Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

The Repository-Less World


I came across a nice post by Tom Grant of Forrester Research, talking about the impact Web 2.0 has had on how we talk about accessing information. As he pointed out, the old discussions on application architectures were repository-centric. In other words, all the talk was about how and where you store content.

Today, all the talk is about what you can do with your content:

“One of the striking things about the Web 2.0 world is not only the ease of integration, but also the relative unimportance of the repository in the discussion…Mashups keep on growing, both in options (what you can combine) and methods (how you build them, and the level of technical skill needed). You can upload documents to, and use Zoho to edit them in place.”

This reflects the kinds of questions we’re always asking at Box. How can we help people do more with their content? How can we make it easy for people to connect and work together around shared content? It’s an exciting and fun challenge because new tools are giving people new choices every day. We’ve long supported the idea of a robust and open platform that brings people together around shared ideas and content, lets them choose how they bring those ideas to life through a myriad of tools and gives developers a place to connect with users and introduce them to even more tools to enhance their content.

What’s next? It’ll be fun for us all to stay tuned. But as Tom said, it’s a whole different ball game:

“What many once considered to be a kludge–integration above the level of the repository–is now the main platform for innovation. Now, if that’s not a sign that we live in a different world, I don’t know what is.”

Here’s to an exciting and awesome 2009!

Post by Sean Lindo, Community Manager

  • Carsten

    Thanks to standards we can move data around different services today and create data-based applications. I like it a lot. I remember the “old” times, where I had to write the desktop part of an HR managment system and had to deal with structures and users from an old host based system. The users worked on consoles instead of using modern VisualBasic-based interfaces with the logic on the desktop application and the database centralized as an SQL-DB. Moving them towards that was a huge step at that time. With today’s standards, we are lucky to not to deal with data type conversions between different applications and that opens the path to all this wonderful stuff, happening on the web at the moment.

    I even see web based editors for audio content (cutting, applying effects in realtime and saving back to a web resource) and video content. If you look at Hobnox (, it seems, that a LOT will be possible quite soon.

  • Bill French

    Indeed, the “repository” is the network; reminds me of Sun’s “the network is the computer” ads in the 90’s.

    While the concept of a “repository” is quickly fading in a world of web services, the requirement for discrete addressability (i.e., a URI for every information artifact) must be embraced. Some of the smartest IT folks seem to miss this necessity and most corporate applications were designed long before anyone realized this core requirement for findability.

    Armed with a fundamental understanding of web services and the ability to mentally break ties with the conceptual expectation of a repository, we are graced with time to focus on using information rather than managing it. We spend far too little time conversing about information and far too much time moving it, copying it, storing it, indexing it, and trying to figure out if the version we have is the latest.

    Organizations have spent decades attempting to harvest, organize, and perfect the craft of unified, top-down KM and data management, yet [it seems like] little progress has actually been made. Information workers are still unable to easily acquire the most important information necessary to do their work.

    It’s quite possible that conversations *about* data will eventually emerge as the most useful information repository we can build. Like annotations, conversations elevate corporate intelligence – supporting the idea that it’s more important what we *do* with information. Flow applications ( have the capacity to transform what we think of a “conversation” and Box has already integrated with Twitter and other conversation-based services.

    – Imagine Box documents with an integrated Yammer thread option.
    – Imagine a Box integration with Pipes.
    – Imagine an embedded Box->Gist integration.

    The possibilities are endless – especially now that the “repository” is quickly becoming an antiquated idea.