SkyDrive on Reddit: notes from the Ask Me Anything

23198-120x95 News Today, SkyDrive announced a major set of updates rolling out to everyone – hopefully you should see the improvements by the end of the day (Redmond time – GMT -8). As part of the push to get the word out about SkyDrive and then new features, Omar Shahine and Mona Akmal conducted a one hour “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit.com, answering (and sometimes deferring) questions about everything from encryption to file size limits to music to Xbox One. Here’s a quick recap of some of the highlights of the exchange:

Bitemonster asked about the 2GB file size limit, and Omar responded:

This is a good one that we’d like to improve on. I can’t comment about specifics here, but it’s something we are looking at. The reason we don’t support 2 GB is that when we designed the system 7 years ago we thought 2 GB was really big. Turns out it’s not.

Bryan_05 asked about the 100GB paid storage limit, and Omar deferred, but noted that they are “always looking at adding additional storage options”, and then got into a discussion about a “pause” button, and Omar pointed to the metered connection settings in Windows 8.1 as a sort of a workaround.

Mona noted that they will “continue to support users of the SkyDrive client for the Mac OS“, and in fact just shipped a bug fix update and will continue to do so.

There were a number of questions about encryption, the NSA, PRISM, and the like, and formerlydrinkguy77 suggested TrueCrypt as an option. TrueCrypt encrypted files will sync with SkyDrive, but of course you would need to download and de-crypt any files or folders you’ve encrypted in order to read them. SkyDrive in the cloud does not allow for reading of encrypted files, although it will sync them with no problems.

Mona explained more on how SkyDrive works in terms of security.

Omar demystified the discussion about a SkyDrive music player a bit, explaining that:

About 2 years ago we had a bunch of interns here and one of the projects they came up with was building an HTML5 music player in SkyDrive. We never actually released this and have no plans to do so at this time, but that’s why you saw the rumor about us doing a music player. Like many groups at Microsoft, we have ongoing conversations with the Xbox music team about their experiences, and as you probably know they just launched a new web Xbox music web experience which we think is pretty awesome (http://www.xbox.com/en-US/music).

Maybe interns should get a lesson or two about locking down their projects, but whatever ;) – and oh by the way either those interns are on one long internship or someone is/was still working on a music player for SkyDrive as recently as last December.

Omar had no comment on where they sit in the new Org (but we’re pretty sure they’re in the OS engineering group, under Terry Myerson, and not Apps, led by Qi Lu, to give our somewhat educated guess answer to the question).

There were a number of questions about allowing shared files and folders to sync to the desktop, and Omar, for one, is all in favor of it. But while Mona agreed that “it’s an incredibly important scenario”, there’s nothing to share “right now”.

On the question of the Terms of Service and nude photos on SkyDrive, posed by WithinRafael, Omar explained in some detail and made a distinction between shared and private content:

I can tell you what we actually do here (how we technically implement our policy).

We don’t really have any interest in what’s in your private files. The only exception here is where we’ve stated what we have a zero tolerance policy for child exploitation and we proactively scan for content uploaded to SkyDrive using technology called PhotoDNA (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/presskits/photodna/). You can read more about this technology and what it’s used for at Microsoft as well as at Facebook and now Google to detect these images and catch criminals.

However, when you share your private files on the web, we do have an interest in making sure that the content you are sharing is not offensive in nature to the public at large. So we have mechanisms for people to “Report Abuse” in which case we’ll review the content and ensure it’s not offensive. We also have algorithms that attempt to detect “nude” shared content and disable sharing providing customers with a mechanism to contest that action. This is akin to “virus scanning” in that it’s heuristic and therefore not perfect.

But, the stated terms you quoted above from the ToS really applies to “Shared” content and not private content stored in your SkyDrive. Our view here really stems from the fact that we view SkyDrive as your hard drive in the cloud, and we believe it’s important to behave that way (with the exceptions called out above).

The thread went on with a discussion of the “kids in the bathtub” type scenarios, which should be allowed as long as the files remain private, although mrhumpty2010 reported he had received a warning for that type of image. Omar said it “should not be happening”.

There was quite a thread on P2P syncing (the way Live Mesh used to work), and although SkyDrive will continue to try to make syncing faster, Mona explained that “we have no plans of bringing P2P back as an alternative to SkyDrive cloud storage”, nor are there plans to sync folders outside of your SkyDrive folder.

The SkyDrive team did slip in one bit of news: moving the location of the SkyDrive files on Windows 8.1, which doesn’t currently work, “is currently running in the build I have :-)“.

So, nothing too revealing, but a good discussion and good of the SkyDrive team to open up via Reddit!