If you follow enough journalists and tech people on Twitter, you’ve probably seen your stream flooded with links to live videos over the last few weeks.
It all started with Meerkat, an app that lets you stream live video from your smartphone to other users of the app or a web browser.
Meerkat piggybacked on Twitter, letting you add friends and tweet links to your followers. But Twitter, which was preparing to release its own live streaming app called Periscope (it finally launched Thursday), cut Meerkat off from its network. Now Meerkat only lets you tweet links to your live stream, making it difficult to tap into your Twitter network and find more people to follow.
I’ve used both Periscope and Meerkat, and even though Periscope has been publicly available for a just few hours, I can already tell it’s a superior product.
You can upload “replays” of your streams.
One of my biggest problems with Meerkat is that unless you catch a stream live when it happens, you can’t go back and watch it later.
Periscope automatically uploads all your streams online so your followers can watch them at their leisure.
It syncs with your Twitter contacts.
Now that Twitter has cut off Meerkat’s access, it’s difficult to find new people to follow. Periscope syncs with Twitter, so you can immediately start following the same people you’re already connected to.
The user interface is much better.
Meerkat is a little too simple. All you can do is press a button and start streaming.
Periscope lets you drill deeper. There’s a nice home screen to browse live streams and “replays” of older streams. There’s a tab to connect with other users you already follow on Twitter and see who has followed you. And the commenting and liking system while watching a stream is really clever too. (Double tap a stream, and cute, animated hearts bubble up.)
There’s a nice curation of other interesting live streams.
If none of your friends happen to be streaming when you check Periscope, you can browse a list of other live streams from public users. It’s random and entertaining. You can’t do that with Meerkat.
But there are also some problems with Periscope.
Periscope sends you way too many notifications. You get one every time someone new follows you, starts a stream, or shares one. You can switch off notifications for when someone follows you, but you’re still flooded with all the others. Hopefully the app adds a way to tweak those settings. In the meantime, I switched off all notifications on Periscope.
Of course, none of this means Meerkat can’t get better. Now that it has a fresh round of funding, it can get aggressive and add new features its users want. It can also try plugging into Facebook’s social network (which is much, much larger than Twitter) instead.
But for now, Periscope is the superior product.
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