Did Google acquire Songza solely for its API? Google announced its acquisition of Songza, a music playlist curation service, on July 1. Songza relies heavily on its Human API to take a different approach to playlist creation than many competitors in the music streaming space. Songza investor and former Googler David Hirsch explained:
[W]e think that Songza brings context, and it applies to Google Now personalization. It applies to Google Play. It’s really about discovery. How do we discover the right content, the right commerce, the right activity based on your human situation? … You know, in this world of drones and programmatic and virtual reality APIs, what the world has forgotten is about people. The only API that matters is the human API.
While many music streaming services (Spotify, Pandora, etc.) use preset algorithms to create playlists or suggestions, Songza starts with data and the individual to create its playlists. Songza relies on context to build lists (day of the week, weather, activity, individual, etc.). While Songza starts with the human and surrounding experiences, others start with a song or artist.
At one point, Songza made some of its RESTful API features public. However, it has since pulled its API back in for internal use. The API’s contextual capabilities have certainly become Songza’s secret sauce, and Google may leverage such capabilities for more than simply music. Google has already discussed near-term plans to add Songza’s human-curation capabilities to YouTube and Google Play.
What does the future hold—human-curated ads, targeted in-app experiences? We shall wait and see. For now, we can rest assured that APIs sell.