Wuala.com is very special in many aspects. It is the only cloud storage concept which uses a well-known P2P technology combined with social network features like groups, commenting, tagging and starring. The underlying BitTorrent technology is well-known in terms of security and reliability, so they call it “secure online storage” because your data is always encrypted. Even the local cache! A unique feature compared to other services.
The collaboration concept is a typical Web 2.0 social network, where you can invite friends to groups, share your content with others and search public available data. You can also access your files with your web browser to read them but not to store them 😦 They even implemented the Mac time machine feature, where you can go back in time and watch your files how they changed.
The performance is fine for a typical end-user and the pricing competes with Amazon S3. They provide a Desktop client which works on almost every mainstream desktop operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux) and is very user-friendly and easy to use. The local filesystem integration works also on all platform and is really well done (beside some urgent needed bug fixes 🙂
The company behind started from a university spinoff in Switzerland and was recently bought by LaCi, a well-known french brand for external hard disks.
Everything looks fine but something bemused me. The “secure online storage” is the distinct feature of Wuala compared to Amazon S3, Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive and Co but also it’s weakness. It isolates Wuala from the rest of the world. When you follow the Web 2.0 hype you see that the interaction between social services is where everyone goes, the services and customers. Let’s give some examples.
Feedly is an incredible service to visualize your RSS feeds which are stored inside Google Reader. Flickr offers you to manipulate your images with picnic. But Picnic can also access and manipulate images stored in facebook, picasa, myspace and photobucket. The software Gladinet makes your files in the cloud available on your local desktop as network shares from services like Amazon S3, Microsoft Live, Google Docs, Google Mail, EMC Atmos etc. There are innumerable iPhone apps to access your cloud service like facebook, flickr and Amazon S3. WordPress uses Amazon S3 to store their files. Twitter belongs to many services which reuses its API like Twittercounter or Tweetdeck, giving the user more choices to customize their services. I could continue the list for a long time.
I think the strength of Wuala is also it’s weakness. It is very secure but also isolated. They have to develop everything by themselves and can’t invite other companies to add additional value to their core business. As long as Wuala doesn’t have an answer they won’t be part of the big business running the mainstream services. Facebook and Twitter are not well-known because of their security but because there are so many small companies which added value to the initial offering of the service. Giving a place for innovation, competition and growth. You can’t collaborate if your friends use other more popular services.
To give yourself an answer: when did you hear something about Wuala in the mainstream news sites like wired and slashdot? There is one post on wired in Jan 2009 mentioning Wuala in an article about google storage and two post on slashdot in 2008. If you look at Google Trends you will see that the service is still a very local service, mentioned mostly in Germany, Switzerland and Austria compare to SkyDrive, Dropbox and Google Storage. Any suggestions?