Meerkat Changes Direction – Is Livestreaming Ready for Prime Time?

Alan Bullock
Mar 14, 2016

Meerkat Logo2In case you missed it, on March 4, the developer of Meerkat, one of the leading livestreaming apps, announced that it was working on “something new,” shifting its focus away from one-to-many mobile live video. Acknowledging a Re/code report, Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin posted a letter that had been sent to investors in February. In that letter, Mr. Rubin cited two main reasons that live video in general, and Meerkat in particular, had not gained the traction that they had hope for.

First, he said that Meerkat had faced strong competition from the beginning. Periscope, another mobile livestreaming app, was launched at about the same time as Meerkat (March 2015), but had been secretly acquired two months earlier by Twitter. This not only gave Periscope the ability to leverage the Twitter user base, but Twitter also cut off Meerkat’s access to its social graph. That meant that although Meerkat users could still sign in with their Twitter credentials, they had to build their own lists of followers instead of being automatically connected to their Twitter followers who were also Meerkat users. As a result, Periscope grew much faster than Meerkat; although neither company released official statistics, it is widely speculated that Periscope has about 10 million users to Meerkat’s 2 million.

If that wasn’t enough, in August 2015, Facebook (with more than 1.6 billion users) launched its own livestreaming feature, called Facebook Live. While initially available only to verified public figures (e.g., athletes, celebrities, politicians), as of February 26 it was available to iOS users in more than 30 countries, with Android and more countries coming soon.

In addition, Mr. Rubin now believes that the average consumer doesn’t see any personal benefits to broadcasting live video, saying,

“… the value proposition of being live is just not clear to people who are not celebrities/media/news. … for most regular people[,] it has been hard to figure out when or even why to go live. It’s different than sharing photographs — think of it this way: before Instagram, people already knew what constituted a beautiful photo and tried to take them. With live video no one really knows what ‘good’ live video they can create is.”

What’s next for Meerkat? The company is not revealing details, but according to Re/code, Mr. Rubin said that they are working on a new video social network where “’everybody is always live.’”

Spinnable LogoLiveRing Logo2Even without Facebook Live, this would not be the first application to combine social networking and live video. In November 2015, InfoTrends spoke with Daniel Holmstrom, founder and CEO of LiveRing, a Helsinki-based startup that connects small groups of friends in short many-to-many live video sessions. LiveRing allows up to five people to be streaming to each other at once, with the ability for up to 100 additional people to join in watch-only mode. More recently, Spinnable, a social sharing app for 360-degree photo and video content, hinted in the release notes for its February 21 iOS app update that “live streaming is just around the corner.”

InfoTrends’ Opinion
Meerkat’s change in direction makes a lot of sense. It launched into strong headwinds, and its innovative differences were not enough to gain notice among the gigantic user bases of its competitors. Unlike photos and video clips, which can be edited before sharing, live streaming video offers an unfiltered look at whatever the broadcaster is doing at the time. While exciting for some, we hope that users will exercise some common sense, do some advance planning (or at least thinking), and exert some control before opening their lives up to the world. Social streaming among trusted family and friends may be just the platform to gain that experience.

At some point, livestreaming may become the next big thing in sharing planned and spontaneous moments with friends and family or even with the general public. As with photo and video messaging apps like Instagram and Snapchat, we expect that this will happen first among younger consumers. For now, though, like YouTube and other video platforms, most users are content to be viewers rather than contributors.


InfoTrends’ Imaging Innovators Service follows livestreaming and other emerging trends, technologies, devices, and services in the photographic industry. For more information, please contact Matt O’Keefe (matthew.okeefe@infotrends.com or
+1 781 616 2115).

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