Jimmy Fallon broadcast his monologue rehearsal to fans on Meerkat. Jimmy Fallon broadcast his monologue rehearsal to fans on Meerkat. Jimmy Fallon broadcast his monologue rehearsal to fans on Meerkat. (Photo: Douglas Gorenstein / NBC)

Periscope challenges Meerkat in live video-streaming department

Whichever service you use, experts agree they're both here to stay.

Americans have been struck with Meerkat mania, excited over a new app that allows you to live stream video from your phone. The Israeli-based startup became an overnight sensation when it debuted at the South by Southwest festival in Austin in early March. Within days, it soared to become the 177th most downloaded app in the United States, according to App Annie, a mobile analytics firm. It already claims a half million users.

And now, Twitter is looking to join the fray. The social media behemoth just introduced a similar service called Periscope.

Periscope screenshot Screenshot of the Periscope app. (Photo: Periscope)

There are a few subtle differences between the two. For example, Periscope lets you save your video for later viewing. But both apps essentially do the same thing – allow users to live-stream videos to a mass audience. Imagine being able to show live video from a wedding to family and friends who couldn't attend. Or for people who are witnessing a live news event and wish to broadcast as it's happening. Users are talking about live-streaming a concert or a sporting event. People are already hosting 24-hour “Meerathons,” in which users stream themselves on Meerkat around the clock.

Dr. Nicholas Bowman, a professor in the Communication Studies department at West Virginia University, sees a seismic shift with the introduction of these new apps. "Meerkat essentially converts us from being simple witnesses to being correspondents – broadcasting an event live, with our commentary, as if we're assuming the mantle of the news anchor," he said. "This will appeal to many people."

The new video apps are finding legions of fans, including celebrities looking for more authentic ways to connect with their fans. The comedian Jimmy Fallon has live-streamed a monologue rehearsal for his late-night talk show. (4,000 people tuned in to watch.) “Today Show” co-host Al Roker had 330 people watch as he cooked a steak dinner at home.

"We want to change the way people consume content," Meerkat's 27-year-old founder Ben Rubin told The Hollywood Reporter. "This will introduce a lot of different kinds of use cases where anyone – a brand or a politician or a teacher – who is communicating information creates a more honest and direct way to involve the audience in what they're up to."

WVU's Bowman thinks this new ease of use will help apps like Meerkat and Periscope have staying power. "Meerkat stands to make a lasting impact on how humans share their stories with one another," he said. "It's all very exciting."


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