Twitter has released Periscope for the iPhone (free), which lets Twitter customers broadcast live streaming video with almost no friction at all. If that sounds familiar, it's because Meerkat recently rose in popularity for doing the same thing. The darling of SXSW, Meerkat gained traction and an audience that has persisted beyond the festival's conclusion, despite Twitter hindering its usefulness. The apps are similar yet different, and I'll have a full comparison next week.
Periscope looks nice and is dead simple to use. After logging in with your Twitter account, you'll find that you've got three options: browse live streams, begin a stream and find people to follow. There are three "featured" streams at the top of list complete with thumbnails, followed by a list of text-only live streams. I'm not sure how featured streams are selected, as they aren't necessarily more compelling than the rest, nor do they feature high-profile broadcasters.
To launch a stream, just tap the button on the toolbar, enter a descriptive title and hit the shiny, candy-like Start Broadcast button. Optionally, you can tweet the start of your stream and share your location. Finally, the search function lets you find friends and other interesting people to follow.
There are two killer features here. First, you can initiate an invite-only stream. I imagine doing something exclusive for members, relatives or a key group of friends. Also, you can re-watch a stream at your convenience. My attempts to save a stream for later viewing in Meerkat resulted in crashes. Here, it just works (so far at least), and there's nothing required of the user. Streams are simply logged for you.
How will Periscope be used? Well that's the big question. It's early, but I have three thoughts..
Big visual events. I imagine people using Periscope streams during concerts, rocket launches, parades and demonstrations and so on. An event that has gathered a lot of people and features something especially compelling to see. There will always be mundane streams of some user's walk to the coffee shop,
Show and tell. Perhaps you want to show what or how you do something. I imagine realtors using Periscope, or universities for campus tours for prospective students. I can see the maker community embracing this for real-time how-tos.
Interactive access. Of course, the big idea is that Periscope offers direct access that was previously unavailable, due to geography or layers of protection. There's an inherent honesty, too, as with Twitter you aren't certain of who's on the other end, while Periscope confirms exactly that. It's a logical progression, as Twitter offers a level of access via text and photos.
What does this mean for Meerkat? Next week I'll have a full comparison of these apps with thoughts on how and if they can coexist. Just as I'm typing this, Meerkat has announced its funding on Medium, complete with a gallery of people using its service.