Video app Squrl pumps up content with redesign

The video-discovery app that scours the Internet improves its search and adds private messaging. The next step is getting official with content providers.

Donna Tam Staff Writer / News
Donna Tam covers Amazon and other fun stuff for CNET News. She is a San Francisco native who enjoys feasting, merrymaking, checking her Gmail and reading her Kindle.
Donna Tam
2 min read
Squrl's new iOS app. Squrl

Squrl, the app that surfaces video recommendations for users, rolled out its redesigned iOS app on Monday with promises of a smoother viewing and browsing experience, private messaging, and even better recommendations.

The updated app, which also works on Apple TV, features a new home screen with bigger text and larger icons to display Squrl's functions, which include creating video playlists and viewing channels that are organized by subject matter.

It's all about the content, said Squrl CEO Mark Gray. That content can range from full-length movies on Netflix to Internet clips on YouTube.

The new recommendations take into consideration not only what you watch, like, or save to your queue, but what your Facebook and Twitter connections like, as well as what others with similar tastes are watching. Squrl looks at your interests to figure what you want to watch, Gray said.

"If it's tech talks or documentaries, we're going to try and understand who you are as a person and then make recommendations," he said.

Gray said the app's design has been simplified to make it easier to navigate, with search and navigate buttons displayed prominently at the top. Users can click on one of the nine categories and Squrl will find videos for them based their selection. The update introduced a new category called Featured, which is a collection of videos hand-picked by Squrl.

The company also added private messaging, a way for users to comment on each other videos without broadcasting it to the public.

While the videos currently come from platforms through open APIs -- meaning Squrl doesn't need a contract to stream these videos through its app -- the company has started officially partnering with some of these companies, according to Gray. Squrl drives subscriptions because it helps users discover content from platforms even if they don't have an account, he said. Squrl won't revealed its user numbers, but Gray said people are using the app an average of five times a week.

Additionally, Squrl is working on bringing syndicated content to its app, according to Gray. He said the company is "having contract talks with several providers inside of Squrl," but wouldn't say which companies. This would give Squrl an opportunity to make money off its recommendations.

The company gets its videos from a number of sources. In addition to YouTube and Netflix, which has sign-in options built into the app, Squrl sources from places like Hulu, TED, Vimeo, AOL, and Blip.tv. It also has channels organized by specific shows like "Jimmel Kimmel Live," "TMZ," and various news outlets.