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All about Meerkat, the app taking SXSW by storm

March 19, 2015

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If you have been following South By Southwest this year — the annual music/culture festival in Austin, Texas — chances are you’ve come across Meerkat. No, not the creature — the seamless live stream videos that are popping up at conferences and concerts around the festival.

Here’s how the app works. Smartphone users — limited to iPhone owners at the moment — simply start recording on the app and two seconds later, a live video feed pops up for anyone with a link.

Meerkat’s founder Ben Rubin gave a primer on how his app is being used in this Mashable video from SXSW.

The most surprising thing about the startup’s success is how quickly it has pushed its way into the national tech conversation. A few weeks ago, no one, not even plugged in tech journalists, had heard of Meerkat, which spawned from the ashes of Rubin’s unsuccessful app Yevvo.

In its first week the live streaming service acquired 28,000 users, according to the Verge. Celebrities like Jimmy Fallon and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are already using it.

Just because a new social tool is all the rage at the moment, doesn’t necessarily mean its here to stay. The Verge points out that Foursquare was also all the rage at SXSW in 2009, but has fizzled out as of late as Twitter and Facebook have added check-in functions to their services.  The social media site Ello launched in March 2014 to much fanfare, and has since fallen out of the tech conversation.

Here’s a Google mentions graph, per Mashable, that demonstrates just how quickly Ello lost steam.


Meerkat might not suffer the same fate as Ello (which might have some life to it yet), and it already survived its first major road bump. Twitter knocked it off its social graph earlier this month with only two hours notice.

Prior to this, the app’s users were using Twitter to sign up for the service which allowed them to automatically follow their friends from Twitter who were already using Meerkat, and their streams were also automatically published to the social media site.   

It appears Twitter did this because it acquired another live streaming service, Periscope, which is still in beta. Recode says its unclear if the company plans to integrate Periscope’s technology directly into its service or leave it as a standalone app.

Nevertheless, Meerkat appears to have survived that setback, as it continues to thrive in Austin. In fact, the app might have become the talk of SXSW because of Twitter’s defensive move against it, according to The Verge’s Casey Newton.

So why did Meerkat become the talk of SXSW? It likely helped when Twitter cut Meerkat off from its social graph. The move came across defensive and somewhat petty, particularly in light of Twitter’s belated announcement it had acquired Periscope, a similar live-streaming app that is currently in private beta. The move made Meerkat look like a scrappy underdog; it also lent the app a hint of edginess: The Live-Streaming Service Twitter Doesn’t Want You To Use!

Twitter’s coming out party took place at South by Southwest in 2007, and it’s still thriving. Maybe Meerkat’s unique live streaming can do the same.


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