Justin.tv Opens Its API For Free, Hopes Live Video Will Explode

777px-highlightcam_jtv“Archive video has clearly exploded all over the internet, but live video hasn’t. We think it’s because more flexibility is needed that no single product can meet, but an open platform can.” That’s what Justin.tv VP of Marketing Evan Solomon tells us in announcing the opening up of the service’s API.

The API, which has been in closed testing for about a month now, will now be available to anyone who wishes to use it, for free. Justin.tv can do this because they’ve made live video cheap to serve. Their internal network has capacity for some 100 million hours of video viewing per month, we’re told. For some perspective, that’s roughly 2.5% of media giant Comcast’s capacity, but Justin.tv is run at a fraction of the cost.

And it’s not like it’s totally free with no strings attached. The initial launch of the API will be supported by ads. And eventually, a payment platform will be built-in to the API as well for developers who wish to service live video ad-free. In those cases, there would be revenue sharing with Justin.tv, we’re told. Still, the ad-supported free model makes it very compelling next to Stickam’s StreamAPI and Ustream’s offerings, both of which charge per view hour.

But costs aside, the key here is the access to the live video. Justin.tv is just one company and needs to maintain its core product, which means side projects like Camtweet, which was unveiled at our Real-time Stream event earlier this month and was built using this new API, aren’t going to pop up everyday. But with developers given access to the same tools, now Justin.tv doesn’t need to worry about doing all the work, it can have the community help is making cool new live video applications.

And just to give developers so ideas of what they can do with this API, Justin.tv internally made a few simple live video apps besides Camtweet. They are:

  • A group chat application that allows an arbitrary number of broadcasts to be displayed on a single page as people join
  • A Mac OSX dashboard widget that plays live video, allows search and includes a chat room–you can download this here, but please don’t share the URL http://soda.berkeley.edu/~kfb/jtv_dashboard.zip
  • An automated event widget that can be embedded anywhere–once you setup an event the widget shows a countdown timer, automatically switches to a live video broadcast and then creates and displays a highlight clip after the event ends
  • A baby monitor that alerts you when something happens in the broadcast–you can try this one out here http://www.slumbervision.com/

You can get access to these, dig into them, and get documentation on Justin.tv’s API wiki found here. You can also find the source code for Camtweet, which has been open-sourced, on Github here.

I suspect we may see the other live video services follow suit with free, ad-supported APIs. We watched them all rush to serve live video on Facebook’s platform last month, but opening it up to any app developer on the web for free is potentially much more interesting.