Video sharing app Socialcam was recently acquired by Autodesk, but just because it’s no longer an indie startup doesn’t mean it’s stopped innovating and rolling out new features. About six weeks after being acquired, Socialcam is opening up its API to let third-party developers build apps around the videos its users shoot and share.
The first iteration of the public API will give developers access to all public Socialcam videos, embed them and build cool experiences around them. It’s all about getting access to the video library, rather than adding to that library — so developers will still need to use the Socialcam app for creating and uploading videos.
According to co-founder Michael Seibel, Socialcam originally started thinking about rolling out an API back when it joined Y Combinator earlier this year. But it put those plans on hold for a while to focus on other improvements, like adding themes and soundtracks to its video editing tools. Instead, it put a link in the footer of its web site, which would allow developers to email and request access to its private beta API… which, at that point, didn’t really exist.
It was a way for Socialcam to gauge how many developers would want access to the API, and for a while, there wasn’t a whole lot of interest. “At first no one emailed us,” Seibel told me. “And then we got a few emails a week, then a few emails a day. Then we got an email from the Washington Post.”
It was this email from the Washington Post that really got the ball rolling on opening up the API. The news organization wanted to get access to Socialcam videos posted from the London Olympics to include in its coverage of the Summer Games, as well as to film its own on-the-spot videos.
Its “London Eyes” site was created with Socialcam’s help and included videos shot using the app. As part of the partnership, the Washington Post urged readers at the Games to shoot videos with the app, which it could embed in its coverage. By doing so, it didn’t have to send a huge team, and could crowdsource interesting videos from in and around the games.
Metadata included in the API allows developers to sort videos by date and by geolocation, so they can create interesting mashups based on events. That’s exactly what the Washington Post did for their Socialcam-aided Olympics coverage: It targeted videos shot at certain times and from certain locations. The news organization is using the app also for its elections coverage, particularly around the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.
While the API is open to all sorts of developers, Seibel says he’s most interested in how news organizations can use the app. In the same way that Twitter has become the go-to place for sharing news text, he wants Socialcam to be the first place newsy videos are posted, and then shared out with other users. With partnerships like the Washington Post, it could be on its way to becoming that app.