught journey.

  1. We had plenty of free file hosting services for more than a decade , just because some overhyped new players can’t handle free it’s not the end of the world.

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  2. If Dropbox even goes away from free, unless the pricing is really low, I’ll probably stop using it.
    My main usage so far has been a place to store my 1Password key file, but with iCloud syncing even that’s not so useful anymore.

    Add in Google Drive and other options, and… well, I doubt I’d pay for Dropbox or any other service that I wasn’t already hooked on (or didn’t provide a tangible service above file syncing).

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  3. FWIW, there still is a free tier, albeit limited in almost any conceivable way and ad-supported.

    Might still suffice for casual users, which I would guess is the vast majority, anyway.

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  4. Brent Forjeron Saturday, January 4, 2014

    Dropbox, GDrive, Skydrive, all free tiers. If one of them goes to a pay model I’ll drop it and use another. I’m guessing these few companies trying to get rid of the free tier now are realizing how many users aren’t willing to pay, and they’ll find out quick how little loyalty those users have when they leave. Welcome to a saturated market.

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  5. Free service or free hosting is not a sustainable business model… Why is anyone surprised companies start charging for services… It’s called a loss leader and hopefully they will be able to keep the existing users.

    As another poster mentioned it’s time to move to the next “free” player if you don’t want to pay.

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  6. I agree @mikeO3: Free can’t last forever.

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