Assembling a better a box
What is Dropbox?
Dropbox is a web 2.0 platform used for cloud storage and file sharing. Panzarino (Panzarino, 2011) describes Dropbox as a platform which keeps a user’s files accessible from multiple devices and in sync with the cloud. Dropbox allows users to create a folder on their device which is automatically updated whenever changes are made. The files are accessible with a username and password via the web or a client application.
Dropbox stands out as a cloud storage platform due to the potential for developers to extend the functionality and integration of the platform via Application Programming Interface (API). This ability to extend functionality is referred to by Tim O’Reilly (O’Reilly, 2005) as ‘Innovation in Assembly’ which he describes as being able to “…create value simply by assembling [Web 2.0 applications] in novel or effective ways.” Thus the value of a web 2.0 application such as Dropbox increases as developers expand and interact with it.
How Dropbox harnesses Innovations in Assembly?
Dropbox harnesses Innovations in Assembly by enabling developers to integrate and expand its functionality. One way of doing this is through ‘add-ons’. According to Alcorn (Alcorn, 2012) the additional features added to Dropbox range from the ability to host websites from within Dropbox, to being able to stream music to html5 compatible devices. Although at this point, Dropbox is primarily used for storage, as developers interact more with the application, it is likely to develop into something much more functional and flexible.
The Dropbox API can be used by developers in two different ways, via Drop-ins and the Dropbox API itself. Drop-ins (Dropbox, n.d.) are small widgets of code which enable quick and easy integration into a wide range of software including word processing applications. These widgets allow developers to integrate Dropbox with a minimal amount of effort, thus rapidly expanding the platform. An example of such widgets or Drop-ins is the ‘Chooser’, this widget allows an application easy access to files stored within a user’s Dropbox. Although the widgets are convenient, they are less functional than the fully featured API, which allows developers a greater level of flexibility and control.
Who builds the better box?
The main competition to Dropbox is Google drive. According to Voo (Voo, 2013) it offers cheaper storage and an online document editor. Google drive also has an API, which provides users access to the contents of their Google Drive. According to Ryan Paul (Paul, 2012), unlike the Dropbox API, the Google Drive API sets a number of restrictions on how developers can use the service. These restrictions include, users having to install the application onto their Google Drive via the Chrome Web Store, files that an application can access are limited. These limitations have a direct effect upon developers targeting mobile platforms, which is a market Dropbox dominates.
The freedom that Dropbox has given to their developers by having a less restricted API has resulted in a larger market share. This is made evident by King (King, 2013) who states that there are more than 100,000 applications making use of the drop box platform.
King, R. (2013, July 9). Dropbox Platform debuts to replace the hard drive altogether. Retrieved March 23, 2014, from http://www.zdnet.com/Dropbox-platform-debuts-to-replace-the-hard-drive-altogether-7000017832/
Panzarino, M. (2011, April 15). The Top 10 Best Dropbox Services, Addons and Hacks. Retrieved March 23, 2014, from http://thenextweb.com/apps/2011/04/15/the-top-10-best-Dropbox-services-addons-and-hacks/#!ADX9G
Paul, R. (2012, April 25). Google Drive SDK announced, but APIs are only for Web apps right now. Retrieved March 23, 2014, from http://arstechnica.com/business/2012/04/google-drive-sdk-announced-but-APIs-are-only-accesible-to-web-apps-for-now/