You could sense the excitement around Box’s first developers conference before it even began — there was an all-star line-up of venture capitalists, tech executives and, of course, Box’s own CEO, Aaron Levie on the agenda. The night before there was a picture of Levie rehearsing his keynote, in what looked to be peach-colored pants posted on Instagram (they were not Khakis).
A Box employee had put up a tweet that links to a funny, old video of former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer shouting “developers, developers, developers” while sweating. He was taunting Levie that he would be calling Box developers to action in the very same way the following day.
No matter what you could point to, it was clear that yesterday was planned to be a big, potentially pivotal day for Box. A pivot which could move the company beyond its present status as cloud-based file sync and share provider to that of a platform vendor for computing’s next era.
In it Together
It was also a day that likely took Levie away from thinking about his company’s horrendous financials, which were revealed to the world on Monday when the company announced its IPO filing, and into the future where Box would become the future of enterprise software development. Or, at least, that’s how former Microsoft Windows President Steven Sinofsky put it in a tweet.
While this is clearly a lofty aspiration, Box is acting as if its very existence depends on it.
“Our survival is based on third parties building apps around us,” Chris Yeh, Box’s SVP, Product and Platform, told the 1000 plus strong developer audience at the conference, this according to a tweet.
There’s little doubt that they were on board.
Why not? Their success and Box’s success could be one and the same. They could make it to the big-time together. Though we don’t know if the VC’s who spoke said anything like “pitch us with the apps you build on Box’s platform,” the suggestion had to be there.
The VC’s Box called to the conference weren’t small players. There was Jerry Chen of Greylock Partners, Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz, Mamoon Hamid General Partner — The Social+Capital Partnership, and several others
While we don’t know that these guys were actually around to hear some of Box’s third party developers pitch their products at the conference, a dream had to have been planted within the crowd; you can participate in building the future of computing and make a mint, if you build your app on the Box platform.
The dream was clearly put into place as articulated by Box employee Dan O’Leary’s tweet.
Favorite thing about #boxdev? Meeting the founders and devs of other startups who are building amazing things.— Daniel O'Leary (@danieloleary) March 27, 2014
Testifying to the Power of Box
According to Yeh, 35,000 developers are building on Box, the platform receives 1 billion third-party API calls and the Box OneCloud ecosystem just reached 1,000 app integration partners. He adds that in the last year usage of third-party apps by Box customers increased 292 percent.
In other words, Box provides both fertile solid and a vibrant ecosystem in which to work.
And this isn’t just hearsay Box wants you know. They put some companies on the stage to testify. There was Joshua Reeves, CEO of Zenpayroll and Phil Libin CEO of Evernote who, at the same time, managed to put in a plug as to why attachments are horrible. With Box, and other sync and share providers, they’re general accessed via hyperlink).
Before an audience of over 1000 developers Box introduced two new technologies: Box View and Metadata.
According to Box, Box View “converts PDF and Office documents into easily embeddable HTML, delivering beautiful, high fidelity content on any platform or device. Developers that leverage Box View can build immersive experiences around content, including custom document viewers for web and mobile platforms”.
It has also open sourced viewer.js, a client-side library for rendering and interacting with Box View documents thereby helping developers create “visually stunning animations and collect valuable usage and data analytics with viewer.js.” Viewer.js can be found in the Box github repository.
Yeh writes that Metadata allows developers to add context to their content stored in Box and is part of the Box Content API. Metadata is now built into Box’s mobile SDKs (iOS, Android and Windows) and incorporated in its search engine.
If you want to know more, Box has created a site especially for developers.
Box Buddies Like What They See and Hear
We reached out to a few of Box’s buddies to see what they think about Box’s developer platform:
Eric Barroca, CEO of Nuxeo said, “Box is clearly starting to shake up the content management industry with the direction they demonstrated yesterday: focus on developers and more structured content. We're pretty happy about this, as we're big believers in applications being the major force to disrupt the old, clunky ECM market. We believe that there is a high chance the Box API will become the de facto standard for content collaboration, and the recent announcements confirm this trend. “
So, it’s no wonder that earlier this week Nuxeo launched an open source implementation of the Box API to help developers answer to customers who need to run on different infrastructures while supporting their investment in the Box ecosystem.
Nic Bryson, vice president of Customer Success at Wrike, says that his company is a OneCloud partner and launch partner of the new Box View feature set. Using Box’s technologies they’ve made it possible for their customers to view their documents in a much quicker way. They had also been looking at integrating Crocodoc, prior to Box’s acquisition of the technology, into their platform making Box View perfect for the direction they were already headed. Bryson calls Box’s new technologies phenomenal.
Beyond Sync and Share
While it’s no surprise that Box has ambitions beyond being a file sync and share solution, the proof will be in the pudding. We’ll be watching and reporting on what we see.
Title image by Steven Sinofsky (Twitter).