Call it a sign of the times: hot on the heels of Meerkat’s sudden boom in popularity among techies and Twitter’s kneecapping of the service as SXSW began, live-streaming startup Ustream is opening its internal API to the public so that anyone can build their own Meerkat-like broadcasting app.
Timing aside, it’s a natural progression for the company, which shifted its focus to providing live-broadcasting-as-a-service for enterprises early last year. Businesses (including TechCrunch) have used Ustream to host “town hall” events for employees working from a distance, as well as for showing live footage from large events like Disrupt.
Previously, that worked via companies pumping their video in one end and distributing it via embedded media players hosted on web pages. Now, any developer will have access to the input and output ends of that broadcasting infrastructure, giving greater control for the previously mentioned use cases, as well as the ability to build apps that draw in and distribute footage from many more sources, as we see on Meerkat (and for beta users, Periscope) today.
In a phone conversation earlier today, Ustream CEO Brad Hunstable told me the API will be free for developers building their apps while they’re in testing and for release if they’re willing to have Ustream-owned ads run on top of broadcasts. Paying for premium access on top of the API will cut them out, as well as give access to Ustream’s advanced analytics packages.
If you’re hoping there’s still time to crank out a Meerkat clone while the SXSW iron is still hot, reset your expectations. Hunstable says the API is going to be available to everyone in the coming weeks, but at first it’s going to roll out by invitation only. Interested parties can register their interest on Ustream’s site, and Hunstable says they’ll try to quickly open access to those with ideas that uniquely leverage the platform’s live-broadcasting capabilities.
What kinds of apps might earn early access? Hunstable told me Ustream has long been interested in apps that enable more unique citizen journalism (millions used the service to broadcast footage from Occupy and the Arab Spring), and is excited to see what ideas are built around live engagement at sporting events and concerts.