The Web is a medium for sharing. Whether it be photos, videos, music, links, code, we share the content we produce and consume all the time. The rise of the social graph has only brought more attention to the ways we share and with whom we share. After all, sharing is caring, amirite friends?
In a recent post, I talked about some of the problems that remain in a specific (and familiar) part of the content-sharing sphere: file-sharing. At the end of the post, I mentioned the popular cloud storage, sync, and file-sharing startup, Dropbox, as a service I use frequently. Part of what makes Dropbox so great is its simplicity — you download the utility, create an account, and you can easily share all of your electronic files in a virtual cloud folder, collaborate with friends and colleagues, and sync between devices and hard drives. Boom.
Though Dropbox is fast becoming a Silicon Valley darling and passed the 4-million-user mark at the end of January 2010, parts of the Dropbox sharing experience are lacking. (Admittedly, like every other site out there.) Sharing an entire Dropbox folder, for example, remains difficult unless it’s your Public folder. The sharing options are limited, and the utility’s photo display doesn’t really have a great interface, either.
Enter: Views.fm, a viewer that enables quick and elegant presentation of your Dropbox content. Views.fm allows you to create either public or secure, privately-shared folders that are automatically organized in an easily scan-able thumbnail view.
The creators of Views.fm, Gordon Cieplak and Tyler Love, are both designers and engineers (Cieplak is currently the Creative Director at 8tracks and Love is the Senior Developer at Tumblr) and have worked as freelancers and employees at media organizations. In doing so, they’ve become all-too-familiar with the tools available to share media, Cieplak said, especially in a professional setting: “Views.fm is our effort to make that file sharing process suck less”.
Both admit to being regular Dropbox users and big fans, but said that they think the utility is optimized for “dork on dork collaboration” and doesn’t allow for advanced presentation to clients or friends and family. So, they built Views.fm on the Dropbox API to take advantage of the fact that, if you’re a Dropbox user, your files are already organized in its cloud. This makes the file-sharing fast and easy.
Views.fm offers you the capability to share your files publicly by giving anyone with the link to the folder the ability to browse and download the shared folder — or privately, in which your folders are only available to those you invite via email.
Enhancing the Dropbox experience, private sharing also enables you to view and edit who has access from your shares list and provides the ability to comment on the folder itself as well as individual files. So, that means you can share a folder with 80 people without having to let each person know that he or she isn’t the only one with whom you’re sharing the file.
Most cloud services cater to one type of media, (like Vimeo for video, Soundcloud for music, Flickr for photos, for example), which is great for final presentation and user consumption, Cieplak said, but not so much for iteration. Therefore, Views.fm offers unique layouts for each variety of media, be they audio files, audio folders, images, or regular files. You can see the Muxtape-inspired audio file interface on the right.
Views.fm makes it really easy to use its site as a portfolio, as all you have to do is share a folder full of images, and it takes care of the rest. Views is really designed to allow creative people (Cieplak cited the many underpaid contractors, specifically) some elegance and edge for a final presentation to clients, as well as collaborative tools to rapidly iterate.
Currently, Views.fm is only available for Dropbox, but the creators said that they are hoping to add as many services as possible, as soon as they can. But, at this point, they are both still working full-time for their respective employers.
In the end, it seems that the optimizations that Views.fm adds to the Dropbox viewing experience will likely only be truly useful to sharing addicts or habitual users of the cloud sharing service. To the rest this may just be a sexy Dropbox skin. There’s nothing that says Dropbox couldn’t simply add some of these features themselves, or acquire the startup to integrate for them.
At this point, Views.fm is totally free and the founders said they plan to keep it that way for the foreseeable future. But, without a revenue model on the horizon, they probably shouldn’t quit their day jobs just yet.