China has apparently changed its stance on Dropbox.
The country blocked the U.S.-based cloud storage service in 2010, less than two years after its initial release. But Dropbox is now accessible in China, reports Tech in Asia.
The tech news site first noticed the service was available in China late last week, and it has since verified its uninterrupted availability throughout the country. Both personal cloud-syncing and public file-sharing features are reportedly functional.
Despite its newfound availability, Dropbox isn’t likely to accumulate a large following in China: The country’s connection speeds to overseas servers are extremely sluggish, which make foreign web services a pain to use. Plus, Dropbox faces more attractive local competitors like Tencent, which offers a mammoth 10 TB of free storage — that’s 5,120 times more space than Dropbox’s free 2 GB.
It’s not entirely clear why China originally blocked Dropbox — and even less clear why it’s now available — though some speculate that Chinese authorities didn’t want its citizens to access or share politically sensitive information through the service. The block could have also been intended to head off a competitive foreign service. The Chinese government has invested hundreds of millions of yuan on public cloud-computing infrastructure in cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Wuxi, and Hangzhou.
With more than 40 million private businesses, China could be a valuable new market for the growing cloud storage company, which is expected to IPO this year. If it intends to chase the Chinese market, though, it’d not only have to invest heavily in new data centers, but also cooperate with the Chinese government. It wouldn’t be an unprecedented move for an American tech company, but it seems less likely for a still-private startup with other growth avenues.
Dropbox competitor Google Drive remains inaccessible in China, but Box has some customers in the country. It’s not a large segment of Box’s business — it doesn’t have an office or sales presence in China — so the company doesn’t provide specific numbers, according to a Box spokesperson.
We’ve reached out to Dropbox for more information on its availability in China.