File sharing service drop.io last week struck a deal with Facebook in which the larger company will acquire "most of drop.io's technology and assets." Founder Sam Lessin, a friend and former schoolmate of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, will go work for Facebook in product management. As of the announcement, users ceased being able to create new "drops" (the service's term for file uploads) for free. Existing premium users will have access to their accounts through December 15th, after which time all accounts will be terminated and all stored content will be deleted. Not all of drop.io's products are being wound-down quite as quickly, and at least some of the developer APIs will be remaining up for longer than the main service.
Much of the talk about the deal has centered around the Lessin hire in particular, especially after a Facebook representative reportedly told VentureBeat, “We can confirm that we recently completed a small talent acquisition for Drop.io and acquired most of the company’s assets. We’re thrilled that Sam Lessin will be joining us at Facebook.”
But it seems not everyone at drop.io is leaving just yet. While the primary consumer product is getting the plug pulled fairly promptly, as the drop.io announcement notes:
Other drop.io services like Presslift, our Yahoo! Mail Application, and our APIs will stay online for a longer period before the company winds down. We’ll announce more details on that soon. However, starting immediately, we’ll no longer be selling new premium accounts for those services.
A bit of an odd state of affairs if the service itself won't exist and the content will be removed. One way to make sense of the APIs remaining online is if drop.io is referring here to its new, experimental service called drop.io Rich Media Backbone (drop.io RMB), still in closed alpha testing (though the page for requesting early access indicates no new signups are being accepted and directs users to the blog post about the acquisition). Both of the specific services mentioned as remaining in place—Presslift and drop.io's Yahoo Mail Application—were built in-house using RMB.
Drop.io RMB claims to "lighten the load of rich-media applications" by offering developers access to the same tools that drop.io's flagship service uses—excuse me, used— to handle file uploads. Describing itself as "a simple API for a complicated problem", drop.io RMB offers methods to upload files, convert media files into desired formats, store uploaded files, and even distribute content over optimized content delivery networks.
The RMB FAQ makes quite clear that it's not part-and-parcel of the drop.io most of its users are familiar with, making the idea that it could live on in some form past Facebook's acquisition of "most" of the company a bit more plausible.
Q: Why can't I view the drops I've created with the RMB on the Drop.io website?
A: The RMB and the Drop.io consumer website are two separate entities. The benefit of drops no longer being available for viewing at the Drop.io website means developers don't need to worry about their drops being out of their control and viewable by the public.
But regardless of its eventual fate, the most interesting aspect of the RMB product is the way it leverages services from third-party providers to create a unique value proposition, made possible by its position between end-users and yet other media manipulation and storage APIs.
Optimizing across conversion providers means you can use the best provider for each job, and if one is overloaded, you can fail over to the next to get the job done. leveraging multiple storage and CDN options means the media experience you are delivering stays awesome.
That's a pretty attractive feature for any site or company having to process and deliver a great deal of rich media, particularly if it's getting that content through online uploads and in a variety of formats. As the world's the largest photo sharing site and recently the US's second largest video sharing site, Facebook could certainly make good use of this technology. However, it sounds from drop.io's accouncement that there's some chance they won't be the only ones who get a to do so. We'll have to wait for the promised additional details to find out more.