Open APIs for building the next generation of audio technology
No product is an island. Any complex software we use today is likely built upon the accumulated work of many programmers. Resources like code libraries and application program interfaces (APIs) are often used to create new products: for example, Foursquare initially pinpointed locations using the Google Maps API, countless e-commerce sites use the Square API to process payments, and The Echo Nest API provided music intelligence and recommendation capabilities to music platforms like Spotify.
When we talk about innovating new methods for sharing and discovering podcasts and other audio, there’s no need to start from scratch. Dozens of open APIs have been created in recent years to manipulate sound, search databases of content, and access metrics about listening patterns. The next big audio listening/sharing/searching app might emerge from the right combination of these tools.
Whether or not you code, this list of audio APIs might inspire you to think creatively about combining existing resources to create better tools for the future.
Top API resources for non-music audio
Manipulate and play with sound using the Web Audio API
Web Audio API
The Web Audio API is a robust API from the Mozilla Developer Network that provides a system for manipulating audio on the Web. According to Mozilla, “developers can choose audio sources, add effects to audio, create audio visualizations, apply (such as panning) and much more.”
Among the numerous apps built on top of Web Audio API is the recent “Music Lab” Chome Experiment from Google Creative Labs (an oscillator character from the site is pictured at left). Although many applications of the API have dealt with music, there’s no reason it can’t be used for non-music audio!
Get thousands of hours of audio from five leading public media organizations
The Public Media Platform
The Public Media Platform (PMP) is a Hypermedia API that contains more than 499,912 pieces of content from five of the country’s leading public media organizations: American Public Media, NPR, PBS, Public Radio International (PRI) and the Public Radio Exchange (PRX).
Bonus: Looking for more public media content? Many news organizations, like the BBC and the Associated Press, have their own APIs! Check out this list of news media APIs.
Access transcripts and metadata for dozens of cultural heritage organizations
Pop Up Archive API
Though we may be somewhat biased, the Pop Up Archive API is a valuable resource for accessing the archival audio that’s publicly available at Pop Up Archive. Build an app that draws on audio and transcripts from incredible collections like the Studs Terkel Radio Archive and Illinois Public Media, or use the API to build audio search tools for your own audio content.
Get up-to-date information on almost any podcast that’s ever been made
iTunes Search API
Through iTunes hardly needs an introduction, it’s worth mentioning that the iTunes API contains robust data about audio: Query the thousands of podcasts listed on iTunes for up-to-date information.
Tap into the deepest database of metadata about podcasts on the web
Pop Up Archive’s Audiosear.ch API provides unprecedented data on podcasts. Built on top of our tools for automatic tagging and transcription, the Audiosear.ch API goes further by making it possible to filter content by show, network, iTunes rank, category, people, or topic, as well as quickly share audio segments across social networks like Twitter. The API aggregates cultural intelligence from tastemakers on the web as well as podcast charts data to provide high-quality recommendations for thousands of shows.
Dive deep into NPR One user data and recommendations
NPR One API
NPR One is a new app to deliver audio from NPR and its member stations to your mobile device in a convenient and personalized way. The NPR One API includes access to data on sponsor messages, user ratings, and recommendations from the NPR One platform.
Query listening data and comments for podcasts on SoundCloud
In recent years, many podcasters have turned to SoundCloud to host and share their podcasts, and many listeners have followed. That means their API provides valuable data about podcasts, including timestamped comments annotating specific audio moments.
Get statistics on how and where people are listening to podcasts
Blubrry was one of the first podcast hosting services, and is still used to host countless top podcasts. With the Blubrry API, developers can download statistics about their digital audio hosted on Blubrry, as well as upload and manage that audio.
Automate post-production: audio signal processing and noise reduction
Auphonic develops algorithms for music information retrieval and audio signal processing, which they use to provide automatic audio post production web services for podcasts, audio books, lecture recordings, screencasts, and more. The Auphonic API gives developers access to features like starting a production using presets.
Coming soon: Access big data on audio books and public media archives
On the horizon are two more exciting audio APIs to be released from Audible and the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.
Audible’s API promises to allow access to top audio books and stories. Though the API is not yet publicly available, Audible recently hosted a hackathon called “The Future of Listening” to let developers experiment with potential uses for the tool.
The American Archive of Public Broadcasting API is already available in experimental form, including D3 visualizations generated from their archives such as a graph of the mentions of 20th Century Presidents from the 1950s on (pictured left). As their 40,000 hour public media archive is transcribed as part of our IMLS grant with WGBH, developers can expect to see much more.