Netflix opens its kimono to developers with API launch

October 1, 2008

netflix Today marks the launch of the Netflix developer program with the launch of the Netflix API. It’s a full featured API that will enable developers to create more tools for managing Netflix queues and stream television and movies over the Web.

Netflix has created a community around movie rentals, allowing users to follow their friends and recommend movies. It also enlisted the help of developers last year with a prize to improve their movie recommendation software.

Now developers can access information on over 100,000 DVD titles and stream another 12,000 video and television titles live. Another deal announced today will also add another 2,500 streaming features by way of a partnership with Starz.

The API interface uses OAuth, an open standard that is quickly being adopted for online programming interfaces such as this one. There was some question as to whether Netflix would allow developers to write applications that changed users queue of movie requests, but that fact has been confirmed. Developers will be able to access Netflix data using a JavaScript interface, REST services or ATOM feeds.

It will be interesting to see what developers can dream up for Netflix’s already innovative business model. By launching an online mail-order movie rental service, Netflix has already disrupted the movie rental business and taken market share from Blockbuster and forced it to play catch-up.

Then, earlier this year Netflix launched a partnership with Roku to create a tiny set-top box that allows users to stream movies directly to their television sets. This move was a shot at competing with the video on-demand services offered by cable companies.

It could be that developers expand upon the social features that Netflix has already created, like following friends’ movie queues or recommending movies to other users. It’s also possible that developers could use the open interface to expand the video library on their sites. There are no 3rd party applications available at launch, though the developer site will showcase applications in its gallery as they are released.

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