Dropbox promises improved syncing, app-data storage
Competition in the cloud storage service market may be stiff, but Dropbox still enjoys a healthy edge over its rivals on the strength of support from third-party developers. Still, it hasn’t been a perfect relationship: Dropbox’s APIs are missing some features, requiring developers to fill in the gaps with their own code.
That changed Tuesday when Dropbox kicked off its first DBX developers conference by announcing three new APIs that should spare developers from filling in those gaps. The latest APIs are also aimed at helping developers enhance Dropbox support in their apps, potentially leading to new features for Dropbox users.
The newest addition that got the biggest reception from the DBX crowd is the Datastore API. While most people use Dropbox to store files they’ve created, developers have had to locally store data files that their software uses. With the Datastore API, developers can now store that data in Dropbox.
More important, that data can sync across devices. For example, if you are playing a game on your phone, and you save your achievements and progress to Dropbox, the game data will sync to your tablet should you decide to pick up where you left off on that device.
For more practical purposes, the Datastore API allows you to work on one platform and continue your work on another, with all the changes kept in place. During a demo of the Datastore API at work, Dropbox presenters created an illustration in Mac software, with all the work visible in the iPad version of the same app. Changes that were made were synced in the background, appearing on each platform.
The new Drop-ins API is a two-part component that developers can plug into their apps for easy file access. The Chooser part of Drop-ins acts as a universal file picker that lets you attach files from a Dropbox account to emails. The Saver part of Drop-ins allows you to save files from your device to Dropbox. Drop-ins is currently available for websites—they’re actually in use in Yahoo Mail—but the API will have a bigger impact on mobile devices, since mobile operating systems don’t present users with a file system for accessing files and folders on the device.
As part of the Drop-ins announcement, Dropbox announced that its Mailbox iOS app will support mail attachments. Dropbox did not say when the new version of Mailbox will be available.
Dropbox on Tuesday also talked about the Sync API that developers can use to sync saved user-created files across platforms. Dropbox CEO Drew Houston said that the Sync API should improve sync speed and help developers resolve sync conflicts. Dropbox unveiled the Sync API earlier this year.
During the keynote, Houston stated that Dropbox has more than 175 million users. More than 100,000 apps support Dropbox, with more than a billion files saved to Dropbox each day.