Dropbox chants: Developers! Developers!

With Dropbox Platform, the company looks to become a repository for mobile app data

At its first-ever developers conference, DBX, Dropbox officially unveiled the Dropbox Platform, a suite of tools for building apps capable of seamlessly accessing files and data from the Dropbox cloud, regardless of location or device. The platform fits in with the company's vision of a computing world where users sync their files among devices via the cloud, rather than relying on stodgy old hard drives.

Naturally, Dropbox wants to provide the cloud-based storage for mobile and desktop apps to sync and access those files, thereby making its service an integral part of the increasingly lucrative app economy. For that to happen, however, the company needs to convince developers to build quality apps to support its service. However, Dropbox isn't alone in trying to win over the hearts, minds, and coding skills of developers. Rival content-sharing service Box, for example, is making a similar push, most recently unveiling a program called Box $rev through which developers can earn extra revenue based on how much Box customers use their apps.

That's where the Dropbox Platform -- as well as the DBX conference -- comes in. The goal is to equip developers with the tools, information, and support they need to build apps that support Dropbox.

Dropbox chants: Developers! Developers!

The Dropbox Platform is composed of both (relatively) old and new components. There's the Core API, rolled out in 2010, with which developers can integrate Dropbox into their application. There's the Dropbox Chooser for Web, unveiled in 2012, which is a lightweight UI component designed to provide instant access to Dropbox files via Web apps with a few lines of HTML. There's also the Sync API, which emerged last February and is designed to simplify syncing files to Dropbox by handling caching and "network flakiness."

New components to Dropbox Platform include a native Chooser for iOS and for Android; these Choosers enable users to add various types of files to their mobile apps. Securitywise, Chooser isn't capable of accessing a user's Dropbox directly. Rather, the app only receives information about the files that the users selects in the Chooser.

Also new is Dropbox Saver, which enables users to add files of any size to Dropbox with a click. The first version of Saver is for the Web and mobile Web; native versions for iOS and Android are forthcoming.

Additionally, Dropbox unveiled a new Datastore API, which provides developers a way to sync data -- rather than just files a la the Sync API -- across a variety of devices and platforms. The API lets developers to save their app's structured data, such as contacts and to-do items, on Dropbox. The API "handles all the magic necessary to sync it quickly and reliably," as Dropbox puts it. The company rolled out Dropbox Datastore SDKs for iOS (Objective-C), Android (Java), and JavaScript.

As far as API security goes, Dropbox uses OAuth and now supports OAuth 2.0, saying, "With the iOS and Android SDKs, we've optimized the OAuth flow to use the official Dropbox API. All API calls are done over SSL."

Dropbox offers several approaches for granting apps permission to access a user's Dropbox. Among them are file-type permissions, which restricts an app's view of a user's Dropbox to certain file types. "Many apps only need certain types of files, like documents or photos," according to the documentation. "File-type permissions make it easier for an app to work with just those files."

The platform also supports app folders, dedicated folders named after the developer's app and stored in the user's Dropbox. Apps only have read and write access to their respective folders.

There's also an option for full Dropbox permissions, which means the app will request full access to all the files and folders in a user's Dropbox.

This story, "Dropbox chants: Developers! Developers!," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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