test.ical.ly | getting the web by the balls

Apr/11

27

Dropping the Dropbox hosting idea

Last week while working on a Facebook application a colleague confronted me with the idea to host the application on Dropbox. Intrigued by this I tried to make it work and succeeded.

Now I decided to roll back. Here’s why.

You probably all know that you can host some static web pages on Dropbox. Simply upload some HTML files and surf on their public web link.

The idea now was to host a complete website there and use that as a Facebook canvas application. Double cool!

Unfortunately Facebook requires your canvas app URL to end with a slash but Dropbox doesn’t define a default directory index but instead requires you to provide the full filename (…/index.html).

So you need a service to provide a slash but serve the contents from your Dropbox.

Unfortunately again Facebook will recognise URL shortener services such as bit.ly or goo.gl (in case you wonder i.e. tiny.cc provides short URLs but ignores a trailing slash if you type it).

Then I found out about Droppages.com a service that provides a domain (with trailing slash) to one of your Dropbox shares. It also provides a templating service that enables you to create an HTML template and store pseudo-dynamic content in markdown files.

This is what I used and it is working well.

But.

One thing bothered me which is that there is yet another service in that infrastructure that can fail. Especially as it seems to be a pet project by a private person (Dave seems to be a nice guy and is very helpful and responsive though!). Not only yet another service but also another storage point as the templating has to be done on Droppages.com. Doesn’t smell like the most stable platform to chose..

Then it happened yesterday morning that my Dropbox contents wouldn’t show up on my Droppages URL. After some quick chat to Dave it turned out that someone else uploaded a few GB of data to his Dropbox account that was also shared over Droppages. This caused the synchronisation to hang.

Dave solved this quickly by blocking this share but still I got the feeling that this service is too vulnerable to failure and mistakes.

But apart from the learnings there is another good thing about this. As on Dropbox and Droppages you can only store (more or less) static contents I had to move all user experience stuff from the PHP server side to the Javascript client side. As a side effect this now provides a much better user experience and a much easier cachability.

Still I think Droppages is rather cool. Just not for productive systems.

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