The way we consume content online has changed forever with the launch of two new iOS apps - Meerkat and Periscope
Meerkat and Periscope offer the same fundamental experience; allowing users to watch live streams from anywhere world and post comments through Twitter. That perhaps sounds like something that will only be a niche interest but the full application of this media has yet to be realised.
When YouTube launched in 2006, it completely changed the way that users consumed and created video. Before this time, users required bandwidth and a server in order to host video meaning video content was limited and expensive to run. Post launch, anyone could become a broadcaster, and share videos recorded on basic webcams or perhaps their own elaborate creations. In essence, video content had been democratised and the floor was open for anyone to have a voice in the world of recorded broadcast. Today, video has become so prevalent; it’s hard to imagine what the web would be like without it.
Although there are some differences in the functionality of the products, Meerkat and Periscope both essentially do the same thing and in these rival situations, there is usually only one winner. Back in the 1980s, VHS won out over Betamax thanks to the backing of major hardware manufacturers. In the early 2000s Bluray won out over HD DVD because Sony incorporated the technology into its market leading console – Playstation 3. It could be a similar story with Meerkat and Periscope.
Meerkat was the first application to officially launch, wowing the crowds at the SXSW festival in February. It's an independent start up and this could prove to be its downfall. While Periscope was also developed independently, it was purchased by Twitter and the greater resources of the web giant could prove vital in the long term success of the project. New technologies rarely make money right off the bat and Meerkat will need further investment if it is to succeed. Smart investors might question the viability of this as a project while a Twitter-supported rival exists.
What’s the application?
Combining the immediate connectivity of Twitter and the video content of YouTube, the applications and implications are absolutely phenomenal. These apps are not just a fad that the tech savvy will celebrate for a brief time while most people remain blissfully unaware if ever existed. Now, anywhere there’s internet and a smart phone, there’s essentially a TV studio. People will be able to attend conferences and seminars anywhere in the world, in real time. Like Twitter, notable people will be able to connect with their fans but rather than write text will be able to respond in person. Anyone wanting to know further details about a location before they visit can just ask a friendly local resident to give them a real time tour. All this sounds very exciting but as always there are some negative consequences.
There will be ramifications for privacy; are we ready for a whole generation of people who are essentially walking closed circuit television cameras using wearable tech to film without permission? No doubt, somewhere, every one of thse videos is being recorded and stored. Who then owns this content?
Beyond that, there are consequences for real world disasters and mainstream broadcast. With every phone becoming a live streaming device, we can be right at the heart of the action. It seems people have no problems taking selfies outside hostage situations; technology has become ingrained but what does this mean in a war zone or during a terrorist attack? News outlets will want to be in the thick of the action, and someone will be there with an app to provide it, but perhaps seeing the worst events in the world unfold is a step too far.
These kinks will have to be considered and will be ironed out through time. Right now, it’s something new, it’s something cool, and it isn’t going anywhere. Brands and digital agencies will have to discover the best way to utilise this new medium as one day, it will become a force as powerful as YouTube.