The Google Drive cloud storage service now offers a real-time API designed to allow developers to place Google Drive’s real-time collaboration capabilities into their apps. These capabilities include network communication, storage, presence and conflict resolution.

The API works by offering collaborative versions of common data objects and synchronizing and storing modifications to them so the app can read from and write to them. Change event handlers can be added to a collaborative object to enable an app to react to changes made by other collaborators. Changes to the data model are automatically transformed to keep all collaborators in sync.

The API also supports custom objects and references, and tracks when any app collaborator joins, leaves or changes the app.

Aiming for a Market Changer

In April 2012, shortly after Google Drive was officially released to the market, CMSWire ran a piece titled, “Google Drive: Market Changer or Minor Shuffle?” It is probably too early to make a definitive judgment (though a company the size of Google rarely makes “minor” product releases), but by releasing the collaborative Google Drive Realtime API, Google is clearly aiming for the market changer side of the fence.

Some commentary at the end of last year’s article appears to be prescient considering this week’s expansion of Google Drive’s capabilities with the new API.

As with Google+ and (back in the day) Gmail, Google will take its time and wait to see how Drive is adopted. It has the capacity to be more generous if needed or to add features as the competitive market evolves. Ultimately, most users will stick with what they have, barring a compelling reason to move. Enterprises on the other hand may speed up their adoption in certain cases, and Google may have an edge here.”

Real-Time Features Make API Useful

Information Week quotes Paul Bailey, the developer who created an app called Neutron Drive using the Google Drive Realtime API, as saying he found the API to be extremely useful because it makes adding real-time features so easy. “"Before this API, I struggled with how to implement real-time features into Neutron Drive and now Google has made this easy and scalable -- two of the best things a developer likes to hear,” Bailey is quoted as saying in an email.

Bailey also said he expects “a new wave of apps” based on the API, although he acknowledged many “lone ranger” developers who prefer to work alone will not have any need for its collaborative capabilities.