If video production is your poison and you fancy yourself as a budding citizen-journalist, you might find livestreaming video app Meerkat hard to resist.
OK, it’s a tiny acorn right now. But it emulates Twitter’s reputation for live, real-time, up-to-the minute news feeds and it has the potential to turn into a mighty oak (remember that no one ever guessed back in the earliest days of YouTube that it would become the most influential star-maker on the planet).
But it’s not just Twitter’s reputation that Meerkat is emulating; it’s also piggybacking on the social leviathan’s distribution and communication systems.
This is how it works: you can, at any moment, start a broadcast of yourself with the app, whether you’re witnessing an argument between a frazzled parent and a fractious toddler in Lidl or a street athlete performing gravity-defying acrobatics by running up the wall of the local library and somersaulting. As soon as you begin your broadcast, the app triggers a tweet of the link to your stream and sends notifications to your followers on Twitter who also use the app. Anyone can see your citizen journalism live on the web or through the Meerkat app, and they can send in comments in the form of Twitter @ replies.
Then it’s all over: unless you save it onto your smartphone, you’re video production will vanish into the ether, a la Snapchat.
It’s the app, in short, that Twitter should have built. It’s been going down a storm on Product Hunt, and for an app that was only launched on 27th February, it acquired no fewer than 120,000 new “Meerkaters” by 14th March, just 13 days later.
The potential is huge: the next time there’s an Arab Spring or a Ferguson, a citizen journalist could get it out to people way before the mainstream media have arrived with their cumbersome equipment. But Twitter has other ideas: it’s attempted in effect to cut Meerkat off at the knees by splashing out on acquiring a direct competitor (Periscope).
This could amount to the app’s death knell. But its canny cofounder, Ben Rubin, already anticipated such a move and he’s already planning to decouple the app from Twitter completely before Periscope launches, starting his own network and potentially working with Facebook or another social platform to distribute the video.