With the swift rise in popularity of mobile livestreaming app Meerkat, two things have immediately become clear: 1) There was certainly an audience, and 2) Twitter was willing do whatever it might take to capture that audience for itself.
First, the company clamped down on Meerkat’s access to its social graph. Then it confirmed that it had purchased a startup named Periscope that was working on a competing app of the same name. That app is now live.
Despite Meerkat’s popularity, its app is plagued by numerous shortcomings. The interface is rather spartan, although that can be ignored. The major issue is that streams can’t be accessed once they have stopped broadcasting — no replay features are available. Periscope addresses both of those issues.
Periscope’s replay feature is clearly the company’s main advantage over Meerkat. And it’s a big enough advantage that, unless Meerkat is quick to respond, it could permit Periscope to win over a large percentage of Meerkat’s user base.
One other feature unique to Periscope is the addition of a “heart” icon. At any time, users can tap the icon and cause a heart to pop up on the stream visible to all users. This can be done again and again as a way to show broadcasters that viewers are enjoying the stream.
Users sign in with their Twitter accounts, but the app isn’t launched directly from Twitter. “We don’t think we need to start there,” Periscope co-founder Kayvon Beykpour said, speaking with The Verge. “We think this deserves to be a separate experience indefinitely.”
The first thing you’ll see after logging in is a list of current live streams. To start broadcasting, simply tap the center button, give your stream a title, and hit the orange button that says, “start broadcast.” Periscope asks for access to your location data in addition to access to your camera and microphone, but there is an option to disable location information before streaming.
Periscope is currently only available for iPhone users, but an Android version is on the way. Though the app only launched Thursday morning, a quick look at the list of currently live streams shows that plenty of people are using it already. While Meerkat has a larger user base, it may only be a matter of time before it is overtaken by Periscope.
The first shots have been fired; now it’s up to Meerkat to respond.