Showyou Adds Signups and Social Grids to Its Web Presence

Video discovery iPad app Showyou, which debuted on the iPad over a year ago in April 2011, is today unveiling its new HTML5-based web presence, which brings the iPad experience to any modern browser almost in its entirety. It’s move that Showyou CEO Mark Hall told BetaKit is designed to expand the site’s potential user base, but without making compromises to the overall experience the company provides.

Showyou, which grew out of San Francisco-based Remixation, had previously experimented with having very limited functionality just for Showyou users on the web, but Hall said the team felt the time had come to offer more. “All the videos that you’ve shared or saved on Showyou are now added to your personal grid, but you can only see them on an iPad,” he said. “We wanted to make those available on the web so your friends can see what you’re sharing in the event you don’t have an iPad.”

Now, people who don’t have Showyou can not only see what its users are sharing, but also sign up via the web. It’s the first step to expanding Showyou’s potential user base, but Hall said that the company will be gating access by allowing sign-ups only via invitation from existing members to web users to make sure it can keep the experience consistent as it scales. “The one reason we want to control it a little bit initially is that the most significant part of our technology infrastructure is pulling in videos from user feeds,” he said. “That means we’re pulling in an average of nine to 10 million videos a day, so we want to ramp that up with some control, rather than have a service-stopping surge.”

A web expansion is a natural enough next step for Showyou, which can now appeal not only to desktop users, but also to owners of non-Apple tablets and devices since the site is designed using cross-platform HTML5 standards. But Hall says the team’s focus will remain primarily on the iPad, which, thanks to AirPlay, has also allowed the Showyou app to gain a foothold in the living room via the Apple TV.

But the expansion of the Showyou site’s functionality also reflects the startup’s larger goals, which include becoming not just a discovery service, but also a networking hub centered around video. “We’ve pretty clearly been the leading app [in this space],” Hall said, citing recurring accolades from Apple and a recent Webby award nomination. “We’ve really focused on making our app social, in the sense of not just being a reader. We’ve worked hard on saying ‘there’s a second part to all of this,’ in not just discovering videos that your friends are watching, but in providing an interesting and rich way to share that.”

Showyou’s social Grids, which were introduced in February, allow both users and brands to organize content and to follow specific people beyond their social networks – meaning you won’t just see stuff your Facebook friends find interesting, which means you won’t be stuck just watching whatever happens to amuse people you barely talk to from high school. “If you look at all the other apps, the notion of having accounts or having a place for self-expression is kind of a secondary thought or missing altogether,” Hall said.

Another aspect of Showyou’s business that goes beyond simple network scraping is its search, which Hall believes easily rivals the search function on YouTube, partially because of the video network’s social hooks.

Showyou hopes its attempts to deepen engagement and provide more sophisticated discovery and curation tools will help when it comes time to pursue additional revenue streams, which include placing promoted videos in Grids, sort of like what Twitter does with promoted tweets. Hall says it’s a natural fit for brands, since much of the content shared through the network is already advertising to begin with.

In many ways, Showyou is working in the opposite direction of a lot of media companies; it started with an iPad app and is now pushing for a better web-based presence. Its continued success will likely depend not only on expanding its appeal, but also on continuing to add features that make it not just a collation tool for content stored elsewhere, but also a creative channel of its own with an engaged user community outside of Facebook or Twitter. It will also have to compete with other video discovery and curation apps including and CBS-owned Clicker for users, as the social video space is only getting more competitive.

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