It seems that over the past couple of weeks since the South by Southwest Festival (a/k/a SXSW), my iPhone and Twitter feeds have literarily blown up with many friends and followers talking about the app Meerkat. Now I know what you are thinking. What is a meerkat? Isn’t that a fuzzy little rodent? Well yes, but the Meerkat app is a live streaming app that provides live-tweeting commentary amongst those that are watching the live-stream. All I can say is Meerkat has suddenly taken my Twitter feed my storm.
According to Matt McFarland at The Washington post in his article here, Meerkat’s user base is growing between 30 to 40% since SXSW started on March 13th and with a 35% daily growth rate, Meerkat should be closing in on a million users any day now if they haven’t already done so. Then guess what happened? Twitter confirmed on March 13th that had acquired a similar live-streaming company called Periscope and then hours later began limiting Meerkat’s access to what is called the social graph.
The social graph in essence is what connects us to one another, but more importantly for social networking sites it allows us to automatically find users that either follow us or that we follow, across various social networks. For the initial users of the Meerkat app, when they installed the app it would search your Twitter account and give you the option to follow those that you follow or that follow you on Twitter. By making this change after the acquisition of Periscope, it immediately became more cumbersome to find other Meerkats, but nevertheless they had somehow found me.
So as I like to consider myself to be an early adopter of technology, I felt somewhat chagrined that about 15 days or so after their launch I hadn’t yet downloaded the app until last night. The sign-up process was pretty straight forward as all I had to do when authentic my account with my Twitter account. Pretty easy peasy in my mind and social sign-ups/ins are the only way to go for me personally. Once I signed into the application, I found that there were already 148 people following me on Meerkat. Clearly this is just a fraction of the 155,000 awesome tweeps that follow me on Twitter (which you can do here), but nevertheless it didn’t make me feel like a lonely Meerkat wandering about in the Ice Age.
I poked around a bit further and found that there was a leaderboard and as I perused “The Rules of Meerkat” I couldn’t figure out how the scoring worked, but I assume it has to do with receiving points if you live-stream, if you comment and if you watch someone else’s live-stream. Other than those three options and the ability to view someone’s Twitter profile and re-stream (think of this as a retweet or a re-Vine) and like their live stream, but I’m still trying to figure out how to increase my score. The cool part amount commenting in Meerkat is it actually sends out a tweet to your Twitter feed which is muted (i.e., starts with the @ reply) so your followers suddenly aren’t being barraged with tweets that might not be relevant to the live-stream you are watching.
So this morning, I decided to try Meerkat and see what it was all about so I did two odd things. First, I positioned my iPhone 6 plus on a tripod that I always carry with me and positioned it on a stepping stool right next to my bicycle on my indoor trainer. Then I hit live-stream on my iPhone and a tweet was sent out to all of my followers signifying that I was live-streaming right now. Then guess what happened? People started watching my feet go round and round on my bicycle for about 45 minutes. It was amazing that for most of the 45 minutes, I had approximately 15 people who did nothing but stare at my feet. I found this fascinating especially given that I didn’t say one word. All I did was pedal and then it was over. Granted I did provide some tweet commentary along the way asking questions, which then of course turned up in my Twitter stream, which I thought was pretty cool.
Then about 30 minutes later after I was showered and cleaned up, it was time for my morning walk with my puppy Charlie. So this time I decided to schedule the live-stream of my morning walk, which oddly enough was through the snowfall so I was able to show people what was going on around me the entire time. This time I completed my morning walk in about 20 minutes, but I had a headset on and I pretty much just babbled the entire time, a little bit about me and a little bit about Charlie. Really what I wanted to find out was how was the quality of the video while not being on WiFi and on Verizon LTE. Again, just like my live-stream of my bike ride earlier in the morning, I had nearly 20 people who were watching my walk around my neighborhood in the snow with Charlie. Once my walk was done, I save the live-stream video to the camera roll on my computer, which you can now see right here after I uploaded this to YouTube.
As you can see from the above video, the entire live-stream wasn’t saved, but the quality not on WiFi was a lot better than I was expecting. Now the quality of the live-steam when on WiFi is surprisingly quite clear are there were no gaps in the sounds of the voice and video, so to that Ben Rubin, chief executive of Meerkat, and the rest of the Meerkat team, kudos on making a wonderful product. The only additional option I would love to be able to have is to reply to someones comment within a live-stream event by pressing on their Twitter handle. To me, that would make the user experience even that much more enjoyable.
So if you want to be a cool cat, then check out Meerkat and here’s my review in haiku, now follow me too:
All the Kool Kats love Meerkat.
The warm and fuzzies.