Meerkat? Meh

March 12, 2015

meerkat It’s the stuff of parody.

A new social media platform is invented by generously borrowing — or depending on — the features of two of the most popular networks around (not named Facebook).

It streams live video — like YouTube.

Viewers log in, view and chat — through Twitter.

The app is Meerkat. And no, this is not a spoiler from season two of HBO’s Silicon Valley.

Described as “dead-simple” by The Verge’s Casey Newton, Meerkat basically has two functions. With the touch of a button, users can begin a live stream, which automatically posts a “live now” tweet to your Twitter feed alerting followers that you are indeed broadcasting. Using their own Twitter accounts, followers can tune in and and comment. The other functionality: scheduling. As in, you can make followers aware the live-stream will be, uh, live at a certain time.

And that, folks, is how modern-day Rockefellers are made.

Perhaps Gizmodo’s Darren Orf put it best: “If you’re always doing fun stuff and thrive on Twitter attention, Meerkat is software mana from the gods.” But for more of us, it’s probably Google+ reincarnate. (I once thought that was going to be a thing, by the way.) For me, the fatal flaw is the very feature that has made it most visible — Twitter auto-messages.

Surely, you’ve seen one or 16 tweets like this in your feed over the past week:

Maybe you thought to yourself, “Oh, great! This person is streaming live video at this very moment in time!”

So, you clicked, and this is what you got: Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 8.09.02 AM And therein lies Meerkat’s biggest problem. While Mr. Sacca’s stream was certainly what the makers of the app would hope for — a sustained presentation, hundreds of viewers, an active social conversation — too often I’m finding every “live now” tweet leads me to a stream that has ended, and usually seconds after it started.

I get it. The masses are in trial mode. They’re downloading Meerkat, experimenting with the stream function, then ending the stream after a few seconds of weirdness. The problem is Twitter is being polluted with “live now” notifications that are lies. Damn lies! For every 10 Meerkat links I have clicked on over the past week — it’s called research, people — eight or nine have taken me to the “stream over” page.

Meerkat will almost certainly be the darling of SXSW this year according to desk-jockeys-turned-thought-leaders reporting live from Austin via Meerkat, but I’m skeptical. The app is too niche to be the next big thing.

Then again, I’m the guy who once wrote, “Google+ totally aligns with my needs.” What do I know?