Why MEGA is not a Dropbox killer

MEGA is a new file sharing service launched some days ago by Kim Schmitz, aka KimDotCom. Kim is better known for MegaUpload, a file sharing service that got around 1% of the Internet traffic1 before the FBI closed it on January 2012 after an impressive raid to his estate in New Zeland. You can read about Kim Dot Com and Megaupload on wikipedia, or check this article on Wired .

Update 2017-06-27: This article from CloudWards about Dropbox Competitors will give you a clearer perspective on Cloud Storage security and how Dropbox stands against some of its competitors.

Buzz around the internet is saying that MEGA is a Dropbox competitor. (If you don’t know what Dropbox is, I suggest you watch the video at their site.) They do a feature-by-feature comparison of MEGA and Dropbox offerings, and conclude that Dropbox may be in trouble. For example, Dropbox’s free account gives you 2GB of storage, where MEGA’s free account offers you 50GB. Additional storage is cheaper at MEGA, and MEGA also offers stronger encryption for your data.

MEGA and Dropbox try to solve different problems

I don’t think MEGA is a Dropbox killer. MEGA and Dropbox are trying to solve different problems. So, feature-by-feature comparison is not necessarily relevant in this case.

MEGA offers Cloud Storage with powerful always-on privacy2. Their terms of service forbid illegal content on their servers, but the system is designed so that neither MEGA or intellectual property holders can know what content their users are uploading and sharing.

Dropbox motto is simplify your life. It offers you to have your files always ‘at hand’, be it in your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. It also lets you share your files easily between your relatives, friends or team. You access your files on your hard drive, not their servers, so your data is available even if network connectivity is not.

Because having your files always at hand is critical for Dropbox Value Proposition, the first thing Dropbox offered was clients programs for your Mac or Windows machine that made file syncing tranparent to the user. Client programs for Android, iOS and Linux followed shortly.

MEGA does not yet provide file syncronization across your laptop, tablet or smartphone3. What they provide is a lot of space to upload huge files, and an easy way to share it on the Internet, with the guarantee that you or them won’t have any problem with copyright issues thanks to a strong encryption scheme.

Can MEGA be a Dropbox killer?

MEGA seems to me a reloaded version of MegaUpload (the service from Kim that was shut by the FBI), with stronger encryption so the authorities cannot get at them, and a more formal facade. MegaUpload was never a Dropbox competitor, and I don’t think MEGA is.

Drobox users are not using it to share their latest movie they downloaded from The Pirate Bay with their friends, while hiding effectively from the authorities more-than-ever prying eyes (or their employer’s eyes, for that case). They are using Dropbox for work and for their personal files.

For MEGA to be a Dropbox killer, they would have to beat Dropbox at file syncing, so that you could have your MEGA files ‘always at hand’4. But file syncing does not seem to be in MEGA top priority list. And, more important, syncing files is not an easy problem to solve. Google, Microsoft and Apple have their own versions of cloud syncing, and they are still struggling at it. Dropbox beats them all5.

Update: You should also read a more recent article on this subject titled Services for sharing large files (MEGA is still not a Dropbox killer), published on March 2015 on this blog.

  1. MegaUpload on Wikipedia{: target=“blank”} 

  2. “Your data is encrypted by you before upload to our system and therefore we do not and cannot access that content unless we are provided with the decryption key.” 

  3. A Windows client is on the way (cfr The Verge), but no notice of clients for Mac, Android or iOS. MEGA says they don’t have the resources to implement these features now, and expect third parties to do it. The message is ‘it is not critical for our business’. 

  4. Because MEGA cannot access your data unencrypted, their only chance at file syncing is probably transmitting the complete file again over the internet. Always slower and more bandwidth-consuming than Dropbox. And even at internet current speeds, uploading 50G of data could take days. 

  5. DropBox uses a really clever algorithm for syncing your files across your devices. Every time a file changes in one of your synced folders, Dropbox transmits not the whole file but only the file changes. Their service is fast and reliable. But I guess that in order for syncing to work, Dropbox algorithms need to access your unencrypted data. 

business-models dropbox job-to-be-done mega

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