Periscope, Meerkat mobile apps allow users to live-stream


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Photo by Edwin Gano |

Photo Illustration | Apps such as Periscope and Meerkat, which only emerged a few weeks ago, start live-streams that followers can watch in real time.


While attending a concert, many people want to share their experiences with friends using their smartphones, to take photos, record videos and add content to Snapchat Stories. With all of these options to choose from, many can become overwhelmed.

There are two new apps vying to fill this void –– Periscope and Meerkat. Both apps have only been live for a few weeks, and both apps allow your phone to shoot live-streams that your followers can watch in real-time.

Even though it's not exactly real-time, because there is usually a delay of a few seconds, Meerkat and Periscope enable anyone with a smartphone to broadcast virtually anything to up to thousands of followers, as long as the network can keep up.

When a person starts a broadcast, both apps send an alert to their followers to make them aware of the broadcast. Getting spammed by these alerts can get annoying, and many people already report having turned them off, but it can also be an efficient means to get people to tune-in. At least for now, an alert as soon as a friend starts broadcasting can be exciting.

Both Meerkat and Periscope have a chat-room space where viewers can interact with the broadcaster. Users can ask questions, provide encouragement and give suggestions on what to do or where to go next.

The instant nature of these interactions can make someone feel like they are right there with whomever is broadcasting –– and for many intents and purposes, they are.

Periscope and Meerkat appear to be the next evolution of Snapchat's My Story feature. Snapchat Stories became popular because they let friends share what they see in (more or less) real time. Someone can post a Story, and anyone can watch it until it expires after 24 hours. This is an ephemeral, in-the-moment way to share with friends.

Periscope and Meerkat want to take those interactions one step further. They take your audience one step closer to your experience.

Arnold Schwarzenegger broadcasted live from the stage of Wrestlemania. Tech journalists used Meerkat to live-stream parties, conferences and press events at the South by Southwest music festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. 

One Periscope user live-streamed the aftermath of a gas explosion in New York City on Thursday, broadcasting long before "real" reporters and police arrived on the scene, according to The Verge. These capabilities might be seen as future tenets of online entertainment, as well as citizen journalism.

Both apps have a similar purpose and function in a more-or-less similar way, but Periscope and Meerkat are innately different for a few reasons.

Meerkat launched in early March, just before the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. SXSW is primarily a music festival, but some might also know of it as the place where both Twitter and Foursquare originally took off, according to The Verge.

Meerkat was the talk of the convention, just like Twitter and Foursquare were, according to The Verge. Everyone at the show was using it — not only tech journalists, but also celebrities like Jimmy Fallon and Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

The "social graph" is how apps like Meerkat connect to Twitter, providing access to Twitter's backend so Meerkat can use Twitter accounts as usernames.

Twitter has become increasingly protective of its social graph, removing Instagram's access to it a while ago, and recently cutting off Meerkat's access to its social graph as well, according to TechCrunch.

For an app that is as integrated with Twitter in the manner Meerkat is, this could be devastating, especially given how they recently launched Periscope, the biggest competitor to Meerkat, according to TechCrunch.

Meerkat has a big head start, but Periscope has several benefits that Meerkat doesn't have, according to TechCrunch. Being owned by Twitter is its biggest advantage, but there are a few additional features that set Periscope apart. Periscope is usually more stable when viewing streams, and the app's notifications tend to work faster than Meerkat's.

Arguably, the most significant difference is how Periscope saves replays of a stream for 24 hours following a broadcast, according to AdWeek. These replays self-destruct like Snapchat Stories, adding a new dimension to live-streams, which are realistic and hyper-ephemeral by nature  — as soon as the moment's gone, it's gone. 

Apps like this aren't anything new — services like Twitch, Justin.tv, and recently YouNow have done this type of streaming for years. But those services are primarily desktop-based, restricting someone to their computer. 

The smartphone is quickly becoming more powerful, gaining the ability to replace desktop computers for all but the most intense tasks. As smartphones continue to evolve, many expect more services originally seen as desktop-only, like live-streams, will continue to shift toward mobile.


Tyler Gold

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