YouTube’s Biggest Overhaul Of Its Data API Yet Adds Universal Search, Efficiency, And Lets 3rd Party Tools Post To Subscribers

YouTube first launched its Data API back in 2007, and it has since become the video giant’s most popular API in terms of request volume. Today, YouTube announced that it has officially opened version 3.0 of its API to all developers.

The new APIs bring a number of important changes to bear on its current feature set, including client library support, improved tooling, reference documentation and integration with Google’s API infrastructure. It’s also now officially using JSON instead of XML encoding for, as YouTube says, “greater efficiency” and in pursuit of actually returning what you ask for.”

On top of that, the new API introduces Freebase integration via topics and universal search and, for those developing social media management apps, YouTube now offers channel bulletin and subscriber list management. The former especially could help solve a real pain point for YouTube’s user experience, considering that many of us are likely familiar with the less-than-satisfying results that are produced in search results.

With its new Topics API, developers can specify Freebase topic IDS rather than using search keywords. In its blog post this afternoon, YouTube gives the example of the topic ID, “/m/02vx4,” which would come in handy for tagging content related to soccer content, rather than having to come up with the right keywords. On top of that, because the API offers a universal search feature, developers can quickly match their topic of choice to channels, playlists and videos in one request (example here), which removes a good deal of friction from the whole process.

With v3.0, YouTube also aims to help developers lower their apps’ bandwidth requirement (by only returning what you ask for with its new “part” parameter) — along with the improved efficiency that comes from its new default JSON encoding. To that point, YouTube says that version 3.0 supports Google API tools like its API console and its reference documentation now allows developers to “scroll down to the bottom of any reference page to try the new API.” Pretty cool.

All in all, YouTube calls this its “biggest overhaul to date,” and as YouTube product manager Hunter Walk said via tweet, this is a clear sign that YouTube is getting serious about providing deeper support to its developer ecosystem. There are already a number of recognizable apps and startups taking advantage of YouTube’s API and, with v3 today, the company may very well see a renewed interest from developers.

A handful of startups have implemented the new API, which YouTube is leveraging to showcase its new capabilities. Showyou, for example, has integrated the Topics API to allow its users to discover related videos by clicking on topics associated with the Showyou feed, while YouTube audience development startup Tubular Labs has begun using v3.0’s subscriber list to let content creators and publishers get a more nuanced view of their audiences. [More examples here.]

There’s a lot to play around with in YouTube’s new data API, and it’s still in the experimental phase, so there are likely more changes to come. But, as of now, it seems that the changes open the door to new pockets of growth within its developer ecosystem. By adding the ability for clients to post bulletins to subscribers through third-party apps, for example, this could jump start the YouTube marketing developer industry — much the way Facebook did when it offered its publishing APIs for pages.

For more on the announcement, find it here or introductory playlist here.

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