oEmbed is a newly released spec from Cal Henderson (of Flickr), Mike Malone and Leah Culver (of Pownce), and Richard Crowley (of OpenDNS) that allows web sites to quickly and easily embed media when a user posts a link directly to that resource. oEmbed is an open format which standardizes the process of embedding photos, videos, links, or other media and circumvents the media provider's API (or the need for screen scraping if they don't offer one). It works by turning a link to, say, a photo or video into XML or JSON that tells the user how to embed that media.
"oEmbed is a format for allowing an embedded representation of a URL on third party sites. The simple API allows a website to display embedded content (such as photos or videos) when a user posts a link to that resource, without having to parse the resource directly," says the authors on the oEmbed web page.
As an example http://flickr.com/services/oembed?url=http://flickr.com/photos/bees/2362225867/ returns:
<oembed> <version>1.0</version> <type>photo</type> <title>Bacon Lollys</title> <author_name>bees</author_name> <author_url>http://www.flickr.com/photos/bees/</author_url> <cache_age>3600</cache_age> <provider_name>Flickr</provider_name> <provider_url>http://www.flickr.com/</provider_url> <width>500</width> <height>375</height> <url> http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3040/2362225867_4a87ab8baf.jpg </url> </oembed>
Early adopters of the oEmbed spec are Flickr, Viddler, Pownce, Qik, and Revision3. Viddler has created a form to test the web service, so you can see it in action.
Essentially, oEmbed makes it easier to access photos and videos with a simple URL. Standardizing how things are embedded means that, for example, a social network could allow users to simply embed media from oEmbed enabled sites just by entering a URL to a photo or video -- and the "customer" site wouldn't need to deal with multiple APIs from each provider.