Dropbox announced their intention to bring a placeholder-style technology called Project Infinite, through a post on their Business blog. This coming feature will let users see all the files stored in their Dropbox cloud, regardless of whether they were synced locally or not.
This is probably one of the most highly sought out features in cloud storage today, especially as our clouds get bigger and our hard drives get more crowded. While selective sync helps, it also means users can only interact with cloud stored files with a web or app interface.
Files synced locally on the computer will still show up with a green check mark. However, cloud-only files will now appear as a faded file icon in Windows Explorer or Finder, designated with a cloud icon. Double-click on the file, and it’ll sync down to your computer, and open immediately after. If you’re outside of an internet connection, the cloud-only file’s “placeholder” file will still be visible, but you won’t be able to open it.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s been done before. Bitcasa’s “Infinite Drive” offered a virtual cloud drive within your computer as early as 2011, but they recently announced their plans to shutter the service.
Microsoft also had a very similar placeholder system in Windows 8 installs of OneDrive. Microsoft removed the feature for Windows 10, quoting customer confusion as well as storage issues due to the fact that OneDrive placeholders included a significant amount of file metadata and even file previews.
However, Dropbox decided to avoid one of those problems by using zero-byte files, which carry very little file metadata. Zero-byte files can be found by title in an indexed search, but nothing else in the file can be accessed until it syncs down. As a result, they showed off a 10 TB Dropbox Business account (over 1,000 files) only taking up 28 MB of storage space.
Dropbox is not confirming any release schedule or plans for Project Infinite, but it’s possible we’ll only see it on Business plans first, as it was announced on their Business blog. It is currently under private beta through a few select customers. Windows 7, 8, 10, and Mac OS are confirmed to be getting the feature when it’s available, but Linux is getting a firm “maybe.” The company intends the feature to be universal, but they are stopping short of confirming anything.
Regardless, this is exciting news for Dropbox fans. Are you excited about Placeholders coming to Dropbox? Let us know below!