Dropbox Launches Two New APIs

Eric Carter, Founder & Corporate Counsel, Dartsand
Jul. 23 2014, 02:14PM EDT

Dropbox has announced the public availability of two new APIs: the Shared Folder API and the Document Preview API. ProgrammableWeb connected with Dropbox developer advocate Steve Marx prior to today's announcement to learn more.

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First, Marx gave us the 30-second elevator pitch on both APIs:

The Shared Folder API opens collaboration activity in Dropbox to our ecosystem of 300,000 third-party apps. Apps can connect their existing collaboration activity with Dropbox or add collaboration for the first time using the services provided by Dropbox.

Similarly, we’ve opened our document previews functionality to third-party developers. This new API allows developers to embed Dropbox’s document previews directly into their apps, letting users view Dropbox files without having to switch between apps and disrupt their workflows.

Dropbox has always been dedicated to its developer community, and both APIs were created out of developer feedback and requests. Marx explained:

Access to shared folders was one of the most requested features from developers looking to build collaborative experiences around the files and content in Dropbox. In both cases, we were looking for new ways to take the capabilities of Dropbox and make them available to the wider ecosystem to help make those apps even better for users.

The obvious fit for the new APIs are developers who build productivity tools. However, file sharing has a broad range of potential use cases, and Dropbox looks forward to watching what its developer base comes up with. Marx further explained how Dropbox will take the new APIs to market:

We work very closely with our existing developer community to not only prioritize releases, but also look for ways to extend the functionality based on feedback. To start, we’re releasing the HTTP endpoints today, and we’ll be extending that with programming language-specific SDKs based on that feedback.

Over time, we’ll be adding even more shared folder functionality to the API. Today’s release lets developers see additional metadata about shared folders and the files within them, but over time we’ll also add the ability to create and manipulate shared folders via the API.

Both APIs have completed successful beta trials. After positive feedback and enhancements, Dropbox is ready to take the APIs to the broader public. Additionally, Dropbox has already received a high level of interest for these features from developers of all sizes. He explained:

We’re excited to see both large and small developers utilize the new Shared Folders and Document Preview APIs as building blocks for their applications. We already have a lot of interest from established productivity tools and services, but we’re just as excited for some of the new app developers building innovative mobile productivity tools. There’s any number of ways developers can make these new features fit into their apps.

So we could better understand where the new APIs fit from an integration standpoint, Marx provided some use-case scenarios:

One example is CatchApp, which aggregates group activity across multiple services. With the Shared Folder API, they can now include shared folder additions and edits into a shared news feed for the team. Apps like IFTTT can add events in shared folders as a trigger for their web automation tool. But shared folders aren’t restricted to collaboration-specific use cases. Every app on the Dropbox platform will benefit from being aware of all the activity already happening in Dropbox today.

A wide variety of project management tools integrate with Dropbox to link documents and files stored in Dropbox with the tasks and projects that matter to their team. Opening up Dropbox’s document previews means that these apps can include the previews in the app, directly in the workflow, for the user.

Dropbox will judge the success of the new APIs primarily from a developer standpoint. Dropbox’s No. 1 goal for all of its APIs is developer success. Dropbox aims to assist its developer partners in the creation of great apps and businesses. While Dropbox will measure API adoption by both developers and end users, it will pay close attention to developer feedback and requests. Marx left us with an overview of Dropbox’s continued commitment to the developer community:

At Dropbox, we’re constantly in contact with the developers who use our platform to learn about what features will help them create better, more powerful apps. Based on the feedback we’ve received, our goal with these new APIs was to enhance collaboration, not just across Dropbox but throughout the platform ecosystem. Ensuring that Dropbox is accessible to developers is something that's important to us; we're excited to see how developers make use of these new features in their apps.

Eric Carter Eric is the founder of Dartsand and Corporate Counsel for a specialty technology distributor. He is a frequent contributor to technology media outlets and also serves as primary legal counsel for multiple startups in the Real Estate, Virtual Assistant, and Software Development Industries. Follow me on Google+

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