Comparing similar concepts across products

When you compare the behavior similar concepts across different products, like “sharing a folder” on Dropbox vs Google Drive, I think that there’s value in highlighting the differences both as an inducement to the companies to fix something if they see that they’ve accidentally muddled a concept, or even just to help the users go back and forth between the two products reminding themselves that “sharing is exactly the same, except for…”

I’d be interested in digging into shared concepts relevant to social media platforms like liking, sharing, following, flagging, etc. I assume that these concepts are not all handled the same way by all the platforms, but I only have a vague idea of where the distinctions will be found.


Yes! A concept catalog could describe all the variants of a concept; in my catalog entry for Upvote, for example, I note how ranking works differently in Hacker News vs NYTimes.

The concept of folder in Google Drive vs Dropbox is a very interesting one. In fact, it would be good to explore the design space of this concept for all these file sharing apps. I haven’t analyzed Google Drive in detail, but I did notice recently that two distinct files in the same folder can have the same name. This suggests Drive is not using the Unix Folder concept.

A subtle difference that drew me to using Box for a task recently: if you put a file in Drive or Dropbox, then anyone who can view it in their browser can also download it (I think). But in Box, you can specify that a file can be viewed but not downloaded. This is a very useful feature; it can be used, for example, to share a PDF that you don’t want distributed by other means.