The Most Important Part of The New OneDrive API

Today’s announcement from the OneDrive team of the new OneDrive API is great news.  For those of you who aren’t developers, the new OneDrive API will allow developers to allow full functionality of OneDrive in their apps.  It also provides better speed and includes the ability to retrieve new changes to files and folders to keep a large set of files efficiently in sync.  It allows rsumable uploads of files up to 10GB via file-fragment uploading for things like videos and it allows for a customizable file thumbnail images to be delivered between the developers app and OneDrive.  For consumers, the new OneDrive API may not sound super sexy but it will bring a new level of OneDrive integration into apps regardless of the platform of that app – iOS, Android, Windows or Windows Phone.  What it means is you can expect more apps on your favorite devices to be integrated with OneDrive.

The more exciting news and one that I suspect many people – including developers – missed is one line that is in the blog post about the new OneDrive API.

Internally, we are beginning to use the new API in all of our apps. This ensures that everyone is building on the platform with the same set of tools. Whenever we have access to new functionality, so will you.

For the developer community this is huge for one reason if for no other.  It means that Microsoft will not change the OneDrive API just for themselves.  It will be for everyone including them internally.  That in effect future proofs their apps and makes OneDrive as a platform far more viable.  This is big news peeps.

Let me explain this from a developers perspective for those who don’t develop on why this is so important.  Until now, with many of the Microsoft APIs, there was the set of APIs and SDKs (Software Development Kit) for public developers while there was another set and often with more functionality internal to Microsoft.  I’m not just pointing the finger at Microsoft on this fact.  Other companies have offered a sub-set of API or completely different APIs than they use internally.  On the surface, this is no big deal but it has ramifications for the developer community if changes are made to an API.

If Microsoft changed the old OneDrive API but didn’t expose that change to developers, it could and in some cases would break the app’s integration with OneDrive.  Not good for the developer and certainly not good for the consumer.  In this new and more friendly Microsoft, that risk goes away.  Microsoft has leveled the playing field with internal developers and external developers by issuing the same APIs for everyone.  This isn’t just true of the OneDrive API but other APIs as well.   By doing this leveling it eliminates a problem that I’ve personally seen and one that cause developers to hesitate on developing for Microsoft solutions.  Why risk your time and effort as a developer if the platform you are developing on suddenly changes the rules of engagement?  That is exactly what an API does – it provides the rules of engagement to a large extent – and now it is the same for everyone playing in the game.

I personally think that this new OneDrive API and other equally-open APIs that Microsoft is now developing on and encourage use of to developers is part of the larger Windows 10 strategy.  As I put in my open letter to developers last month, better times are ahead.  Windows 10 with universal apps will require minimal changes between the various form factors while the clearly defined and open API strategy that Microsoft is promoting will only draw more developers to the platform while keeping developers on other platforms engaged with improved access to solutions and services like OneDrive.

Today’s announcement is big but if you missed that one line about everyone building with the same OneDrive API, you missed volumes.