The Meerkat-Periscope-Twitter plot thickens

As Silicon Valley dramas go, this one’s shaping up to be a real lollapalooza.

First, the very cool video-streaming app Meerkat catches on fire, sending thousands of early adopters into a live-vid frenzy on Twitter where the app’s real-time streams were being hosted.

Then, as I reported last week on Silicon Beat, word spread that Twitter was about to buy video-streaming rival Periscope, thus throwing Meerkat’s fate into the air.

Over the weekend, it all came crashing back down to Earth: Twitter said it was not only buying Periscope, but it was also booting Meerkat off its site.

As my colleague Queenie Wong pointed out on Friday, “live video streaming could be the next big social media craze, and Twitter has thrown its hat into the ring.

The social network confirmed Friday that in January it purchased Periscope, a San Francisco startup that is creating a live video streaming app that hasn’t publicly launched yet.

“You may have heard some news: It involves a blue bird. #YouCanGuessTheRest #WeJoinedTheFlockInJanuary …,” Periscope tweeted and Twitter retweeted.
A Twitter spokeswoman said that the company had nothing else to share beyond what the startup tweeted, including when Periscope will launch its app, but to “stay tuned.”

And that, in a nutshell, is how the world turns when cutting-edge technologies go mano a mano here in the epicenter of all things tech.

Very bad news for Meerkat, as Yoree Koh pointed out in a post early Saturday on the Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog:

Meerkat, which has amassed 120,000 users in the two weeks since its launch, has become the leader in a sudden renaissance in live-stream video by allowing users to broadcast what is happening around them to their Twitter audience in just a few simple taps on their smartphones, whether it be a stroll through an iced-over Central Park or a tour of a drab office. The live broadcasts can be scheduled ahead of time or transmitted at the spur of the moment, and they notify the creator’s Twitter followers when the streams take place.

Meerkat co-founder Ben Rubin on Friday night confirmed that Twitter has disconnected his company’s ability to pull information about a user’s follower base, a crucial distribution element to the fledgling service that has taken the social media scene by storm. In other words, when users sign onto Meerkat, which has been built on Twitter’s new and touted developer platform called Fabric, they will not be able to automatically link their Twitter followers to their Meerkat account.

A Twitter spokeswoman said: “We are limiting their access to Twitter’s social graph, consistent with our internal policy. Their users will still be able to distribute videos on Twitter and login with their Twitter credentials.”

Yet, Meerkat’s ability to link a users’ Twitter follower base to their Meerkat app is important because this capability provided a pre-built audience for the user’s live broadcasts.

The timing on Twitter’s part to cut Meerkat off at the knees could not have come at a worse time:

Twitter’s decision to limit Meerkat’s access comes as the live-streaming video app hoped to use the South by Southwest festival, which began Friday, as a launch pad to be adopted by the wider public.

Throughout the weekend, Meerkat’s backers and loyal users posited all sorts of theories about how the app would succeed, despite being shown the door by Twitter.

As Business Insider reported, Meerkat’s CEO Ben Rubin even expressed humble appreciation for Twitter hosting the app if even for a short while:

To his great credit (and possibly because he thinks there’s still a chance Twitter might play nice), Rubin, 27, last night thanked Twitter for the chance to get a leg up.

“We would not be sitting here if it wasn’t for Twitter,” Rubin said during a Yahoo Tech event at SXSW. “We need to be grateful for that.”

Rubin said it was “Twitter’s house” and Meerkat has to be “the best guests we can be”, but whether it can survive without access to a huge social media network like Twitter is at the very least, a huge challenge.

Meanwhile, others are hopeful that Meerkat will survive, either accessing Twitter through different means or perhaps by being snapped up by a giant like Facebook.

Photo from Bay Area News Group archives

 
 

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  • samharrison

    FB can open its own live video app. Doesn’t need this one. Overhyped for something that’s really just a feature (not a company)… That’s why it got crushed by Twitter who is launching this FEATURE

  • zalouteacher

    I don’t think that Meerkat was spamming or doing allegedly anything wrong but the only thing that Twitter guys were not happy about is the crazed growth this app has shown in a short notice which alerted Twitter fellas to act upon which, in my opinion, is not really fair because one day Twitter will be also swept over by other hidden app that goes unnoticed till it strikes.

 
 
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