For the last couple of weeks the hot new thing in tech – or at least the most talked about at the SXSW music and tech festival in Texas – has been a live-streaming video service called Meerkat.
Now Twitter, which just days ago acted to prevent Meerkat tapping into its own users quite so easily, has launched a rival service called Periscope. Battle has been joined and there’s unlikely to be more than one winner.
Both apps provide an extremely simple way of going live from your mobile phone with just a couple of taps – and letting the world see what you see. This is not particularly new – services like Qik, Bambuser and Livestream have allowed you to go live from your phone for some years. But Meerkat and Periscope have come along just as many mobile users have easier and cheaper access to the necessary data connection and they also make it far easier to connect with an audience. I’ve tried both, and here is what I’ve found.
To start a Meerkast (as they’re known) you just fill in a subject box describing what you are about to show and press “stream”. Then those who follow you on the app get an alert telling them that you are live, and they can choose to watch and send you messages which pop up at the bottom of the screen. I’ve used the app to stream a speaker at a conference, a Raspberry Pi contest at the Science Museum and even a tech event hosted by the Duke of York inside a royal palace.
You quickly see how many people are watching – I think my highest audience has been 47, and apparently a Meerkast with the White House press secretary attracted several hundred viewers. Not exactly the world coming together, but then this is a very new app. Once you stop streaming, anyone who arrives too late has no way of retrieving your Meerkast. As I’ve often found, it can be frustrating to get a message saying someone is streaming, only to find it’s over by the time you tune in.