Sharing Dropbox Files

by JL Beeken on 2-09-2011

DropboxWhen I said, in Mind Mapping a Research Toolbox, that you can keep files in your Public Dropbox folder to yourself a question came up about how safe this is. These links are from the Dropbox domain so could they be indexed by the search engines. Or do they have to be linked from another website in order to be indexed and seen?

The chance of anyone coming across them in a search engine is remote. The Public folder link is in the format of

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/tag number/file-name

and unless someone knows the file-name they can’t find the specific file. If they use only the first part without the file-name, they will not be taken to your Public folder. They’ll get a 404 page instead. I tried it and that’s how it works.

You’re not alone when you put something in your Public Dropbox folder because anyone who has the link can share it with anyone else. But, that’s the same with all¬†Dropbox links. In the case of genealogy research links, you probably do want to share them or don’t mind sharing them so this is not an issue.

But, in the case you have something else you don’t want to share with the entire world –

Dropbox has a new option in beta called Shareable Links. Read How do I share a link to a file in my Dropbox folder? for a description of file-sharing improvements. (2012 update: Shareable Links are no longer a menu option. You can link to ANY file in your Dropbox.)

After installing or updating to the latest version of Dropbox and enabling the option, you can right-click on any file or folder in your Dropbox and click “Get Shareable Link”.

Get Shareable Link, Dropbox

This will open a window on the Dropbox site where you can copy a shortened URL. Something like this:

http://db.ar/xYxYxYz

Unless the links are pasted on a website, or freely given out some other way I don’t think they can be accessed. Which brings me to the point that you can also use ‘Shareable Link’ for sharing files you do want seen. The same page that gives you the shortened link also gives you quick links to Twitter and Facebook because, as we know, Twitter and Facebook rule the world.

So, this may be my cure for mind maps in progress that I don’t want seen by the public. I can still export them as Flash, link them together using these Shareable links and make a series of private bookmarks.

The files are still hosted on Dropbox so it would depend whether they’re included in their links to be indexed. Google already knows that http://db. means Dropbox so are they sucking up every link like a Hoover? I doubt it but I’m awaiting an answer.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

JL 2-09-2011 at 11:25 PM

Moot point in part. Shareable links upload to either gallery or list view. It wouldn’t make for a functioning mind map. Back to square 1. Is a Public folder link public if I don’t link it to anywhere, just by virtue of the fact it’s sitting on the Dropbox domain?

I’m conducting an experiment to see if I get indexed before Dropbox answers me.

Update: Any files put into your Public folder are public.

If you pass the link around through email or a web page then they’re really public.

If you put a file in the Public folder and don’t give anyone else the link, the link cannot be found unless someone guesses the URL or inadvertently types it into a search-engine. The chances of that are very low to nil.

Official answer from Dropbox Support:

The public folder is not indexed by Google or other search engines, but the public links still exist for these files and it is conceivable (though not likely) that someone could try to guess file names to access them. This possibility is remote, but the Public folder is called Public because it has no guarantee of being private.

Reply

Justin Germino 2-17-2011 at 7:56 AM

Right now I probably wouldn’t share folders publicly but use Dropbox to backup some of my files on my computer, at 2GB I don’t have enough to backup even 40% of my files yet. I was testing to see how Dropbox would work as a CDN with the /public folder recently as well. Though Dropbox files aren’t indexed, once you find someones public file you can easily find their Dropbox user number and therefore it gives access to their public folder, I wouldn’t put anything you don’t want completely public in there I only put image files and such for my blog in that folder.

Reply

JL 2-17-2011 at 11:55 AM

Files in the Public folder cannot be seen unless the files are linked online. If you simply put files in without creating a link to them, or sharing the links, it’s not possible to see them. The folder tag number is of no use if the files are not named, linked or otherwise shared. That’s the result of my testing, anyway and what I stated in my post and comments already.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Powered by sweet Captcha

Previous post:

Next post: