Why Bitcasa is Too Much, Too Late

I was recently invited to join the private beta for Bitcasa, a Dropbox competitor in the online storage space. By invited, I mean I put my email address into a form and waited a day to get an activation email.

Bitcasa is really pushing the infinte storage line in it’s marketing, which I found humorous when the post sign up message let me know that I would have to wait for access since “space is limited”.

Here’s how Bitcasa describes itself:

Bitcasa is revolutionizing personal cloud storage! Store all your music, photos, movies, and documents using Bitcasa and never run out of space again.

And here is the Dropbox sales pitch:

Any file you save to Dropbox also instantly saves to your computers, phones, and the Dropbox website.

Why Dropbox Wins

I’m pretty sure it was Merlin Mann that described the dropbox process this succinctly: Dropbox works because it’s a folder on your Desktop, and it syncs. That’s it. The entire process for keeping your files in sync is hard to even list.

  1. Install dropbox on your computer
  2. Put files in your Dropbox folder and never think about syncing again
  3. There is no step 3

Why Bitcasa Fails

With Bitcasa, I will not even attempt to describe all the ways it works. Instead, here are a few of the interactions I had during the brief time it was installed on my macbook.

I installed the Bitcasa app, which manifests itself as some kind of web-app launcher. I was honestly confused as to what was going on when I launched the app. A window appeared that looked something like an icon-view in finder, but with a Bitcasa patterned background. What made it stranger was that my menu bar reported that I was running Chrome.

I decided to try something simple first, so I moved my /notes folder of text files into this window using drag-and-drop. I can’t remember what the UI was, but I am sure there was some indication that files were being uploaded.

And then…nothing?

Where is that folder now? On my Mac? In the “cloud”? I tried double-clicking on the folder and it opened as if it was a remote volume. There were my .txt files, so I decided to edit one, and this is where things got weird.

The file I edited ALSO updated my original local copy!! Seriously, this was unexpected, and brought on a wave of doubt:

  • Did I move that file into the cloud, or just tell it to keep a folder in sync?
  • If it’s syncing with my local version, why does it mount instead of opening my local copy?
  • How do I have infinite storage if the files are also on my local machine?
  • What would happen if I deleted my local copy?

I never doubt how dropbox is going to work, and this single experience had me deleting1 Bitcasa from my mac within 10 minutes of installing it. Try again, please.

  1. The uninstall process is equally confusing. Here’s some shell commands to help root out the cache files.