Echo Streams Near Real-time Social Features to Brands

Justin Houk, April 11th, 2011

Echo StreamServerEcho, best known for its online commenting tools, recently launched an ambitious service called StreamServer to aid brands in creating their own “white label” social media sites. Media brands like ESPN and Newsweek want to capitalize on the investment in their content. The problem is that the attention of consumers and lucrative revenue streams are focused on on social sites like Twitter and Facebook. The Echo StreamServer API aims to tip the balance in favor of brands by offering the tools to forge scalable near real-time social sites of their own.

Social media is quickly becoming a major part of the way that consumers enjoy content of all types. People love to chat about their favorite show or share and discuss interesting articles in real time. Today’s brands want more than anything to harness this trend but social media streams remain elusive. According to Echo, brands want more than a simple widget or like button embedded on a static website.

In the embedded video above, Echo is betting with StreamServer that large media brands will want

  • Control  of user experiences
  • Control of the branding and look of their sites
  • The ability to mix social streams with their own data
  • Full ownership of revenue flowing from their content
  • Access to twitter scale real-time infrastructure

To satisfy these needs Echo is offering a scalable service that would allow developers to build near-realtime social apps for brands. This service is behind numerous opens source rich interface components for quickly setting up social elements on a web page. To support innovation and adoption, those licensing streamserver would gain access to a customer support network for sharing practices and an app store for distributing and monetizing their work.

In addition to the custom tools and scalable infrastructure, Echo has formed some interesting strategic partnerships. If a customer wants to add foursquare like badges they can tap Badgeville. Services like Janrain can be added to streamline authentication and social login.

Several high profile Media publishers have already signed on and built applications using StreamServer.  Newsweek built a 2011 Oscars app that mixed minute by minute results with fan comments and rich media from sites like Youtube.  The USA network built an app called Character Chatter that lets fans log in under any social service and leave comments on their favorite shows.  Other customers include Reuters, NBC Universal, Sports Illustrated, and the Washington Post.

Partnerships and high profile customers are all well and good but most developers will want to know more about what’s under the hood. The StreamServer API uses 10 second polling to fetch content from a YAWS server that is built on Erlang.  ProgrammableWeb author Phil Leggetter would call this a right-time server instead of a real-time one, because the service does not use push technology.

Echo’s StreamServer still offers value to its clients. The bar for establishing a scalable real-time app is high enough that most developers would probably be happy to settle for an app that delivers when needed. The efficiencies of pushing content mean that Echo is probably eyeing push for the future. We asked Echo’s VP of Strategy Chris Saad if they would be moving move to push technology.  He responded “absolutly” via Twitter.

At it’s core, the real strength of Echo StreamServer is the basic conceptual framework behind it.  Echo is selling the idea that brands can process, remix , stream (poll), and socialize well. If the list of those already signed up is any indication, brands agree that this is a good idea and message.

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