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Box buys Crocodoc, says it will continue to license to competitors

File-sharing service Box has announced the acquisition of Crocodoc as part of the company’s plans to make content sharing a first-order aspect of its offerings.

Aaron Levie, Box CEO, from the Box blog

“Together, we’re setting out to improve every experience you have with documents on the internet. Remember how horrible watching videos with RealPlayer used to be? YouTube came along and fundamentally remade the online video experience. Similarly, Flickr, Facebook and others have made photos beautiful on any device. But documents have yet to tip for the web. They’re still clunky and awkward, often forcing users out of their browser and into a desktop application.

But content sits at the center of every business and nearly every business transaction. When you’re working on Box, you should have a remarkably beautiful, fast and seamless experience for viewing your documents. We’re going to deeply integrate Crocodoc’s HTML5 viewing technology into our core product, creating an all-new experience for the 15 million individuals and 150,000 businesses on Box.

And perhaps even more importantly, we’re going to extend that experience to all the other applications businesses use. Crocodoc’s technology will become a core part of our platform, powering content experiences for every application that touches content, including HR software, e-learning tools, document signing solutions and healthcare applications.

We’re building the enterprise platform that will power every content interaction for hundreds of thousands of businesses and developers. Storing files is only the beginning: creating amazing experiences around those files is where the magic is. All seven Crocodocers will be joining us to make this a reality across multiple areas of our business, with Ryan [Damico, founder and CEO of Crocodoc] serving as Director of Platform.”

In some ways, I am surprised that we are still so document-centric in business. Messaging tools like email, instant messaging, and work media have shown how critical information can be passed around in messages instead of documents, but that hasn’t led to the end of documents . . . or attachments.

As long as people need to create and share complex and structured information in easily accessible and viewable ways, we are going to have something like files being passed around. This may be less true in the future, when closed and flat worlds like Apple’s iOS may conceal the file system and composition of complex information on those closed modern devices may take other forms. However, for the foreseeable future we are going to continue living in a world of documents.

Aaron Levie responded to my email asking if Box was going to continue to license its technology to competitors, like Dropbox:

Stowe-

Thanks for the ping.  Our intent is to maintain relationships with all existing Crocodoc customers and support them. From there, as we integrate Crocodoc’s technology into the Box architecture, we want to rapidly expand who we’re working with.

So quick answer is, yes :-)

Seems a very enlightened attitude.