Mobile live-streaming video apps have hit the market, and in a big way. The app known as Meerkat was the darling child of South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference held in Austin, Texas in March. The conference fosters creativity and celebrates forward-thinkers in the sectors of music, film and emerging technologies.
Innovative ideas often come in sets of two. Meerkat had raving fans at the onset, so it’s no surprise that it was swiftly met with some fierce competition. It’s a David-and-Goliath showdown between the small startup with a big idea, and one of social media’s biggest players. But more on that later. To get the full picture, let’s start with the basics.
Meerkat is an app that allows users to live-stream video from their smartphones and place it directly in their Twitter feed. Your followers can click on your video and watch it live, as well as send tweets to you during the “broadcast.” You’ll be able to see right on your phone who is watching.
So what does this mean and why would anyone want to use it?
Well, Meerkat gained some serious traction in its infancy. The Miami Dolphins used it to announce the signing of a new defensive tackle. Jimmy Fallon streamed a monologue rehearsal. BBC News has used the app to stream protests in Ferguson, MO.
The value was quickly noticed by big brands, journalists and celebrities. Meerkat acquired roughly 300,000 users in just the couple of weeks since its launch. Live-streaming video is not a new idea – but the ease of social sharing this stream has made this a craze.
Journalists have used Twitter for live, on-the-scene reports; the ability to stream live video only enhances the opportunity for minute-by-minute reporting. Live-streaming also offers more access and transparency for brands, which have used it for tours, interviews, live Q&A, big announcements, and launches.
A key to Meerkat’s initial success was launching the product on the right platform – Twitter. Is it becoming clear yet who Goliath is in this saga? Prior to SXSW and the launch of Meerkat, Twitter had purchased a similar live-streaming app called Periscope for $100 million. Meerkat blindsided them. As Twitter prepped to launch Periscope, they were beat to the punch – and on their own network! Meerkat was biting the hand that fed it. Meerkat depends on the use of Twitter’s social graph for people to view live streams, it’s no surprise that Twitter blocked Meerkat’s use of their social graph for a short while and raced to officially launch Periscope.
How the Deck is Stacked
The story continues to unfold between Meerkat and Periscope. Given its powerful lineage, Periscope has more features and carries a more esteemed reputation. Its biggest advantage: the ability to save a broadcast and re-watch.
And, though Twitter allowed Meerkat back on its social graph, the off-air delay significantly impacted Meerkat’s momentum. Today, both are increasing in number of downloads, and are neck-and-neck in the race for users.
As with most apps, for both Periscope and Meerkat, updates are always in the works and the bugs are being worked out. The initial craze has yet to show if users will be rational with this technology or if it will become another vehicle for illegal streaming or cyber-bullying.
Both apps face interesting legal concerns. Most recently, the season premiere of the hit HBO series Game of Thrones was illicitly streamed using Periscope. Sporting leagues with specific television deals are proactively addressing possible illegal live-streaming.
The truth with many apps is, you might want it, but you certainly don’t need two. The victor will be crowned soon enough. In nature, the meerkat is a very social creature, but it’s too soon to tell whether or not those higher up on the technology food chain will hasten the namesake app’s demise.