In a previous post about my Netbook Teacher tools I mentioned Dropbox as part of my workflow. I've used Dropbox for years as a cloud-based method of backing up and syncing mission-critical files between my various computers and computing devices. I can get to these files from a Mac, a PC, my iPad or iPhone. It’s a great solution. I even spend $99 a year for a Pro account, which gives me 100 Gb of cloud-based storage in my personal Dropbox account.
However, I was disappointed to discover today that Dropbox has dropped the Public folder for all new and FREE accounts. They apparently did this starting back in 2012, but somehow I missed it until today when I tried to create and use a new Public folder on a new (FREE) Dropbox account.
Why is this a problem? I’ve used this feature for years to host podcasts for very small audiences of users whom I serve as part of a couple of hobbies or work-related, but extra-curricular, activities in which I participate. For example, I host training session podcasts for a ham radio related project on a Google Site. I also post my audio recordings from sessions I attend at FETC, an educational-technology conference I attend annually. Dropbox provided a perfect place to store these files, then to share them with anyone who may be interested in the content I collect, store and share online.
The Public folder automatically makes any file inside both downloadable and playable within one’s browser. I can embed the URLs from .mp3 files inside this Public folder into my blog or Google Site and a visitor to my site can click and listen, right in their browser. These files can also be set up via RSS to stream to a podcatcher. I often listen to them on my iPhone via Bluetooth headphones while cutting the grass.
I understand why Dropbox did this. On their website they say they now have a new way to create links to files in a Dropbox account. I've used this "new way", but it only gives users the option of downloading the podcast (.mp3) file to the hard drive where you must open it with Quicktime or Media Player, or some other .mp3 player on your computer or other device. The "old way" enabled people like me to use multiple FREE Dropbox accounts to host podcasts indefinitely at a great price!
My discovery came when I was trying to upload the latest training session podcast from one of my hobby projects. The 55 minute podcast cut off at 43 minutes. I discovered my 2 Gb FREE Dropbox account was full, so that was as far as the uploaded file could go, apparently, when the 2 Gb limit was reached. No problem, I thought. I just created a new, FREE, Dropbox account and uploaded the .mp3 file there. However, that's when I discovered that the Public folder, normally created automatically when a new Dropbox account is created, was not there! A quick Google search brought me up to date with the Dropbox news.
So, no hard feelings, Dropbox. Thanks for all the FREE podcast hosting over several years. Fortunately, they included a grandfather clause and all my previous files are still working just fine. But, now, I must find a new place to host my podcast files—hopefully for free!