Cloud Marketplace with Zack Bloom

Software Engineering Daily,

Originally posted on Software Engineering Daily

Ten years ago, if you wanted to build software, you probably needed to know how to write code. Today, the line between “technical” and “non-technical” people is blurring.

Website designers can make a living building sites for people on WordPress or Squarespace–without knowing how to write code. Salesforce integration experts can help a sales team set up complicated software–without knowing how to write code. Shopify experts can set up an ecommerce store to your exact specifications–without knowing how to write code.

WordPress, Squarespace, Salesforce, and Shopify are all fantastic services–but they are not compatible with each other. I can’t install a WordPress plugin on Salesforce.

Now imagine this from the point of view of plugin creators. Plugin creators make easy ways to integrate different pieces of software together. Take PayPal as an example. PayPal wants to make it easy for software builders to integrate with their API.

One plugin that PayPal has is a button that says “Pay with PayPal.” If I am a developer at PayPal, and I am building a button that people should be able to easily put on their webpage so that their users can pay with PayPal, I have to create a button that is compatible with WordPress, and Squarespace, and Wix, and Weebly, and GoDaddy, and Blogger, and all the other website builders that I might want to integrate with.

In 2014, Zack Bloom started a company called Eager. Eager was a cloud app marketplace which allowed app developers to make flexible plugins that non-technical users could drag and drop into their site without technical expertise.

In order for these non-technical users to add any apps from the Eager marketplace to their webpage, they had to drop in a line of JavaScript–which is, unfortunately, a significant hurdle for a nontechnical user.

Eager proved to be a useful distribution mechanism for plugin developers who could write a plugin once and get distributed to multiple plugin marketplaces. But Eager was not as widely used as a way to directly drag and drop plugins onto sites.

The question was: how do you build a marketplace for non-technical users to add plugins to any website without forcing the non-technical user to write code? How do you make editing any website as easy as a WYSIWYG editor?

The CDN turns out to be the perfect distribution platform for these kinds of apps. Users already integrate with a CDN, so the CDN can do the work of inserting the code that allows the plugins to be added to a user’s webpage.

Because of the opportunity for the integration between a plugin marketplace and a CDN, Eager was acquired by Cloudflare, and Eager became Cloudflare apps. Zack Bloom joins the show today to discuss the motivations for his company, the engineering behind building a cloud app marketplace, and the acquisition process of his company Eager.


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