About once a year a service blows up and becomes the hot thing: Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, Chatroulette, Instagram, Quora, Vine, Snapchat, Eyeem, Yo, Ello… (Some thrive, some don’t.)
Meerkat has just entered that hype cycle. At its simplest Meerkat is a video streaming app that lets you broadcast what you’re seeing, through your phone, live onto Twitter.
Like many of these hot apps, its success to date is something of an accident. Meerkat started as a side project from another app, after just a few hours’ coding, and for now it’s available on iOS only (though that’s a standard app launch strategy these days).
So why should anyone get excited by Meerkat? Well, it’s one of those services that seems to make sense as soon as you see it. Whether Meerkat ultimately manages to stick around or not, the idea of live-streaming video to your Twitter followers is incredibly compelling. It just seems right – not only technically feasible but, in hindsight, obvious.
After all, Twitter is built for radical transparency and connection. Up till now that transparency has been, mostly, through words (via the tweetstorms and hashtags we’ve all become aware of). Then Twitter added photos and short, looping videos to its platforms. Streaming videos seems like the obvious next step.
At the moment Meerkat is like Twitter in the early days – but that will undoubtedly change.
Early Twitter: “What I had for lunch.” Early Meerkat: “Watch me eat my lunch.”
— Sean Garrett (@SG) March 9, 2015
The implications for communications are considerable. Think about what Twitter users could stream live via Meerkat: customer service nightmares, police brutality, protests, riots, demonstrations, investigative journalism, world record attempts, cooking lessons, gigs, sports events…
Yesterday I could view the Apple Watch event, on my phone, streamed live from a seat in the front rows. That could be any event, any press conference, any human interaction…
Once an idea has been thought, it can’t be unthought. Whether Meerkat wins out or not, the idea of live video streaming to the world is likely here to stay and organisations need to consider what it means for them.