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May 28 2008   2:10PM GMT

Drop.io: Free, online file sharing made simple, easy and anonymous

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

Do you need a simple way to post and share large files on the Web temporarily?

Is sending an attachment over email a bad option, for whatever reason?

You could try Amazon S3 or FileURLs, both of which offer the ability to transfer files around. You could use the tried and true method of posting to a server and FTP client. You could even set up a BitTorrent tranfer between machines.

Or you could check out Drop.io. Launched in November of 2007, this New York City-based storage-as-a-service provider makes storing and sharing files anonymously a breeze. Allen Stern covered the launch of the Drop.io alpha for Center Networks.

You don’t need to register or sign up for an account. Drop.io allows a user to create a “drop” — a dedicated storage space, with all of two clicks. Basic drops are free and include 100MB of storage space.

Here’s how it works:

You creates a drop URL with a unique name more than seven characters long.

You upload a file to it and sets an expiration time (1 day to 1 year) for when it will be deleted, along with passwords for access and administration.

You then can choose what level of access (read, read/write, read/write/delete) any non-admin users will have.

Once you’ve created a drop folder, you can continue to add files and notes to it over the Web, cellphone, email, SMS or even fax.

Each drop also has a dedicated phone extension that allow you to call in and record voice messages that are then added to the drop.

Drop.io isn’t indexed by Google or other search engines, so your data will remain as private as your friends and clients are with the access information.

Drop.io is, in fact, completely anonymous, other than the fact that it tracks your IP address to address legal requirements or tersm of service violations

The service doesn’t require you to give your email address or create a permanent account or profile. Once the drop expires, so does everything related to it.

Just any time you’re uploading large files, there can be freezes or time outs if your upstream connection isn’t all it could be, as David Weinberger noted when he tried it out. I didn’t have any issues when I dropped a screencast for a colleague onto the service.

Drop.io has another cool feature: an RSS feed created for the drop. As a fan of RSS, this is a snazzy feature that instantly opens up new means of collaboration and distribution.

If you post an audio or video file into a drop, bingo: instant podcast, complete with a player. Remember: You can also leave voice messages on a given drop, so this is about as easy a podcasting method as you’ll find.

As Lifehacker pointed out, Drop.io features free, simple faxing. Other folks can send faxes to your dedicated number, where the document are converted into a PDF and syndicated to any portable device that can handle that format. You’ll need to send an automatically generated cover sheet to the sender to ensure proper conversion. Conversely, you can upload a document to Drop.io, enter a destination fax number and click “Fax” to send.

There’s even a way to embed the Drop.io widget in a Web page or wiki, which allows visitors to *send* you files. Password protection is included if you’re leery of malware (an excellent idea, in this writer’s opinion).

Your friends, colleagues and clients can also post to the drop simply by emailing a file to it, though given that the service specifically works *around* sending large files through email servers, this is probably best kept to smaller bits and bytes of content. Just address the message to yourdropname@drop.io.

Read the Drop.io FAQ for more information or check out the brief tutorial.

Watch a video interview with the founders of Drop.io, Sam Lessin and Darshan Somashekar, from CenterNetworks.
Leo Laporte and Amber MacArthur also had Sam and Darshan on the 46th episode of the Net@Night netcast.
[Listen to the MP3]

The service isn’t perfect: As Dave Winer and Michael Arrington both noted, files posted to Drop.io are not added as an enclosure to the RSS feed, which means you’ll have to go back to the service to retrieve the media.

That being said, I’m an instant fan — and I’m far from alone. The following is just a sample of the positive reviews for drop.io out there:

Download Squad: Share files with Drop.io

AppScout: Drop.io simplifies file sharing and uploading

HackZine: Drop.io is simple, anonymous file sharing

Drape Stakes: Drop.io’s file sharing with RSS = endless possibilities

Andy Piper: Sharing large files with Drop.io

One Minute Tips: Drop.io is the Swiss Army knife of transfer

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