I had a transatlantic meeting via Skype this afternoon with three of the people at Brooklyn, New York-based drop.io, providers of “simple real-time sharing, collaboration, and presentation”. Their Software-as-a-Service solution has already achieved some media attention in the US – though the focus to date has been on generic file-sharing rather than on enabling industry-specific collaboration (echoing e-grou – see post – perhaps?), but architecture is one of ten sample market sectors profiled (also architectural photography).
According to the website, Drop.io provides an easy-to-use online collaboration and file-sharing service that allows users to privately share images, video, audio, documents and other digital content through user-created and controlled sharing points called ‘drops.’ (see the How To video). These drops allow users to upload content via web, e-mail, MMS, Facebook, Firefox extension, phone and fax inputs and share it on-the-fly through drop.io’s various outputs including the web, email, MMS, Twitter, iTunes and fax. Each ‘drop’ is non-searchable, non-networked, does not require any type of account registration, can be password-protected and can expire after a period of time. In short, you can share exactly what you want with just whom you want for just as long as you want.
On the basic service, drops can be created for free with up to 100Mb of storage. More functioniality is available with drop.io Manager, where personal or group plans start from $19/month, with professional plans priced from $49/month.
The architecture offering
Prior to my meeting, I read some of drop.io’s architecture-related information, including a short white paper and a data-sheet. As I explained to them, file-sharing for architects has been around for over a decade (some of the marketing messages about avoiding FTP, mail and email, enabling remote access to design information from anywhere anytime, and the virtues of computing in the cloud are now somewhat dated), and for many designers sharing and collaborating upon drawings and other documents online is almost second nature. However, drop.io’s drawing-sharing technology is based on iPaper (“Powered by Scribd“), which has no on-screen mark-up or commenting functionality; some ‘moaning architects’ may still hand-craft their comments and amendments (maybe even in red pen!), but others will see this as a short-coming. On the upside, though, drop.io’s chat, presentation and conference calling facilities offer something currently lacking from most of the established construction collaboration solutions (exceptions include relatively recent arrivals such as Kalexo – see post).
As a low-cost solution, drop.io is going to be compared with other inexpensive web-based applications such as the afore-mentioned e-grou and UK start-up Woobius (see post). The latter has been designed from the ground-up, by architects for architects, so this may make it more appealing to fellow practitioners, but – on the face of it (I’m hoping to get a more detailed look at the premium offering) – the emergence of drop.io certainly intensifies the competition in an already very price-sensitive market. It also further underlines the growing interest in incorporating Web 2.0-type functionalities into collaborative workspaces – though I suspect this won’t be a deal-clincher, at least for a while yet.