There’s an overwhelming amount of apps out there (approximately 1.3 million for Android users and 1.2 million in Apple’s app store with around 75 billion downloads and 300 million views a week). But how do you know which ones to download? Which ones are worth paying for? How to differentiate between Google and Apple maps? Airbnb or Hotel Tonight? Tinder or Bumble?
We’re in search of answering these questions and each week we’ll be bringing you our weekly app pick.
South by Southwest kicked off on March 13 and Meerkat, the live-streaming video app built on top of Twitter, has largely dominated the conversation. The app’s popularity has soared since its launch in late February, earning favour from both SXSW and Product Hunt. But all that changed when Twitter announced it was cutting off the app from its network’s social graphs and had quietly acquired Meerkat competitor, Periscope. However, Twitter’s decision to handicap a much-talked about application at the start of one of the year’s major tech conferences, has helped Meerkat dominate press coverage from the event with Twitter playing the foil. So, what does the app actually do? We’re here to break it down for you.
Previously, Meerkat required your Twitter account to sign up, and would automatically follow everyone you follow on Twitter. Then, when someone you were following started a Meerkat stream, the app would send a push notification alerting users to watch the ongoing stream through Meerkat. The application started by allowing users to broadcast themselves on Meerkat, which then triggered a tweet of the link to the video’s steam – anyone could tune in on the web or through the app and chime in with comments that were sent as Twitter @ replies and would appear right on the video. The live streams are ephemeral (much like Snapchat) and once you’re done with the steam, the video will disappear.
The app has already shown promise on multiple platforms, which is partly why users have jumped behind the app in lieu of Twitter’s crackdown. For example, there has been use in the media for interviews and commentary as well as exclusive-behind the scenes footage for TV. Twitter has proven to be an indispensable tool for journalists, news publications and citizens to share live updates from real-time news on the ground. Meerkat demonstrates what footage can add to the scene.
Celebrities and sports teams have also jumped on Meerkat. Tony Hawk, Dane Cook and the Miami Dolphins have all taken a spin at the popular application, using its streaming capabilities to promote their brand. Speaking of brands, never late to the game, Starbucks has also promoted the live-streaming capabilities of Meerkat, showing what benefits the application can have for big name companies. Even real estate has taken an interest with the ability to show virtual open houses through the app.
Where other live-streaming apps have failed, Meerkat has somehow struck a chord with Twitter users, offering a quick and easy way to broadcast what you’re up to to your followers. However, since the Twitter cutoff, users no longer have access to the follower base they’ve spent years building up on the social network. This was a forecasted problem as the company was piggybacking off of Twitter’s distribution and user lists, and it was only a matter of time before Twitter either bought Meerkat or swung the axe. There’s really no easy way for Meerkat users to follow people at this time because there is no user search within the application yet. However, CEO Ben Rubin announced at SXSW they would soon be launching a discovery feature.
So, does meerkat have 9 lives? The problems with the app are as follows:
- No Android version – this isn’t so much a Meerkat issue as an ecosystem issue that every developer must deal with when choosing a platform – although Android version is coming out soon.
- Difficult to find streams in app and limited website capabilities.
- Similar to other social apps, it may take a while for people to find the right purpose for it.
While Meerkat’s fate is yet to be determined, the silver lining to their Twitter storm cloud is that if Twitter was willing to cut them out so quickly and snap up the competition – they must be on to something. It’s possible, even likely, that Meerkat is just a fad and will falter the way many tech trends have before. Live broadcasting video is novel to some, but it will depend if the average person finds it interesting to broadcast or even to tune in to the app more than just a few times. If it does look promising, there is a real possibility that bigger companies could move into the space with native platform advantages. Only time will tell.