Dropbox scares users by shrinking syncing options

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Dropbox scares users by shrinking syncing options

Dirty over loss of encryption option and shrinking filesystem options.

Dropbox has quietly announced it will soon stop synching files that reside on drives tended by some filesystems.

The sync ‘n’ share service’s desktop client has recently produced warnings that the software will stop syncing in November 2018.

Those warnings were sufficiently ambiguous that Dropbox took to its support forums to explain exactly what’s going on, namely that as of November 7th, 2018, “we’re ending support for Dropbox syncing to drives with certain uncommon file systems.”

The change means that just four filesystems - NTFS for Windows, HFS+ or APFS for Mac and Ext4 for Linux - will be supported after that date. eCryptfs won't be supported on Linux, but full disk encryption will be allowed.

News of the new support policy has not gone down well, for three reasons.

The first is that some users who use only one or more of the above filesystems have received warnings about the new policy.

Dropbox has explained those notices by saying users who received them probably used a soon-to-be-unsupported filesystem in the past, but nothing to worry about in the future so long as they stick to one of the four supported file systems.

The second is that some users of soon-to-be-unsupported filesystems are angry they’ll lose access to Dropbox. Such users are almost certainly Linux users who take advantage of the operating system’s ability to work with several filesystems.


The third reason for anger is that Dropbox won’t supported encrypted files in EXT4. Dropbox runs its own hyperscale storage rig and, like all big cloud operators, pledges to take security seriously. But rival cloud storage services let their customers have control over crypto, even to the extent of allowing self-managed keys. Such companies now have a stick with which to beat Dropbox.

But Dropbox probably doesn’t care because it can clearly see what filesystems its customers use and clearly knows which ones are so little-used that it can end support without ticking off a significant number of users.

Or as Dropbox puts it, “We will keep supporting only the most common file systems that support X-attrs, so we can ensure stability and a consistent experience.”

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