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picplzIf you’ve been wondering how someone can turn a mobile photo application into a real company, well, the answer became a little clearer today with some new features from Picplz.

The company has announced an application programming interface (API) that will allow developers to build apps using Picplz photos. The company released a slideshow app, an embeddable widget for photos, and a photo feed that requires a login as examples of the kind of potential the API provides. Yes, pretty much every social networking startup releases an API, but Picplz seems to have beaten its competitors to this particular milestone. (Instagram shut down an unofficial API and said it plans to build an official one.)

(Update: Well, Picplz was ahead of Instagram by a few hours anyway.)

As my headline suggests, it doesn’t look like today’s announcement will make the San Francisco startup any money right away. But the news points to how Picplz can be more than just another mobile app.

Picplz has made another change, too: It now lets users share their photos through a Creative Commons license. This may seem like a minor addition, but it could help users feel more comfortable making Picplz the main repository for all their images. Not only will they be able to share those photos on a range of other social sites, but they can also set the terms by which those photos are republished by others. (Many of the images on VentureBeat come from Creative Commons-licensed photos that we find on Flickr.)

Finally, Picplz announced a dashboard that allows businesses like Madison Square Garden and the LA Lakers to track the number of views, likes, and comments they receive on each image. This seems like something Picplz might be able to charge for, but co-founder Dalton Caldwell told me it’s free for now:

We developed this as a direct response for what our early brand partners asked for. I am not sure whether this is the beginning of a monetization option for brands, or just another interesting reason for people to adopt picplz.

I think we would need to add quite a bit more functionality before it would be something a brand would be willing to pay for. At any rate, we will get a better idea once it gets more adoption.

Caldwell previously led music service Imeem, and he gave a memorable talk last year where he laid out all the reasons why he wouldn’t want to create another music startup — basically, the financial side just doesn’t add up. So it’s probably safe to assume that he chose his new industry with a little more care. Today’s news shows a vision that goes beyond the app, one that turns Picplz into a resource for developers, publishers, and brands.

But to be a successful platform, Picplz will probably need to be a successful consumer app too. And Instagram seems to be providing some formidable competition on that front.

Picplz recently raised a $5 million round led by Andreessen Horowitz. (Andreessen invested in an earlier version of Instagram, but he said he will take a more passive role now.)

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