Dropbox, the free, web-based file backup service, has rolled out a new API that gives developers a way to access, edit and save any file in a user’s Dropbox account.
The Dropbox API works a bit like an Amazon S3 storage bucket except that you, not the application in question, have control over your uploaded files.
The Dropbox API uses familiar tools like JSON, OAuth and OpenID, so web developers can essentially offload their user’s storage needs to Dropbox. For users, the usual risks of tying your web app to a cloud storage mechanism are mitigated by the fact that Dropbox keeps a local copy on your hard drive.
While the potential for integration with web apps is very cool — imagine if all your Flickr uploads automatically synced to the Dropbox folder on your hard drive for an instant backup — the first place you’ll likely see the Dropbox API in action is on mobile devices.
Storage limitations and, in the case of the iPhone/iPad, Apple’s imposed restrictions, mean that it’s difficult to build mobile apps that can access local files, let alone read, write and sync.
That’s the basic problem the Dropbox API seeks to overcome — using the Dropbox API means there’s no need for local files on your mobile device and everything is automatically synced back to your PC. The only catch is that you need an internet connection for the syncing to work.
Dropbox has already worked with a number of developers to integrate the new API prior to the launch. For example, Air Sharing, GoodReader and QuickOffice can now tap into your Dropbox account to edit and sync your Dropbox files. The new API ships with client libraries in Objective-C (pretty much required for the iPhone/iPad), Python, Ruby and Java. To create an application you’ll need to register with Dropbox and then, once you have access, you can grab the client library of your choice and check out the online documentation.