This article was published on April 12, 2011

Squrl wants to change the way you watch video on the web forever

Squrl wants to change the way you watch video on the web forever
Matthew Panzarino
Story by

Matthew Panzarino

Matthew Panzarino was Managing Editor at TNW. He's no longer with the company, but you can follow him on Twitter. Matthew Panzarino was Managing Editor at TNW. He's no longer with the company, but you can follow him on Twitter.

The great thing about the web these days is that there are tons of places to watch great video. The frustrating thing about the web these days is that there are too many places to watch great video. This is the problem that Squrl wants to solve for you, and they have the best solution I’ve seen.

Squrl is a service, currently composed of a website, iOS app and HTML5 app that allows people that want to watch and share video from all over the web to do it in one place.

Using Squrl, you can discover video on the web, on Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Vimeo, ESPN, Funny or Die, Twitter and pretty much any other video sharing site you visit.

Once you’ve found something that you like and want to share, you’re free to send it to Squrl using a bookmark in your web browser for later viewing. If you’d rather discover video within the app, you simply tap the Squrl icon, a small 8-bit acorn, to save the video to your queue.

It’s a simple system that lets you collect and collate tons of video content from all around the net to view in one place, but Squrl doesn’t stop there. It’s also true that there have been other video aggregators that allow you to add content from the web, but Squrl has several defining features that set it apart from what has come before that I think are signs of our video watching future.

First of all Squrl gives you access to premium content like Hulu and Netflix in addition to free services like YouTube. You have to have accounts for those services, but if you do then you’ll be surprised at how great Squrl’s interface is for browsing them.

With Netflix for instance, Squrl indexes the entire site, so search and discovery of Netflix videos is blazing fast. Squrl has also found a way to massage the Netflix API enough to pop you out to Netflix to watch a video, then bring you right back to Squrl to continue browsing.

The way that Squrl handles video collection is incredible. No matter where you are when you come across a video there is always a way to send that video to Squrl. If you’re on Twitter, you can retweet the video link to your personal Squrl account, if you’re on the web it’s the click of a bookmarklet, if you get a funny video sent to you in an email just forward it along to your Squrl email address. Wherever your video is, you can get it to Squrl.

Squrl runs almost everywhere. In addition to the website, they have the requisite iPhone and iPad apps but hey also have a full featured HTML5-based app that runs on almost any device with a browser. The HTML5 app is so seamless actually that it’s nearly indistinguishable from the native iOS app, a real achievement.

A solid interface and easy collection methods are great, but the community features of Squrl are where it really shines. Using the app or the website, you can organize and filter your videos by subject matter and user-defined categories. You can also browse video that’s been shared and curated by other Squrl users and share those videos via Twitter and Facebook.

A visit to the videos section of Squrl shows you an already extensive list of video collections that have been put together by people using Squrl. You can then choose to follow them to get future updates to their collections.

When you couple all of these features with Airplay, you’ve got yourself a completely customized streaming media library that the whole family, or your circle of friends, can contribute to.

Let me give you a probable scenario. Lets say you have a couple of mobile devices in the household, perhaps an iPad for the family an iPhone or Android phone or two. If you’re out and about during the day and you see someone mention that the latest SNL was actually funny for the first time in weeks, you can hop on Squrl, search for and find the episode on Hulu and add it to your queue.

If another family member gets an email with a video of a relatives vacation, they can forward that to Squrl also. Eventually you end up with a list of video from all over that you’re able to access right through Squrl.

Then, when you’re all at home that night, you pop open Squrl on the iPad and play the families customized list of content right on your TV over Airplay. It’s an intriguing scenario and one that you can experience right now as Squrl is currently available on the App Store for free and their website is live.

I spoke to Squrl founder Mark Gray about the future of the app and he reassured me that although Squrl is launching as a free app, they’re in for the long haul. Squrl was completely self-funded from income from providing media services to large companies like Microsoft. Gray says that the experience gained through delivering video content via set-top boxes and designing program guides has led to the desire to create a truly customized video sharing experience in Squrl.

Future ways to monetize the app have been considered such as premium channels or a paid version of the app that would allow for customized privacy and permissions settings. As of now Squrl is an open book, with all of your galleries and collections available to search by other users.

Squrl is already a slick and well implemented iPad and web-based app with a quick and flexible method for grabbing video from any source you desire. Whether it becomes the future of video watching is now in the hands of the growing community of Squrl users already creating collections and sharing their video.

To hear Mark talk more about Squrl check out his video interview below with Robert Scoble.