Dropbox aims to replace the hard drive altogether

With Dropbox Platform, announced at its first developer conference Tuesday, the company continues the build-out of its own cloud ecosystem.

Rachel King Staff Writer
Rachel King is a staff writer for ZDNet based in San Francisco.
Rachel King
3 min read

SAN FRANCISCO -- Aiming to replace the hard drive altogether, Dropbox is making moves to expand operating as just a simple cloud storage app to a fully-fledged platform of services.

Introduced at the cloud storage provider's first developer conference on Tuesday morning, the Dropbox Platform was touted by the company's CEO and founder Drew Houston as "a new foundation to solve the problems of sync so you don't have to."

He outlined this includes keeping structured data in sync, working offline, handling conflicts, and working across operating systems.

"Sync is the new save. We're never going back," declared Houston, adding this particular feature is a problem that affects everyone.

Last November, Dropbox stood at approximately 100 million users strong. As of today, Houston said the service now retains 175 million users and is growing "like crazy."

Screenshot via Dropbox

Houston cited that there are also more than one billion files saved to Dropbox accounts everyday from tax returns to wedding photos.

Houston described how Dropbox has filled a void and been used for much more than cloud storage for content but also an online hub for families, friends, and colleagues to communicate and share.

Referencing Apple to Android to Amazon, Houston posited that "now we have all these companies making this amazing stuff, but the problem is they're all punching each other in the face."

Basically, arguing that it's problematic for both developers and end users, Houston described these digital silos as just "new places for your stuff to get stuck."

In the simplest terms, the Dropbox Platform is a set of tools directed toward developers for determining how apps access data across both desktop and mobile platforms and devices.

"We took a complicated problem and invented a simple solution," Houston boasted. "Having Dropbox is the first day of the rest of your life where your stuff is just taken care of."

There are a few major components to the Dropbox Platform:

  • Sync API: Already introduced in February, the API manages caching, network flakiness, and other technical complexities so developers can focus on writing their own apps.
  • Datastore API: Essentially an extension of the Sync API, the Datastore API is described as a model for storing and syncing data beyond files, such as contacts, to-do items and game states -- the last of which garnered the most applause from the keynote audience.
  • Drop-Ins: Cross-platform UI components that should be able to be integrated in minutes. Includes a "Chooser" tool, which provides web and mobile apps with direct access to files in Dropbox, and the "Saver" enables one-click saving to Dropbox. Available for Android and iOS immediately.

The native Chooser and Saver tools have already been integrated into Yahoo Mail.

Dropbox CEO Drew Houston speaks at Mobile World Congress 2013.
Dropbox CEO Drew Houston speaking at Mobile World Congress 2013. Stephen Shankland/CNET

With more than 100,000 apps already running on the Dropbox Platform, other industry partners include identity manager 1Password, producitivty mobile app CloudOn, and collaboration platform Asana, among others.

For iOS users in particular, Dropbox is already making changes to its recently acquired Mailbox app with these APIs. Although there wasn't a specific drop date announced, Houston promised that a new version is "coming soon."

This story originally appeared as "Dropbox Platform debuts to replace the hard drive altogether" on ZDNet.