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Dropbox unblocked in China ... for now

Four years later it faces a crowded market

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Sync 'n’ share service Dropbox is available again in China almost four years after the Great Firewall decided to block it, but it may struggle to pull in punters given the large number of local rivals that have launched in the meantime.

Dropbox was banned by the authorities in May 2010 in a typically Chinese way; without warning or explanation.

Some have speculated that Beijing was wary of the increasingly popular service being used to ferry content out of the country to Dropbox’s US servers, which is as good a guess as any.

However it doesn’t explain the sudden decision to unblock the service – first noticed by TechInAsia</i> last week.

Users can now share files publicly and use Dropbox’s personal cloud sync capabilities in China, the report said.

The market it finds itself in now, though, is markedly different from the one it was excluded from in 2010.

Most domestic web firms now have some kind of cloud-based file sharing offering.

Tencent’s Weiyun offers a whopping 10TB of free storage and Baidu WangPan offers a more modest 2TB free of charge, for example, while Alibaba signalled its intent in the space with the acquisition of Kanbox last September.

Not only is there plenty of choice for China-based businesses but because these local providers’ servers are inside the Great Firewall they may well be able to offer a faster and smoother service than Dropbox can.

That said, any firm with servers in China would on paper be subject to the usual “local laws and regulations”, which may put some MNCs off.

It’s far from certain that Dropbox won’t be randomly blocked again by Beijing, of course, but for now it just leaves Google Drive of all the major foreign-owned cloud storage services still banned there. ®

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