On 22 March, after 12 years of research on intelligent storage and global cloud network technology, Alibaba Cloud officially launched its first personal cloud product, the Alibaba Cloud Disk. On 24 March, the product was ranked first among those downloaded in the Xiaomi App Store and second in the Apple Store. For this launch, Alibaba Cloud has reportedly focused on several key principles including no speed limit, privacy security and long-term operation.
The internet disk enjoys a long history. Baidu Netdisk was launched in February 2012. One among many internet disks at that time, Baidu’s trump card was its product’s capacity of 2 TB, larger than almost all competitors. 360 Netdisk, Tencent Cloud Disk and other products were soon booming.
But by 2016, the personal online disk industry had gradually entered a recession, with Sina Micro Disk, Jinshan Disk, Tencent Cloud Disk and more announcing the closure of all or part of their services.
According to data from IiMedia Research, by July 2020, the number of active users on Baidu Netdisk was 39.832 million, followed by 4.374 million on Tencent Cloud Disk and 3.867 million on 115 Netdisk.
Why does Alibaba Cloud want to release a personal cloud storage product now? The answer is the users’ needs. The demand of personal users for cloud storage is not fully met. For example, there are one or more disadvantages to personal cloud storage products, such as the storage capacity, transmission speed, functional experience and privacy protection.
Today, personal cloud storage products has been divided into three categories. The first one features large-capacity. Users can store various files on the disk and can share these files at any time.
The second group takes synchronization as the selling point, like Dropbox and Jianguoyun Disk. Therefore, the storage space provided by this group is limited.
The third category is the personal cloud storage service with mobile as the core, featuring album backup services, such as Apple’s icloud, the Time Album of Bytedance, and the Moment Album provided in Baidu Netdisk.
What Alibaba cloud wants to offer with this disk probably is a more extensive “personal cloud” service. The user interface of the beta version is not complex. There are three clear icons at the bottom of the app – files, albums and exploration. The disk enjoys a transmission speed of 50-100mb/s.
At a recent meeting with the media, Alibaba Cloud Disk’s director made it clear that a for-pay service will be launched in the future, but users will not be forced to pay depending on speed limit.
Album backup is a new requirement in the era of mobile Internet. Although the cloud services in mobile phones support the backup function for albums, a large number of users tend to make extra backups on netdisks for data security and other reasons. The Time Album produced by Bytedance, for instance, can automatically identify characters, locations and picture elements in the album through AI, and classify the album accordingly.
Solid technology support may be the biggest advantage of Alibaba Cloud Disk. Belonging to the intelligent business group of Alibaba Cloud, Alibaba Cloud Disk is jointly developed by Teambition and the intelligent storage research group.
Supervision, on the other hand, is a problem that the online disk business has to face. If users share copyrighted videos on the Internet disk, the copyright owners may take measures to safeguard their rights. The random sharing of prohibited content on the Internet disk could also bring regulatory risks to operators.
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In response, some network disk operators have tried to solve the problem by limiting file sharing. Indeed, Alibaba Cloud Disk does not support file sharing at this stage, but what happens next might be interesting to users.