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This article was published on March 26, 2015

Twitter launches Periscope, its live video streaming Meerkat competitor

Twitter launches Periscope, its live video streaming Meerkat competitor


That’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you launch Periscope, Twitter’s new live video streaming app for iOS. Sure, Twitter acquired Periscope in January and the app was already in development before that. However, you can’t help but think of the app darling of SXSW that made Twitter livestreaming all the rage.

ss_prebroadcastYes, both apps stream video with almost zero friction. But when you get down to it, Periscope is what Meerkat would look like with a little more thought put into it. It’s cleaner, the chat function makes more sense and you can save your videos for later viewing. Plus, it features something that’s sorely missing from Meerkat: the ability to line up a shot before streaming.

However, all of that might not matter because Meerkat has traction. It has users. It has a term for streaming video, “Meerkatting.” Sometimes, being first, even when the app isn’t as polished as a competitor, is enough to keep you ahead of the curve. Even when a rival has the power of a social media giant like Twitter behind it.

Remember Slingshot, Facebook’s kinda-of-sort-of answer to Snapchat? It looked nicer and had a hook. Snapchat is ugly, the UI borderline unusable and OMG, that show they produced. But Snapchat was first and it won and continues to win. I’m sending a Snap right now.

But maybe this time, ‘better’ will prevail. Instead of being dropped into a blank page that sometimes loads currently streaming videos, Periscope places live videos front and center. Below those are more recent videos to keep you engaged.

You can save videos for later use.While disappearing photos a la Snapchat are fun, disappearing videos, not so much. I’ve clicked on too many Meerkat feeds on Twitter only to discover the stream has ended. Eventually I’ve stopped clicking on any Meerkat links that are more than two minutes old. Periscope lets you save videos to watch later.

ss_typingPeriscope keeps all chats within a stream. Your in-stream chats don’t get pushed to Twitter like in Meerkat, where there’s absolutely zero context for their posting.

The streams also have a “hearts” system to show your appreciation for a video. When a viewer taps on the screen hearts appear. The more you tap, the more hearts the broadcaster receives. It’s very Hello Kitty and you should expect those with small children and kittens to game the system because who’s not going to give a frolicking kitten all the hearts in the world?

Replaying a video lets you view the accompanying chat, which is helpful if the broadcaster is running a Q&A session. Periscope also lets you delete chats, replays and any record of your video being shot, if that’s what you want.

You can also broadcast a video privately, and only those users you’ve invited will be able to view the replay.

The idea behind the app was to see through the eyes of others and to share moments. “We’re not building a live streaming company, we’re building a teleportation company,” said Periscope co-founder Kayvon Beykpour. A teleportation company that’s development was helped by the Twitter acquisition. According to Beykpour it was “awesome” having Twitter’s resources to help finish the app.

2015-03-25 23.09.44Those resources also mean it’s tied to your Twitter account. Fortunately, it doesn’t auto-follow the accounts you follow on Twitter, but it does offer you the suggestion to follow them.

Plus, you also have the option to share your feed only with users on Periscope.

As with Twitter, things can get noisy. Periscope sends you notifications not only when someone you follow starts broadcasting, but also when they recommend a stream by someone else. Unless the alerts system gets granular control, I’ll probably have to turn it off so I don’t succumb to notification overload.

But even with notifications shut off, I’ll still see most of those streams via replay. Live streaming is wonderful, but you can’t always stop what your friends are up to.

Periscope may not have been first out of the gate with its live streaming app, but instead took time to polish its feature set and user experience — and it’s better than Meerkat because of it.

It’ll be interesting to see which of these apps emerges the live-streaming victor. Will it be first or better? Maybe it’ll end up being whichever app has the first “Hudson River” moment because that’s coming and whichever app streams that event will be the one that gets mainstream media attention.

That’s something more powerful than SXSW love.

Periscope [iOS]

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