While it’s easy to focus on one platform or another, a profound trend in 2010 has been toward sharing media in the cloud. The basic concept is as old as the Internet, but from applications like Instamatic for photographers to syncing storage to tote around documents on iPads, this has been a year in which the server-shared media seemed to become a bigger part of our lives.
Sound could be next. Aptly-named service SoundCloud has added a big, red “record” button both to an updated iPhone app and the Web browser-based dropbox. That means you can tote an iPhone or iPod touch with the SoundCloud app, and record and upload, say, a field recording or rehearsal set all in one go. Or someone could leave a voice greeting or record a quick demo for you right on your site.
The service didn’t have to do anything to make this possible; it’s just a clever interface around recording, using native iOS features on mobile and Flash in the browser. (To me, actually, seeing HTML5-based support would be even bigger news, but a lot of HTML5 goodness requires waiting.) When you hit record, you use the same recording function that was always there; the app just takes care of the upload so there isn’t an extra step. SoundCloud confirms to CDM that there’s no change to the underlying APIs. For developers, there’s really nothing stopping you from building SoundCloud “recording” into any mobile or Web-connected tool.
The main questions for developers and users is, when is this the right choice? I had to explain to SoundCloud why I preferred Dropbox connectivity in mobile apps to SoundCloud – for me, the hierarchy and file system integration in Dropbox trumps the sharing features in SoundCloud for certain apps. I might want to record a bunch of samples to manipulate later in Dropbox; I don’t really need to share with anyone. Conversely, though, if sharing is your main goal, SoundCloud is easier. I expect we’ll see more of this kind of differentiation – and head-scratching about the best workflow – in the future. (Cue someone in comments mentioning free, old-fashioned, no-subscription-required tools like rsync.)
For the same reason, it’s worth noting that there’s more to the recent iPhone app and API SoundCloud updates than just recording. Apps will in the near future will be able to more easily connect to services like Facebook and Twitter. Those tools have been the “glue” that have made things like the faux-Polaroid and Holga apps for iPhone become so viral. It’ll be interesting to see if sound can make the same impression.
Then again, I think it’s worth noting that the biggest news this week came out of plain text you could copy and paste. The Google Translate beatbox, defying any rational explanation, became perhaps the biggest sound and music meme I’ve seen all year. And maybe that proves the point: the familiar copy-and-paste means of spreading it was something anyone could understand. There’s a lesson there, certainly.
In the meantime, SoundCloud is looking a lot more useful. Now, it’s just a matter of finding the most productive way to use it – and, oh yeah, finding some sounds.
The SoundCloud iPhone/iPod touch app is free on Apple’s App Store.
Capture And Share Your Sounds [SoundCloud Blog]