There's no doubt about it: Meerkat and Periscope are the new "in" apps.
Instagram and Vine are so yesterday, because living in the now is what people want, or at least that's what it seems like, as everyone has been talking about live streaming in recent weeks. Live streaming is basically a way for you to broadcast to the world whatever it is you're doing right now, and Meerkat and Periscope are new social apps that let you do just that.
One is owned by Twitter, and the other is a baby startup, but both are grabbing all the headlines as of late, mostly because they're directly competing with each other. They're very similar in terms of purpose and functionality, though they vary wildly when it comes to features and look.
If you're still on the fence about which one you should dedicate all your time to learning and using, we've played with both apps and rounded up a list of key differences as well as their backgrounds. Hopefully, after reviewing all the ins and outs, you'll know which one is for you.
READ: What is Periscope?
READ: What is Meerkat?
What are Meerkat and Periscope?
Meerkat and Periscope are new iOS apps (no Android, yet) that let you create and share live video broadcasts. They also connect to your Twitter account, allowing you to tweet links to your live stream, so that followers can tune in and see/hear what you're doing in real time. Both apps also allow you to engage with your viewers, discover other streams to watch, and more.
Before we go any further, you should know the backgrounds of both apps:
Ben Rubin founded Meerkat a few years ago, but the app only recently debuted at the SXSW festival and raised a tonne in funding from Silicon Valley venture capitalists. Periscope launch over a year ago but was bought up by Twitter in January for around $100 million, it's claimed.
As BGR noted, Meerkat and Periscope didn't get much attention in the media until the tech news industry decided to pit them against each other as rivals. They made Meerkat seem like a break-out smash hit that Twitter was hell-bent on squashing with its acquisition of Periscope.
In reality, Meerkat never rose higher than 140 in the iPhone download chart and actually fell to 523 most recently. Periscope, on the other hand, broke the top 30 last Friday, shortly after a building exploded in New York City and the world recognised the potential of live streaming.
Numerous people used Periscope to show - in real time - the drama unfolding in Manhattan. It's unclear if just as many people also used Meerkat to live stream the explosion, but according to most press reports, Periscope was the go-to app for witnesses.
Does Twitter really want to squash Meerkat?
The very same day that Twitter announced the acquisition of Periscope, Rubin confirmed Twitter had officially disconnected Meerkat's ability to pull information about a user’s follower base. That meant users signed into Meerkat were no longer able to automatically link their Twitter followers to their Meerkat account, a devastating blow for the young app.
It's worth noting that Twitter acquired Periscope and cut of Meerkat right before Rubin had hoped to use the annual SXSW festival as a spring board to launch his new app and get wide-spread attention. Twitter knows SXSW could've done that. It didn't start becoming powerful until it made a debut at SXSW in 2007. That said, Rubin still showed up at SXSW and expressed appreciation for Twitter.
Also in response to Twitter's decision, Rubin told The Wall Street Journal that the Meerkat team suddenly had to provide users with a new way to discover people and search more people, adding that Twitter had "escalated our decision-making a little bit forward". The app ended up adding a People You May Know section and a Leaderboard of popular Meerkatters.
It's probably unfair to say Twitter wants to "squash" or kill Meerkat, but it certainly looks like Twitter only wants Periscope to directly leverage its distribution and communication systems in order to connect people together via real-time live streaming.
What are the key differences between Meerkat and Periscope?
Periscope has a traditional layout, with a menu bar and multiple tabs running across the bottom as well as a profile view in the upper right-hand corner (in which you can add an avatar and a description about yourself). Meerkat puts live streaming front and center and doesn't have a menu bar. It also doesn't offer a profile photo or a place to describe yourself. It's strictly about posting and watching broadcasts.
Unlike Periscope, Meerkat lets you to schedule broadcasts for a later date. Meerkat also auto-tweets a link to your broadcast once you've started a live stream, which is annoying, especially if you don't want your Twitter followers to know you're live streaming. Periscope seems to have recognised this inconvenience, because it gives you the option to not post on Twitter, as well as broadcast privately and hide your location.
Another difference is that Periscope lets viewers replay your stream for 24 hours after they’ve been broadcast (it also lets you delete chats, replays, and any record of your video being shot, if that’s what you desire), while Meerkat is all about the ephemeral - if you miss someone’s broadcast, oh well. It does let you save streams to your phone's camera roll though, just like Periscope offers.
Periscope displays everyone you're following on Twitter under the People tab. It's a very handy way to instantly find people you know who are using Periscope. With Meerkat, you can only find people you know by searching for their name (Periscope has this too). You can also find people by checking out a list of featured broadcasts, which Periscope also offers, or you can browse the leaderboard of most popular Meerkatters.
Popular Meerkatters are users with the highest scores (a combination of total viewers and total time spent streaming and engagement by followers). Currently, Mashable and Jimmy Fallon are at the top of the leaderboard. Periscope doesn't have scores, but it does show a Most Loved list under its People tab. It's a collection of users who have received the most hearts during live streams.
Both Meerkat and Periscope let you comment on your own live stream as well as other users' live streams, but Meerkat automatically posts all of your comments to Twitter as @replies, whereas Periscope doesn't do that and keeps things within the app. Meerkat also lets you like live streams.
Periscope does too, but instead of liking broadcasts, you send hearts to the user. The “hearts” system shows your appreciation for a video. When you taps on the screen, hearts appear, and the more you tap, the more hearts the broadcaster receives.
Ugh. This is where both apps start to suck, in our opinion. You can opt out of notifications for new followers on Periscope, but neither app offers a lot in terms of notification settings, so prepare to get notifications whenever anybody you follow starts to broadcast. The only way to stop getting notifications is by turning off push notifications for the apps entirely, which means you'll never get alerts when stuff goes down live.
Both Meerkat and Periscope have attracted scores of celebrities in less than one month. Stars like Jimmy Fallon and Arnold Schwarzenegger are on both, while Jamie Oliver and Edward Norton are on Periscope, and Jared Leto and Madonna are on Meerkat. AdWeek has a (incomplete) list of musicians and actors and famous people who seem to prefer one service over the other.
Which app is for you?
This is a tough one. Celebrities use both, but Periscope has been downloaded more time and therefore, at least theoretically, has more live streams for you to browse. It also looks and feels more streamlined than Meerkat, which makes sense, considering it has a powerhouse like Twitter behind it, while Meerkat in its current state is less than two months old and still a startup.
We also found Meerkat's score and leaderboard section to be trivial and confusing. It didn't matter to us who engages most within the app. We just wanted to see cool broadcasts from celebrities and people we knew on Twitter. Periscope seems to do a much better job at not only getting rid of all the fluff, but also connecting you to relevant users and broadcasts.
That said, Meerkat is all about the ephemeral, and that's something teens will undoubtedly enjoy. It doesn't have any interest in holding onto your broadcast for hours or days so people can watch later on, but if you want that sort of feature, you can always check out the main competition: Periscope. It's really up to you and whatever you prefer.