The Best Open Source Email & Collaboration Software

Communication APIs and Zarafa - Part 1: The History

You know, it’s called the “Zarafa Collaboration Platform” for a reason.

Many years ago, when Zarafa had just started, the main focus was the traditional groupware functionality. That is, being able to share a few resources within a small business. There were people who could see the calendar and e-mail of others, and that was already more than what could be done by most open source client applications.

Already very early on, Zarafa has extended its product in a variety of directions. The most important ones were WebAccess and Z-Push. These products enabled users to go to any location and access their data, either from their mobile phones or from any other computer with a browser. This released them from the need to be on their computer where all the software is installed.

Of course, the world also changed. There is an ever growing demand of exchanging data. This is about communicating as direct as possible, but also the bandwidth of communications has increased. Previously, sharing a document meant editing a file on a file server. Now you open access to a folder on some shared storage, share your contacts via a CRM, have online video meetings, and everything can be initiated, controlled and registered via a web service.
 

“On the web” and “In the cloud”

Zarafa WebApp emerged in a world where pretty much all services are “on the web” and “in the cloud”. We have chosen to build it on top of the Zarafa Collaboration Platform, but design the user interface from scratch. This means that we can use all the latest technologies available to us. WebApp uses HTML5, it uses web services, it uses JSON, and most important of all: it is built to be extensible. The combination makes it possible for us to move forward faster, and also to enable developers to integrate their favorite service quickly.

With Zarafa WebApp, we have seen an increase in the community activity surrounding this exchange of information. Initially, we had our own integration plugins: SugarCRM, Dropbox and a few minor ones. Since then, we’ve seen contributions over the entire spectrum of integrations, with two major examples. First, there is agorum, a document management system, where Zarafa has helped to get the initial development started. Second, a plugin for sharing documents via ownCloud has been published, that plugin is based on the Dropbox plugin that was created by Zarafa.

Of course, this is just the start. With the introduction of the first stable version of Zarafa WebApp earlier this year, we have opened up a huge tool box for developers. It takes time to get to know this, and we are aware of several developers outside of Zarafa that are working on very interesting projects. We hope to see their results soon. We have published our source code, documentation, example plugins and blog posts series, and these are an encouragement to start building on the WebApp platform.


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