SoundCloud for iPhone from SoundCloud on Vimeo.

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.

Sharing Note by Weatherman

Capture And Share Your Sounds [SoundCloud Blog]

  • A "paste" button would have been even more useful for the iPhone app.

  • tohm

    This with the Blue Mickey could be really useful… I had been considering Audioboo, but already have a Soundcloud account

  • the_jules

    HTML 5, they do have a (still) experimantal feature hidden in the settings. Go to settings, and then at the very lower right, under "Extra" choose "Experimantal settings". There should be a setting for "HTML5 Audio".
    Only bummer: Works only with Safari and Chrome.
    But you can check out how it's going.

  • Charlie Lesoine

    Soundcloud uses flash? The website loads fine on my iPad.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Charlie: Recording uses Flash. I don't know which browsers at this point do provide direct audio input access.

  • teej

    Looks great. Soundcloud is shaping up to be one of those rare startups that seem to thrive on actual genuine giving a shit. Keep it coming.

  • Thanks for the great feedback guys!

    It's possible to build an app that allows you to access SoundCloud tracks as files in a folder. I agree that this would be useful in some use-cases and you can expect some more Dropbox-like apps coming out pretty soon.

    Dropbox and SoundCloud are very similar on an API level, but we're coming from different angles interface-wise. Our focus on audio sharing will hopefully provide additional value for music creators since we have tighter integration in music apps, a strong social network, etc.

    And we're always open for feedback from both developers and users about how we can take things to the next level so let us know what you think!

  • I wouldn't use it for anything serious just yet. A friend and I had the grand idea a couple days ago that we would ingest some psychedelics, lock ourselves in an isolated space for a few hours with our instruments, and post the results live on the internet via the Soundcloud app. It was pretty exciting until we realized that when you hit 'save' the app crashes.

  • Wantless

    Tim Exile already has found an fun application for this new SoundCloud app, an interactive online jam… Tonight…

  • anechoic

    Android app coming?