Not even two years after reaching 1 million users, social audio service SoundCloud announced today that it has surpassed the 10 million user mark. The Berlin-based company has risen to become a major force in audio content creation and sharing on the Web, becoming a sort of “YouTube for audio” used by musicians, journalists and pretty much anybody with a need to record and share their own audio files.
To celebrate the milestone, the four-year-old startup has released an audio slideshow storytelling app called Story Wheel. It uses the Instagram API to grab a set of pictures, which you can select the ones you want and order them. Once the photos are arranged, a brief narrative can be recorded in the browser. The end result is a shareable photo slideshow annotated by you.
For a service whose mission seems so simple, SoundCloud has garnered a remarkable level of success. “In some ways we’re quite lucky in that sound in itself is such a big part of life,” said SoundCloud cofounder Alexander Liung. “It hadn’t really been addressed that well on the Web.” What Liung, along with his cofounder Eric Wahlforss, built and launched in 2008 has been embraced largely by musicians, both amateurs and major label acts. Big or small, artists have taken to using SoundCloud to share original recordings, remixes and live performances.
The service’s growth has also been fueled by the proliferation of its mobile apps and open platform for developers, Liung told us. More than 10,000 third party apps are being developed on SoundCloud’s platform, something that has a way of naturally extending the service’s reach across the Web.
Perhaps more significantly, SoundCloud’s availability on iOS and Android has made the service more accessible and portable. It’s easy to see why that’s the case. Users can record audio directly into their iPhone, iPad or Android device and publish it to SoundCloud from within the app. On the other end of the equation, listening to audio from SoundCloud on mobile devices is as straightforward as using an iPod or the mobile version of a streaming service like Spotify. For users who actively follow others, SoundCloud can be used as a mix tape comprised largely of content that isn’t available on other services.
What’s Next For SoundCloud: HTML5 and Social Audio
We asked Liung what SoundCloud is focusing on next. For his team, converting its default embeddable player to HTML5 is a high priority. They launched an optional beta player in HTML5 in November and are in the process of making that the service’s default player. Projects like this become a necessity for any company that wants its service to work flawlessly across devices, especially Apple’s notoriously anti-Flash iOS platform. SoundCloud’s native iOS app has done quite well, but it’s all those audio files embedded across the Web that have trouble playing back on iPads and iPhones.
SoundCloud is already an inherently social service, but further injecting itself into the larger social Web is another top priority for the company. SoundCloud recently jumped on the “frictionless sharing” bandwagon with a deep Facebook integration. As controversial as this semi-automated model of sharing is, it has nonetheless proven to be a source of major growth for sites and services who get onboard, thanks to Facebook’s massive user base.