updated 05:25 pm EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
Request feature rolls out to business first, allowing users to be assigned as viewers
Dropbox for Business customers can start using a new option if they wish to share their work with colleagues, but don't trust them enough to not mess up the files within. Beginning today, customers can mark their folders as "view-only" to users, allowing those they share with to view anything within, without having the power to change anything.
Dropbox says that the read-only option is one of the most-requested features of the service. The company elected to give Dropbox for Business customers first crack at the sharing feature, rather than spreading it to all accounts. Administrators must activate the early access program through the admin panel before it can be used.
The option applies to desktop, web and smartphone users of Dropbox, once it's been turned on. Those given a read-only status are marked as a viewer, with editors and owners the only people that can modify a document. Viewers are only granted permission to view the folder, view the people that have access and the role they possess, leave the shared folder or email members. A new lock icon is used to differentiate from the other two roles.
While the feature may not be the most glamorous addition, it fills a need that many corporations are looking for. In many instances, it can be important to be able to share files with employees without making them publicly available. Shared drives or emailing documents doesn't help preserve important files unless provisions are in place to stop editing from happening. With the read-only feature, the use of Dropbox is expanded further to being a document publisher as well as a sharing tool.
Dropbox has been making a number of moves lately to grow its business and become competitive with other cloud storage services on the market. From picking up companies like Bubbli and Loom to fold into its Carousel photo service, or expanding on cloud and enterprise features with Parastructure and MobileSpan, the company is taking aggressive steps.
With recent announcements from Google, Apple, Microsoft and Box, Dropbox is attempting to stay alive in a shrinking enterprise market. In May, Dropbox announced it reached the 300 million user mark.