Meerkat is the biggest hit at SXSW
The new app that live-streams video via Twitter is extremely popular, and Twitter is taking notice.
Here's what you need to know about Meerkat, the iPhone app that seems to have come out of nowhere and been all the talk of the app world – and now, Austin's South By Southwest (SXSW) festival – over the last two weeks:
- It was created by Ben Rubin, a 27-year-old former architecture student who is originally from Israel.
- It allows people to stream live video to their Twitter followers. In other words, while you are using your phone or tablet to video something, whether it's a speech or a party or just you talking into the camera, your followers see it after about a 15-second delay. It's the first app to connect live video streaming to Twitter.
- It's only been around for a couple of weeks but already has more than 150,000 users.
- It's caught the eye of the folks at Twitter, who, in a move that was expected by Rubin and his investors, cut off access to its "social graph" over the weekend. In other words, users now have to manually create a follower list instead of automatically pushing videos to all of their Twitter followers. Why? Because Twitter is likely going to launch its own live video app soon.
That last item would have seemed like a setback, but the app's user base grew by 30 percent since Twitter intervened. "After a lot of experimentation, we’ve landed upon an experience that resonates," Rubin wrote on Medium.com.
Is Meerkat the next big thing in social media? Maybe, maybe not. But the idea of live-streaming video to social media followers is one that will be around for a long time.
"Meerkat looks to harness the strength of a user's Twitter network but add an incredibly unique communication: real-time video," Nicholas Bowman, an assistant professor of communication studies at West Virginia University who specializes in tech issues, told From The Grapevine. "That is a very important step in realizing the Web 2.0 notion of 'create and collaborate' – the program serves to shift us from being live bloggers to live broadcasters."
While he thinks there will be more users than broadcasters on the platform, he said "there is a good synergy between Twitter's ability to connect us with new people, and Meerkat's ability to tap those people on the shoulder when we have something really important – at least to us – to share."
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