WeTransfer Moves Toward File Transfer as a Microservice

It shouldn’t be news that enterprise file storage, sync, and sharing software and services (EFSS) have largely become a commodity. Prices continue to fall, in part because providers’ storage costs are still decreasing. More importantly, their cost to actually transfer a file has always been negligible, even with the application of strong encryption.
With costs low and decreasing, it’s fair to ask which of the aspects of file storage, sync, and sharing creates enough value for customers that providers can charge for the service. When you stop and think about it, the sharing or transfer of the file has always been the action that the rest of the bundled offer hangs on, especially for cloud-based services. A file can’t be stored on a provider’s servers until a copy has been transferred there. Similarly, changes to files must be transferred to keep copies in sync. The vast majority of the value proposition clearly lies in the transfer (sharing) of the file.
So it makes sense for the file transfer element to be the focal point for providers’ monetization strategies. If you accept that premise, then the next logical conclusion to be made is that file transfer can be monetized as a stand-alone service. In today’s world, that service would be built and licensed as a microservice, which can be used in any application that can call a RESTful API.
WeTransfer, a company based in Amsterdam (despite claiming San Francisco as its headquarters), has announced today the first step toward the creation of such a commercially-available file transfer microservice. A new partnership makes WeTransfer’s file transfer service an option (alongside Dropbox) for delivering photos and videos purchased from Getty Image’s iStock library. WeTransfer works in the background while the customer remains in iStock.
WeTransfer has exposed its file transfer API to Getty Images only at this point, but will be able strike up similar partnerships with other providers of graphics services. Of course, WeTransfer could also license API access to any developer looking to incorporate file transfer into an application. While it isn’t clear from their statement today if and when that will happen, the possibility is very real and quite compelling.
It’s important to note that both Box and Dropbox have made their file sharing APIs commercially available to developers for several months now, so WeTransfer is playing catch up in this regard. However, WeTransfer has emphasized file sharing almost exclusively since its founding in 2009 as a web-based service that only stores a file being shared for seven days before deleting it from their servers. Dropbox, on the other hand, originally was popular because of its simple-but-effective sync feature, and Box was initially perceived as a cloud-based storage service.
The potential market for file transfer microservices is so young and large that no provider has a clear advantage at this point. The recent nullification of the Safe Harbor agreement (PDF) between the European Union and the United States also presents a significant challenge to file services vendors that provide file storage for a global and multinational customer base. If WeTransfer emphasizes its legacy as an easy-to-use, dependable file transfer-only service with its newly-created microservice, it could gain a larger share of the market and expand well beyond its current niche of creative professional customers.

Today in Cloud

A Microsoft executive’s answer to a question during the London launch of Office 365 last month has caused a bit of a storm. As Zack Whittaker reported for ZDNet, Microsoft “admitted” that the U.S. company might have to surrender European customer data if required to do so by U.S. law enforcement agencies invoking the USA PATRIOT Act. The problem, which is actually reasonably well known, is that the PATRIOT Act trumps the Safe Harbor agreements in place between the United States and Europe, and that normally provide a mechanism for U.S. companies to demonstrate their compliance with Europe’s tough data privacy laws. Jennifer Baker reports for Computerworld that the European Parliament is now getting involved, concerned that European data may be at risk. It is certainly true that the extreme powers of the PATRIOT Act could be used to sweep aside the Safe Harbor principles, and customers should be aware that it’s legally permissible. It’s also quite unlikely — unless you’re storing data in which U.S. law enforcement might have a legitimate anti-terror interest. Open and informed discussion of the issues is to be welcomed. Blind panic that — “suddenly” — the FBI will start reading European email? Less helpful.

Today in Cloud

Amazon have done it again. Another small step forward. Another incremental improvement to their offer. Another small reason not to use them crossed off the list. Today, the company announced that their Amazon Web Services product is operating out of a data center in Tokyo. Alongside existing data centers in Singapore, Dublin, California and Virginia, they’re doing an increasingly good job of getting servers close to customers… at least in the Northern Hemisphere. Where’s next? Rio? Sydney? Auckland? Or stick with the top of the globe and go to Bangalore? Or somewhere European, to help Dublin’s “EU West” moniker make sense? Multiple data centers aren’t just about physical proximity and a reduction in network latency, of course. Certain jurisdictions (here in the EU, for one) get very upset at the suggestion of transferring data beyond borders. How interested is Amazon in continuing to cater for the data sovereignty use case?