Two new applications, Meerkat and Periscope, are poised to perhaps be the next app that has a domino effect on our digital world. Both apps are designed to deliver real time video streaming of one to many through Twitter and, even though both have only been out a short time, I already see how they could be disruptive apps that shape the way information is disseminated and how next generation smartphones are designed and used.
Minutes after the recent Apple event where they updated us on the Apple Watch and introduced the new MacBook, my son Ben and his good friend Horace Deidu of Asymco, who together have many thousands of followers on Twitter, sat down outside of the event center Apple used and did a live Meerkat broadcast to share their analysis of what Apple had just introduced. Meerkat sent a alert to all of their followers and they had close to 500 people watching them share their thoughts in real time about news that had just happened.
Phillip Elmer-DeWitt at Fortune admitted that he did not initially see the virtue of Meerkat until he saw how Ben and Horace used it. They were able to broadcast live and via Twitter and even take questions from their followers live. Those who tuned in got immediate feedback on the Apple news, from two seasoned Apple watchers as Elmer-DeWitt pointed out, and delivered real value to those who watched it.
Meerkat and Periscope have hit the tech scene in a big way but I would like to suggest these apps could have both a positive and negative impact on our world. I see them as being very good for news broadcasters, bloggers, educators or anyone who has a Twitter following and wants to share things through a live broadcast.
In the past, CNN, CBS, or any news broadcaster had to lug heavy cameras to locations where they report from and tie back to large satellite trucks to get their news reports out in real time. But today, a reporter could get to the news scene and fire up Meerkat or Periscope and, via a smartphone, immediately be sending news directly to the studio via the 4G radios in the smartphone. Sure, the experience today is not the kind of broadcast quality they deliver with an HD video camera and satellite trucks, but if the issue is being first with the news and reporting from the scene about an event in real time, this would be a godsend for the reporter and their news organization. They could give fast news reports while the HD camera and satellite truck are on the way. Live broadcasting over the Internet is not new, but being tied to Twitter’s social graph and connected to a dedicated group of followers is what makes these apps so significant and potentially powerful.
I could see bloggers using it to do live broadcasts from wherever they are — travel bloggers sharing real time video tours to thousands of followers from the Eiffel Tower or where ever they are exploring; Food bloggers taking their followers on live shopping trips to local markets like Le Boqueria in Barcelona, one of the great food markets of the world. I can also imagine it being great tool to get comments from sports stars before or after a game by using a smartphone to interview them.
While this would never supplant the professional equipment that is used for sideline reporting, it would be possible to have multiple people on live feeds and make it possible to interview many of the players instead of just one or two before they hit the locker rooms. If you put on your thinking caps, you can see how this could be used in interesting and new ways to deliver one-to-many live broadcasts in business, education, sports, news, blogging, etc. I bet it will also become a major tool in the next presidential race and national elections. I could imagine candidates from both sides of the aisles using this to communicate their message to rally their core followers and even get their message out to potential voters.
This is also great news for the smartphone vendors. This type of application will drive demand for higher quality cameras, front and back, and adding zoom lenses and other optical advances to make the video the best possible. It will demand better 4G and eventually 5G radios and stronger WiFi connections and impact how smartphones need to be designed to make using Meerkat or Periscope more powerful and easier to use. I could see a smartphone vendor creating a dedicated smartphone optimized for live Twitter broadcasts targeted at the news media and bloggers who are interested in delivering an even greater real time one-to-many video experience to their audience.
I see Meerkat and Periscope also having impact on our social scene too. This is where the good and ugly lies. The good side is how it could impact us socially by helping bring people together in a more personal way and disseminate information faster. However, I could also see it being used by some wacko who wants to rally their followers to create havoc to further their cause. Or how religious zealots might use it to rally their followers to action in ways that could be very dangerous.
Although Meerkat has lost access to Twitter’s social graph, it is still a powerful app and will probably be bought by Facebook, Google or Microsoft within the next few months. In fact, Facebook would be crazy not to grab this and make it part of their social networking experience. I think these apps will evolve to become very important and will influence the way we use smartphones and the internet for communications going forward.