Cloud storage platform Box has made a move to show developers that it’s more than just a place to keep files, images, and videos in a safe and secure place on the Internet. At its inaugural BoxDev conference, CEO and co-founder Aaron Levie revealed three new features for the community available today:
- It’s now easier for customers to deploy the Box platform.
- Customers and developers are now able to build “rich data applications” connecting data and content together through a new experience.
- Developers can seamlessly integrate Box’s document embedding and viewing capability into their app.
What does this really mean to developers? Box has released new tools to entice them to bring its cloud storage service from beyond its current confines and add it to their applications. It hopes that the ecosystem will find being able to take advantage of improved metadata capabilities, being able to view HTML5-converted documents through its BoxView product, and an open sourced viewer.js technology stack appealing.
The ‘Information Economy’
Days after Box announced that it was going public and looking to raise $250 million in its IPO, Levie took the stage to address the proverbial “elephant in the room”: he had no comment about Facebook buying Oculus. The charismatic CEO eventually got down to business to talk about his company’s mission, that being to “make organizations more productive, competitive, and collaborative by connecting people and their most important information.”
Levie touted Box’s success within the enterprise, saying that companies like Proctor & Gamble, Schneider Electric, AARP, and others are using its service. The working industry has shifted from something an industrial economy where people are accessing data from their workstations or a server to one he calls the “information economy”. In this world, workers are gaining access to information no matter where they are. What’s more, no specific device is needed — you could be on a computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet device and still have access to content and data.
But at the end of the day, what Box is concerned about is helping developers, whether they be independent or within a company, to help them reach new enterprises and to rapidly innovate and build core solutions within the service’s platform.
Perhaps as a sign indicating that the company could be looking to help offset some of its revenue losses revealed after it filed to go public, Box is implementing a new cost structure for developers. Citing “customer demand”, the company today is revealing new enterprise pricing plans for its Content API intended to help those looking to leverage Box’s API at scale.
As stated earlier, the pricing structure takes effect immediately and covers all aspects of the Box platform … well with the exception of Box View, its first standalone product — but we’ll get into that a little later. Let’s take a look at the three new features with Box:
‘Type instances’ metadata
The first tool developers could find useful is the expansion of Box’s metadata program. Metadata was first unveiled at the company’s BoxWorks conference in 2013. As I explained at the time: “Through this, users and administrators can dive deeper into the various industries that they’re working on.” The concept behind it is to help everyone get a better idea of what’s in the content.
Although Box has released its metadata program in private beta, it’s opening things up a bit more by adding a new concept called “type instances”. This is defined as “multiple buckets of metadata that can be leveraged by applications, including things like contract details and retention policy. Unfortunately it’s still not quite available to the community as a whole — it has moved from a limited private beta to a private beta, but this effort may help developers better keep track of data flowing through the platform.
But it gets a bit more immersive than that as the company also unveiled that it’s also indexed in its Box search engine, giving users a powerful tool to query for files. How often have you been frustrated by simply trying to look for files, but limited to the content in the title tag and maybe some other semantic file-related datapoints? Box is saying now that all metadata values are indexed so that if you’re looking for customer number “custo-82763”, you’re able to look through the actual contents of a file. A deeper dive returns the files that you want.
Lastly, Box has updated its iOS, Android, and Windows Phone mobile SDKs to support metadata:
We’ve provided a level of abstraction that makes adding and editing metadata as simple as a few lines of codes. These integrations also take advantage of the new and improved data model.
BoxView for all
As stated earlier, BoxView is the company’s first standalone product. It’s now generally available for use in production applications following a beta release. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s an API that will easily convert your Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Adobe PDF documents into an embeddable HTML5 file so that it’s accessible on any device.
BoxView came about through Box’s acquisition of Crocodoc in 2013. Former CEO and now Box’s director of Platform Ryan Damico said that the company’s work was an attempt to help usher documents to the Web — it hasn’t quite made the leap yet, although images and other files have. With BoxView, Damico explains that it can be used on any application or any device. All users need to do is upload a file to Box, it will be converted to HTML5, and then displayed anywhere.
Originally free, Box is also unveiling a new pricing structure:
- Standard: free with 1,000 uploads per month, extra uploads for $0.025 each, Box-branded viewer
- Custom: $250 per month with 2,500 uploads per month, extra uploads for $0.05 each, custom-branded viewer
- Enterprise: contact Box with 10,000+ uploads per month, and optional features like an SLA, 24×7 support, and Box-, or custom-branded viewer.
Speaking of a viewer, Box has also open sourced its technology stack. Viewer.js is what powers the entire client-side experience of documents within BoxView. Developers can download a copy from Box’s Github repository and make changes to whatever they want. So far, 100 companies have signed up to work with the technology.
What does this all mean?
Boiled down, Box has made some serious efforts to show that it’s difficult to typecast it. Yes, fundamentally it’s about storing content in the clouds, but over the past nine years, Levie and his team appear to have made strides to transform it away from just being a “Dropbox competitor” to something more akin to a transporter of information — connecting you with your data and making this more semantic.
Whether this helps to bolster investor confidence once the company begins to be traded publicly remains to be seen.