Google’s demo site, served entirely by Google Drive. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey
Google has unveiled a new feature dubbed “site publishing” for the company’s Drive cloud hosting service. Drive’s new site publishing is somewhere between a full-featured static file hosting service like Amazon S3 and Dropbox’s public folders, which can make hosted files available on the web.
Google has set up a simple demo site served entirely from Google Drive to give you an idea of what’s possible with the site publishing feature. Essentially site publishing gives your public folders a URL on the web — anything you drop in that folder can then be referenced relative to the root URL. It’s unclear from the announcement how these new features fit with Google’s existing answer to Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage.
The API behind site publishing works a lot like what you’ll find in Amazon’s S3 offering. If you use the Drive API’s files.insert method to upload a file to Drive, it will return a webViewLink attribute, something like https://googledrive.com/host/A1B2C3D4E5F6G7H8J. That ugly, but functional URL becomes the base URL for your content. So, if you uploaded a folder named images, with a file named kittens.jpg, you could access it on the web at https://googledrive.com/host/A1B2C3D4E5F6G7H8J/images/kittens.jpg
There are already numerous static file hosting solutions on the web including Dropbox and Amazon’s S3, as well as whole publishing systems that use Dropbox and S3 to host files, but for those who would prefer a Google-based solution, now you have it.
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.