August 17, 2007

FolderShare in slow motion

More than any other software in recent history, FolderShare has changed my work habits, dramatically improving my mobility and the reliability of my data. It is simple file synchronization software that makes all the files (and subfolders) in a folder stay the same across machines across the internet. Adding, removing, moving, or changing a file in one machine results in a near-instantaneous matching change on all synced computers. And it even works on Macintosh (sort of).

FolderShare is amazing because it enables me to go back and forth between my desktop computer at work, my laptop, and desktop at home. (I also use it to collaborate on important shared projects with other people). And by replicating my files across multiple computers, it is a free and simple backup solution. It even gives me the ability to remotely delete files were my laptop to get stolen.

FolderShare was created by ByteTaxi, a startup a few years back, and acquired by Microsoft November 2005. And sadly, Microsoft has not done one single thing since then. The website has not changed. The product has not changed. Actually, that's not true - it got a bit worse. When Apple upgraded their OS some months back, encryption to Mac stopped working, and now the only way you can sync to Macs is to completely disable encryption on all synced computers - pathetic.

Well, they did add a newsgroup, but they don't respond to users. Has Microsoft learned anything about Web 2.0? About the speed of the Web? About being innovative? They acquired an awesome product, and are slowly smothering it to death. Yes, there are rumors that it will re-emerge as a new Live service, but when I saw how pathetic Live's new SkyDrive service is, I came close to losing my last bit of hope. If FolderShare wasn't the best solution of this kind out there, I would have given up on it (and probably Microsoft) long ago, but it is still great (modulo the Mac encryption problem).

So, Microsoft, please, please - be more responsive. Yes, you're a big company - but do you really think sitting on a great innovation for coming on 2 years without any communication to your users is the caring for your users? Has your confidence eroded all awareness of the impact of your actions on people's perceptions and feelings about Microsoft as an entity?

I won't be that surprised if Live does come out with something good here eventually, but I'm afraid that even if the product is revived, my opinion of Microsoft has suffered.


Cyndy said...

On your recommendation I've been using FolderShare, and have been mostly quite pleased with it. The only disappointment is that I haven't been able to synch my NoteLens notes. So, I've been stuck using NoteLens on only one machine. Have you had problems with this?

Ben Bederson said...

I haven't tried that - but it *ought* to work. NoteLens stores notes as simple text files, so it should definitely be possible to sync the notes from the "My Documents/NoteLens Documents/store" directory on one computer to another.

But NoteLens won't recognize that any notes have changed until you exit and restart NoteLens. If that doesn't work, I'm afraid I don't know what is going wrong.

lenik said...

I recently noticed that FolderShare has been updated and is now part of live. Thanks for the pointer about this service.

Ben Bederson said...

Well, FolderShare has gotten a bit of a facelift from Microsoft, but only for Windows users. The Mac version is still v2.6.6 which is exactly the same as it was when Microsoft bought FolderShare over 2 years ago. And it has the same bugs (you must turn off encryption for it to work).

The good news is that Microsoft is competing with itself, and it's new (beta) service Live Mesh does everything that FolderShare does and more (i.e., includes remote desktop). And while Mac support isn't available yet, it is promised soon - and they have also promised major new features this week.