– Meerkat App Allows Users to Stream Live Video Selfies
– Heralds a New Era in Demand for Upload Speeds
– Twitter Buys Meerkat Rival Periscope & Blocks Meerkat
Meerkat is an app that allows anyone with an iOS smartphone or tablet to use the Net to easily stream live (but not recorded) videos to any- and everyone that wants to watch.
The start-up made the news this week because Twitter blocked it from accessing Twitter after Twitter acquired Meerkat rival Periscope for about $100 million. Twitter’s move will make it harder for Twitter users to keep up with Meerkat’s video posts. That’s a potentially lethal blow for a service that only broadcasts live video because the people that Meerkat users follow on Twitter will no longer automatically show up in Meerkat when they start broadcasting a live video.
Meerkat said it was not surprised by Twitter’s action.
Meerkat: comparisons to other video streaming apps unavoidable
Founder Ben Rubin said the Twitter block-out is “just a speed bump” and said Meerkat would launch its own social messaging service.
“We believe that everyone has a story to tell,” he told The Guardian and said that was the premise that prompted him to develop the Meerkat live online video app. “Meerkat is like life — experience it now or miss it forever”.
Meerkat and other such services stream live videos and allow the sender and viewers to comment in a live messaging box. They are the opposite of video-on-demand (VoD). They are video-on-availability (VoA). The sender can see who is watching, comment on what is being sent and chat live with viewers in a chat screen that’s within the video. Such services are also called “sender-side” videos because the sender decides when to send rather than the viewer deciding when to receive.
As for the attractiveness of the Meerkat app, Rubin said, “The luckiest person has one thing to tell every day and that’s awesome. If you’re less lucky you have a story two times a week. If I ask you if there’s something in your eyes that you think is wonderful to do in a shared experience in the next 24 hours, you probably will come up with one thing. It could be a wedding or going to a Kanye [West] show, or interviewing this person, or it could be going to the beach. It could be picking up a puppy to adopt – anything you think that is a powerful shared experience.”
An Android version is expected in the near future. There’s no word about a version for Windows.
Meerkat’s app was launched less than a month ago and its rise in popularity has been quick. That’s no surprise in a world that loves “selfie” pictures. Even the US president has been bitten by the selfie bug. As of March 14, Meerkat already had 100,000 users and hundreds of millions of clicks-to-view.
Meerkat said that more than 20% of the people on Meerkat watch more than two hours a day, 8% watch three hours a day and 4% watch four hours of video every day.
Those are startling numbers for a new OTT service that hasn’t even been available for a month.
At the South by Southwest (SXSW) event this week, reporters from the likes of CNBC and CNN were using the app to broadcast live news to their Twitter followers. Alas, because no recording is made, followers cannot look at the videos later. It’s linear TV redux — and without a DVR.
After using Meerkat, here’s what we found to be its downsides:
– The video quality is at best poor. Maybe that’ll improve over time with better cameras and more bandwidth. Some videos were being done over a cellular network, which clearly (unclearly?) shows that cellular networks are not yet ready for prime time videos.
– The topics were mostly boring and seemingly contrived. Perhaps that’ll improve once more people begin using it. You can see its potential for live communications to a very large audience.
– The fact that it does not record makes it like linear TV, from which people are rapidly moving away because they want to watch what they want and when they want. But recording content puts it in competition with YouTube, which has a much larger user base.
– Because it’s a live-only service, a social messaging network like Twitter is essential so that viewers can keep up when someone or some subject they like starts a live stream.
– Not only does it not currently work on Android devices, but it requires iOS 8 and higher. It does not yet work on any Windows PC.
At the SXSW event this week, Rubin said onstage that future versions of the app will make it easier for users to discover other Meerkat users and let users watch Meerkat live streams even after they’re no longer live.
There’s no way to know how the Twitter’s newly acquired Periscope service will help or hurt Meerkat, but it does not matter from the standpoint of the broadband and home networking industries. It and similar services will also bring demand for some traditional OTT services such as Netflix and YouTube have not: upload speeds for which there will now be a rapid rise in demand.
Because Meerkat allows a user to “broadcast” a live video onto the Net for anyone to watch, a few companies have begun using it for broadcasting videos from company events and presentations.
Periscope, which Twitter has acquired, is reportedly very similar except that instead of live videos, it records them and synchs comments for later playback. Periscope has not yet launched its service and also has given no indication when it will.
Meerkat currently streams only live video but most smartphones can record the video for later playback. Comments are posted on Twitter and so are not in synch with recorded videos.
Vine, a third rival in the space, displays seconds of a video over and over in a loop.
If a picture is worth a thousand words (although Twitter only allows 144 characters at a time), then a video, especially a live video is worth a thousand pictures.
Services such as Meerkat will have several impacts:
– Here at last is an app that will increase the demand for faster upload speeds on cellular and wireline broadband.
– Demand for 4K-capable smartphones and tablets will increase.
In addition to it being live video, another factor that will cause an increase in the demand for upload speeds is the declining prices of 4K cameras. Like UHD TV sets, as prices for them decline to mass market levels, the number being purchased will increase and the number of live videos being uploaded will increase. Currently 4K cameras prices are a bit high: See: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=4k+cameras&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3A4k+cameras
Most notable are the Sony FDR-X1000V/W 4K Action Cam at $499 and the GoPro HERO4 BLACK, also at $499.
When they arrive, 4K capable smartphones at mass market prices will significantly increase the size of the “video selfies” that are uploaded. Qualcomm, which should know because it makes chips for smartphones, has said that a number of 4K smartphones will appear on the market this year.
4K phones like the Sony Xperia Z3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4 are already …
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