Yesterday, Google announced its release of a Realtime API for Google Drive. If you’ve ever collaborated on a document using Google Drive, you know how cool this technology is. You can see the other users typing, their cursor position, their highlights, comments, and more.
In the first where we used a collaborative document, everyone on the team was stunned at how great it worked. There was no confusion, it was just rapid productivity and instant feedback. We built a final document that would normally take one person several hours before all the sharing and revisions - in under an hour.
The API gives developers access to events as data objects are changed within a document. Every time a change is made, details of the change are reported back via the API explaining what was changed, when it was changed, and by whom. This data is available on text, list items, key-value pairs, and even custom objects defined by the developer. The API also keeps track of who is connected so you can have a view of all collaborators involved.
Getting started is pretty straight forward. You can visit the Google Drive Realtime API Quickstart to have a sample up and running in just 3 steps.
You can also get a feel for how the API works by visiting the Realtime API Playground.
It will definitely be interesting to see what software these features make their way into. It’s easy to imagine having live collaboration everywhere now that the implementation of it has been greatly simplified. Google was nice enough to “handle network communication, storage, presence, conflict resolution, and other collaborative details so you can focus on building great apps.” says Brian Cairns, Software Engineer at Google.
A few interesting programs have already popped up. Neutron Drive is an online source code editor that is now leveraging the collaboration features. Draw.io is a collaborative drawing and prototying app, and Gantter is an online project management system which now provides Realtime collaboration.
There is even a collaborative Rubik’s cube if you’re into that kind of thing.