Box Reaches Out to Developers in a Bid to Promote Its Cloud File Sharing Service

11/21/11Follow @wroush

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get access to the alpha or beta—they move so many files that, for their legal team, it was a barrier to expanding further. They moved it all into LiveOffice so it could be discovered and searched on.

X: How does that work on a nuts-and-bolts level? How does LiveOffice talk to Box?

CY: The LiveOffice implementation has two components. The first is an archive. When you first turn it on, LiveOffice calls Box to pull out all of the files so that the two systems are in parity and all the files in Box are mirrored properly in LiveOffice. Then it calls a new property that we haven’t announced yet called event notification—a system that notifies outside systems of changes inside Box. LiveOffice sets up a listener and listens for events it cares about, such as file version changes or deletions. Every time that happens, LiveOffice performs the actions that it needs to, from a discovery point of view. If a user deletes a file, that’s something an e-discovery system needs to know. It makes a record of which file was deleted, and it knows there is a copy in the e-discovery system.

The overall point is that we don’t produce legal e-discovery systems within Box. So the only way we are going to provide that is through a customer, at least in the beginning. This is a niche-ey solution that I don’t think we would spend our own time building right now, because other people can do it better than us. CT image scanning would be another example. We don’t provide great image rendering, so that’s a place we would partner with somebody in the healthcare vertical.

X: Those all sound like fairly simple examples, where you’re basically moving files into and out of Box. Can you imagine third-party applications that integrate Box in more elaborate ways?

CY: I think there’s a whole range of these things that we expect to see over time. NousGuide is a company that builds custom iPad apps for enterprise customers that run on top of Box. Pabst Blue Ribbon is a customer where we have built a joint application with them. Pabst has a sales force out in the field selling to customers all the time, and they have various displays and collateral that they want to show, so they wanted a custom Pabst Blue Ribbon app running on their staff’s iPads. That’s what NousGuide does, and they tie in all the functions sales people need when they are sitting with a customer.

In the future I do think we are going to see much deeper integrations happening. Even reflecting on the business cards I collected last night, we had people coming to talk to us about using Box as a backbone for a learning management system in higher education. We had folks talking about using it to supply documents to the food services industry, and people who are building medical-focused apps for doctors. There is a whole array of things that people want to do that involve files.

X: As Box expands its developer community makes it easier for third parties to do cool things with the Box service, how do you avoid the Twitter scenario? I’m talking about the generally poor relations between Twitter and outside developers. They’ve often often felt blindsided by Twitter’s decisions to take certain features and applications in-house. What if Box decides it actually does want to build an e-discovery feature or a medical imaging feature—then what?

CY: The Twitter example is very popular. It’s a very well-known example of how not to communicate that you are moving forward in the value chain. There is high awareness around that example.

I don’t think we can ever be 100 percent sure that we won’t move into a specific area; one of our speakers last night was Eric Ries, and he remarked that companies don’t really run out of cash, they run out of opportunities to pivot. So I think there may in theory be an opportunity for Box to pivot to … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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