APIs are all very well; you can start coding quickly, and you can get your app up and running. But then the service you're working with changes the back-end code it's using, and you have to update your app. And that's when you realize: you didn't document everything you did, and it's probably as easy to rewrite everything from scratch than to change your existing code.
A well written SDK makes developers' lives easier, giving you tools and libraries that can be used in your applications, as well as documentation that shows how to perform common tasks. Companies will make SDKs available for commonly used platforms, and for platforms where they want to encourage development, like Windows, iOS and the web. If something changes you won't need new code; just a download of an updated SDK.
We recently spoke to Box's VP of Platform, Chris Yeh, about the company's new $REV developer program
, and its launch of its own SDKs
. While $REV is a revenue-sharing program designed for existing software companies wanting to partner with Box, the SDKs are for anyone building any app, and are based on Box's existing APIs. Yeh notes that while the initial release of SDKs targets Android and iOS, there are plans for more, "We're platform agnostic at Box, and this is an effort to create a unified framework for multiple languages".
As Box has grown, its app focus has changed, moving away from productivity tools and focusing on verticals. Delivering SDKs
like these should make it easier for developers to build these focused apps as they won't need to spend time re-inventing the wheel on common functions. Yeh points to some of the SDK's features as part of this process, "We're seamlessly handling enterprise identity, and providing our own Box file pickers, in just a few lines of code."
You can find the Box SDKs on Github.
Part of that is providing ways to quickly implement single-sign on in Box-connected applications. Yeh notes that most implementations of SSO are different, "Many companies implement SSO through browser and expect it to be running behind the firewall, and if it's outside the firewall like it has to be for Box, it doesn't work." By providing tooling in an SDK, Box can help prevent developers from building apps that don't work, as Yeh says, "It's not standard-based, so our engineers have just written code and we've put that in the SDK so our developers can take advantage of it." Getting rid of common bug bears with code like this that can be supported makes sense for a company like Box, which is relying on third-party developers - both external, internal, and user - to extend its platform.
Box's new SDKs don't replace its APIs by any means. If you're working with another language, or trying to build your own tooling, then by all means stick with APIs. Getting to grips with lower level tooling can help you solve a complex problem, or can make it easier to bring two parts of an application together.
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