Squrl has released a new app that has optimized many of the features of its video discovery application for the iPad and made them available on the iPhone. It also hopes to increase engagement by allowing users to seamlessly share the videos they’re watching with friends on Facebook.
When Squrl released its first app about a year ago, most of its focus was on bookmarking videos and saving them for later. But since then, the company has moved more toward helping viewers find new videos that they might want to watch.
The new Squrl iPhone app simplifies that process even further, by reducing the number of steps it takes for users to key in on channels that they’re interested in. Squrl has narrowed down selected video options into channels that viewers can choose from. Instead of selecting from a wide range of video publishers at launch, users are now given a choice of eight categories: “Make me laugh” for comedy, “Show me the future” for tech news, and so on.
After choosing channels they want to watch, users are asked to connect their Facebook and Twitter accounts on the new app. If they choose to connect with Facebook, the app will also begin seamlessly sharing their activity with their friends on the social network. That’s a big change for Squrl, which TechCrunch knocked last month for “not being social enough.”
Importantly, the app doesn’t share the titles of individual videos users have watched, but instead highlights the publishers or channels that they’re focused on. That was a decision founders Mark Gray and Michael Hoydich made after seeing the reaction to some other video apps which have begun to take over users’ Facebook Timelines. It also seeks to give users more control over what they’re sharing on the network, allowing them to easily turn sharing on or off. The point is not to be spammy, or to make users inadvertently share videos on Facebook that they don’t want others to see.
That said, the hope is that being on Facebook will increase engagement between users, and, well, also increase the number of downloads and installations of the app. So far the Squrl guys have been focused more on the former, driving up the amount of time that their users spend with the app. On that front, things have been going smashingly well. Gray reports that users spend an average of about 50 minutes per session watching videos on the app.
Part of the reason for that session time is that users are turning to Squrl as a way to find videos which they then send to Apple TV via AirPlay. Viewers can browse videos from providers like Youtube, Netflix, Hulu, College Humor, and Funny or Die… And Squrl also recently added publishers such as Khan Academy, BloombergTV, Chow, DIY Network, and the Travel Channel. Amazingly, all those publishers work with AirPlay for now (fingers crossed things stay that way).
There are eight folks on the Squrl team now, and the company has been mostly self-funded to date, although the founders are talking about raising some money in the coming months. Best of luck to them — they’re great dudes.