March 10, 2015
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:
— Chris Sacca (@sacca) March 6, 2015
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: 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?