Dropbox, the cloud-storage and sharing app so unassuming that you may have inadvertently downloaded it as a means to download a document you needed, has some big ambitions. Dropbox wants to be so ubiquitous, ever present, and basic, that it replaces the hard drive.
At the company's first ever developer's conference, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston started with the bold assertion, "Today, the hard drive goes away." And of course, he wasn't talking about the growth of solid state drives as opposed to hard drives, he was talking about becoming the one place where everyone puts all of their stuff.
At the Dropbox "DBX" developers conference in San Francisco, CEO and cofounder Houston announced that the service now had 175 million users, and was taking another step towards replacing the hard drive. Dropbox has developed a platform to make its services broader and more flexible. "We want to be sure that stuff is always available, no matter if you're on your laptop at work, a tablet on a plane, or a smartphone on the bus," said Dropbox's blog post about the DBX conference and the new Dropbox platform. "Keeping devices and apps synced with your most up-to-date info has gone from "nice-to-have" to essential, which creates a real challenge for the people developing apps."
"That's why we've designed the Dropbox Platform..." said Dropbox's post. The Dropbox Platform consists of Dropbox's long-developed file synching technology for saving documents, files, and folders, and a new "Datastore" api, which allows Dropbox to save settings, to-do lists, preferences, contacts, and all sorts of data that does not necessarily come in a master file or document.
Do you save a file when you finish your mobile game? Probably not. When you make a to-do list, is there a .txt file somewhere in your smartphone to save and retrieve? No. But now those things can be saved and synced automatically anyway. The Datastore api turns Dropbox into an all-receptive hard drive in the cloud, not just a file storage site.
On top of Datastore, Dropbox has introduced two little lines of code called "Chooser" and "Saver," which developers can use to make Dropbox work as the open or save options on web, iOS , Android, or other platforms. Both of these codes are features that Dropbox calls "Drop-ins," which the company hopes will help seamlessly bring Dropbox into ubiquity as a saving and sharing solution.
"Nobody talks of their content anymore as 'my files and folders,'" said Ruchi Sanghvi, Dropbox's vice president of operations to Wired. "We essentially let users do what they want with their data wherever they want, however they want it. It's theirs." Sangvhi is seeing a future where the Dropbox platform enables a "pervasive data layer" which users can access anywhere or at any time, and indeed, where users can manipulate and combine data from across apps and devices and share it.
Basically - a cloud that melds all of your content, data, and preferences into a single shapeable, amorphous, whole that connects to any device you use. That's ambitious.