Some Quick Thoughts On Periscope, Meerkat And The Era of Simple Livestreaming

Periscope 1Unless you've been offline or ignoring social media for the past couple of weeks you've no doubt seen the dueling "livestreaming wars" between the iOS applications Meerkat and Periscope. Perhaps you've viewed some of the streams... or broadcast some yourself.

Given that I do live streaming as part of my employment, I'm fascinated by these new and emerging apps. They also remind me of what Qik tried to do back in the mid-2000s before Skype bought Qik in 2011 and promptly shut the service down. (Only to have Qik re-emerge recently as a different kind of mobile messaging service from Skype.)

I've been playing with both Meerkat and Periscope and offer a few quick thoughts based on my own experience. I will be exploring these apps more... but want to record some comments for today's For Immediate Release podcast episode and want to use this post as a basis for that report.

The beauty of both of these apps is that it makes it absolutely TRIVIAL for someone to start live streaming. Just login with Twitter and press the a button to start broadcasting live to the world!!!

Here are some thoughts about both apps and then some thoughts on this larger new era of simple live streaming.


Periscope was purchased by Twitter and apparently had the app in development for quite some time. Things I like:

  • Polished user interface.
  • The "hearts" that you can give to "like" something are fun.
  • The replay capability is useful... although it seems the stored videos are only available for something like 24 hours.

Things I am not as excited about:

  • The comments appear and then disappear... and there seems to be no way I could find to go back and see them again, without replaying the video. Given that in a couple of trials I was driving with my iPhone on my dashboard, I could NOT read the comments while driving.
  • No horizontal orientation... you have to hold the phone in a vertical orientation. Yes, you can turn the phone sideways and hold it horizontally, but all the comments and hearts still come in the vertical orientation.
  • Several people viewing my live streams indicated they had connection issues.


Meerkat was out before Periscope and captured a great amount of attention at SXSW and recent conferences. Things I like:

  • Comments are scrollable within the stream. You can read them later (during the time of the stream).
  • You can hold the camera horizontally.
  • Comments can be out onto Twitter.
  • You can answer comments by text within the app (although is this really important? I'm not sure).
  • So far no connection issues for me... but I've seen others have issues.

Things I am not as excited about:

  • Comments are gone after the stream.
  • No replay capability.

Changing Our Expectation Around Privacy

I think there is a larger societal question we need to be thinking about - that person walking down the street holding a phone up can be streaming everything they see live out onto the public Internet?

Intellectual Property

To that point... there are a whole host of intellectual property issues that I think we as a society will need to address. Nothing whatsoever technically prevents someone from streaming a concert or any presentation live. There are many artists and speakers who charge for their events and don't want them live streamed.


People in the mobile telecommunications companies have to be loving this - here are ways that people will generate a great amount of mobile data very quickly! Unless people have "unlimited" telecom data plans, they are going to be running up some good-sized costs. Great for the telcos... not so great for the producers. However, any event with "free" WiFi around could easily attract a good number of streams.


All of these live video streams will create some interesting additional pressures on the Internet's infrastructure. Particularly in situations where there is "asymmetrical" connections, i.e. you have a faster download than upload speed. The streaming out of events could create a much larger requirement for upload speeds than there has been before.

Digital Divide

All of which feeds into a question about the "digital divide". The Internet users who are in regions with good Internet connectivity will be both able to produce/broadcast and also able to consume all these live streams. What about people in other parts of the world where bandwidth is much more limited? How will they be able to participate in this new era of live streaming?

Similarly, these Periscope and Meerket apps are right now only available on Apple's iOS platform... what if you can't afford an iPhone?

Ephemeral Moments and FOMO

One of the interesting elements of Meerkat is that once the stream is gone... it's gone. It's ephemeral like Snapchat... it's there... it's gone. You have to be there to see it and participate.

This leads to the "Fear Of Missing Out" (FOMO) and the "need" to be part of that.

Periscope allows replays, which changes it a bit. Now it's a recording available for some time. I'm not sure which is better.

[Side note: I don't know how truly "ephemeral" either Meerkat or Periscope is... the streams have to go through some server out there and the server could easily record any and all streams.]

Rich Interaction

What I did find very cool about using both Periscope and Meerkat was the rich interaction I could have with the audience. They were able to leave comments that I could react to right within the stream itself. They were able to guide the conversation... asking questions that I then answered.

In several cases friends I knew joined into my live streams. In one case this meant I switched to speaking German because I knew a German friend was watching. In another I switched the camera to view myself so that a friend I hadn't seen in a few years could see what I look like today.

It was great in so many ways to have this rich interaction during a stream. I'm looking forward to trying this out in some events in the future.

Final Thoughts...

... I'm very intrigued by these new applications. They make live streaming so incredibly simple and easy for anyone to do. I think we do have some of these larger societal issues and conventions to think through... but our era of ubiquitous live streaming is definitely upon us.

I see great potential for these apps in live streaming of events... for citizen journalism... breaking news... bearing witness to unfolding events... marketing/webinar types of events... indie musicians and artists... tutorials...

The reality of course is that we'll also see a lot of incredibly mundane and boring live streams. We'll probably see a good deal of porn. We'll see other ways to abuse live streams that will appall us. That's what always happens with any new service.

I will continue testing the apps. I want to see what else they can do. I want to explore more of the technical aspects - things such as their actual bandwidth usage. I want to know if any of them work over IPv6. (Sadly, expecting them NOT to do so.) I want to understand how secure they are.

So I'll be writing more... as I have time to do so.

Meanwhile, these are just some initial thoughts.

What do you think? Are you experimenting with either Periscope or Meerkat? Or some other similar app?

P.S. See also "Periscope and live video are changing the internet forever", a good take on how these apps are already changing live news...

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FriendFeed's bug with lumping blog entries together

I've been experimenting a bit with FriendFeed and so far find it quite intriguing, for reasons I'll write about in another post. (Those of you who are already FriendFeed users can subscribe to my page if you wish.)

However, one little detail that I can't seem to find anywhere on their site is - how do you report bugs? I'm guessing it's the "Everything else" on their contacts page, but since I don't want to email in images, I'll post a blog entry and email the link.

So, friendfeed folks, consider this my bug report! I have added the RSS feeds of 5 different blogs to my own friend feed. When I space out my blog postings over time, the posts correctly appear individually in my friendfeed saying "posted a blog post on (blog name)". All is good.

friendfeedglitch.jpgHowever, when I have several blog posts across multiple blogs, the algorithm to collect the data for the friendfeed seems to take the name of the first blog in the title. For instance, as shown in the image to the right, it says "posted three blog posts on Voice of VOIPSA" but in fact only the first post was in "Voice of VOIPSA". The other two were on "Speaking of Standards" and "Disruptive Conversations".

Now perhaps the FriendFeed designers weren't thinking that someone might post rapidly across multiple blogs. The reality is that most times I don't. Today was an exception. I'm not entirely sure how the FriendFeed folks should solve this issue. On the one hand, they could simply put in a new "posted a blog post on (blog)" for each blog. Or they could say "posted three new blog posts" and leave off the blog names if the blogs are different.

All I do know is that this current way doesn't work well. I had a momentary gasp when I read the FeedFriend page and thought that I'd posted the piece about Obama Facebook ads to the VOIPSA blog! (After a quick check of my MarsEdit window my heart rate dropped back down to normal. :-) I would suggest the FriendFeed folks fix this somehow.

My second suggestion to the FriendFeed folks would be to somehow more clearly indicate how we are supposed to report bugs. (Or clue me in to something on the site that I missed.)

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Somewhat reluctantly joining Plaxo's Pulse.... (and some initial thoughts about feeds, grouping contacts and lifestreaming)

image Somewhat reluctantly, I have now joined Plaxo's "Pulse beta".  If you are a Pulse user and I know you, please do add me as a connection.  It's precisely this last sentence that is why I have been reluctant to join Pulse, despite the many raves in the blogosphere of late - I have to rebuild my entire network in yet-another-social-network.

Now, granted, Plaxo makes it easy to find other people through importing various different lists of contacts: GMail, AOL, Yahoo... take your pick.  You can even buy the Premium version (or do the 30-day free trial) and import your LinkedIn contacts.

But I don't really want to go through the aggravation.  I've been a LinkedIn user for now about 5 years and have a nice network there of contacts.  In my daily life these days, it seems that Facebook, Twitter, and my various blogs are the communication tools/sites I use.  Do I really need another one?

Not really... but over time I admit to have become curious enough based on comments from people I know (such as Robert Sanzalone) to break down and open an account.  There's a couple of reasons.  First, with my interest in identity, I'm admittedly a sucker for a major site that allows OpenID use:


but that alone is of course no reason to try out the site.  More, I was intrigued by Plaxo's "PulseStream", which seems to be a much more open and useful version of Facebook's "Newsfeed".  With just a single glance at a page, I can see the information from the people I find interesting... what their latest blog posts are, what their tweets are if they use Twitter, new contacts they have made.  All aggregated on one page.  Simple and easy. 

I also do like that Plaxo allows a more granular segregation of "friends" than the other sites.  Right now, with Facebook, for example, people are either "friends" with full access to the site or you can make them a "friend" but give them only access to your "limited profile".  That process though is a bit klunky, in my opinion.  And you have basically one "limited profile" for all your "friends" (if I understand the process clearly).  However, in Plaxo, contacts are divided into three categories: Business, Family and Friends:


image Note that you can put a contact into multiple groups, which is nice.  As you work with the site, this segregation has a couple of benefits. On your "Pulse" page, for instance, as shown at right you can choose to only see updates from the appropriate groups (or everyone, or just yourself).  It is also extremely easy to only expose certain information to one of those three categories but not the others. image For instance, in the picture on the left, I am choosing to include my Flickr stream into my "Pulse Stream" and specifying that it is available to the public, but note the various choices that I have.  (I am assuming that if I choose "Nobody" it will only be available to me when I view my Pulse Stream.)

I am sure there will be folks who want more than three groupings.  And there will be undoubtedly some who say "I never use this site with family members, so why can't I remove that group?"    Allowing grouping like this will surely just invite people to say that they want more groups or want to create their own arbitrary groups.  (Which, to a degree, are we then getting back into groups like Facebook has?)

Regardless, it is nice to be able to group contacts accordingly rather than just labeling them all with the overloaded term "friend".

Now, it's intriguing to think that Plaxo's Pulse might be a tool for "lifestreaming". It certainly allows the aggregation of feeds (like Tumblr does)... but it's still a walled garden like Facebook.  In order to see the "Pulse Stream", one has to login to Plaxo Pulse.  Does this make it any better than Facebook's NewsFeed?  Not really.  Now I've heard rumblings that there may be an RSS feed in the works for your PulseStream, which would then let you pull it outside the Pulse Walls and do something useful with it like put it on your blog or in a widget.  We'll see.

In the meantime, I'm there on Pulse, at least for some period of time.  If I do know you, please do feel free to add me as a connection.