A simple bet a few days ago led to a slick new Dropbox service with more than 10,000 new users in the first three days.

In his A Retrospective: How a Simple Bet caused Some Crazy Days blog post, Manuel Berger, Co-founder and Chief Engineer of Dropbox Automator, explains the simple idea that sprang from Wappwolf, an online automation app:

Wappwolf, though very powerful for developers, is perceived as rather complex and irritating for an ordinary user. Leaving those things aside that an ordinary user doesn’t need resulted in building Dropbox Automator on myself. And with it the concept has now become very easy: A Dropbox folder for which one can set actions."

Automator Launches

Berger says that a two-day work session in Austria led to a bet on how many Dropbox Automator users the company could acquire. "I was a bit reserved for not wanting to make the service public, but eventually agreed to 1,000 new users in 24 hours," he writes, adding, "The trade off being that I had to switch the service to public immediately." Within four days, Dropbox Automator had more than 10,000 new users and had processed more than 30,000 files, which resulted in some processing delays on the suddenly swamped server.

The Big Idea

The idea behind Dropbox Automator is simple enough -- a user puts a file into an automated Dropbox folder, which then processes the file in a specific way. For example, a folder could be automated to upload photo files automatically to Facebook, email files or convert them to PDF.


Addons already extend the functionality of Dropbox, but Dropbox Automator takes file processing a step further by performing tasks for you on its servers. Other automated tasks include translating, PDF to TXT, upload to Google Docs or Slideshare, electronically sign PDFs, covert or rotate images, stamp a logo on images, encrypt or decrypt files and more. Users just need to log into Dropbox, choose a folder and choose an action.

Dropbox Automator is accessed through a web interface, so there's no need to install software. Most automated services are free, but some actions cost per execution, such as sending a real letter.

If you're concerned about privacy, Dropbox Automator might raise some red flags because it accesses all of your Dropbox files to process them; however, they are currently working on a way to limit access to users' Dropbox accounts. Also, the size limit is currently 24MB per file.

Overall, Dropbox Automator is receiving rave reviews and getting a lot of good press online, so if you use Dropbox and want to improve its ability to process your files, check it out.