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Twitter, Meerkat and the questionable viability of social video

Matt Kapko | April 8, 2015
Conventional wisdom suggests timing is everything, but money and power certainly sway things as well. Being first only matters until it doesn't.

For example Snapchat or one of the other popular platforms may be next to integrate live streaming, but the new feature won't supplant the more defining strength that remains at the forefront of people's minds, according to Kleinberg, who believes live streaming has legs, but says it won't be the next big thing.

"Social media will always have this evolving landscape so that you cover simple ways to communicate, but it's going to be the rarer ones that are going to be the breakout hits," says Kleinberg.

Just as quickly as it rose into the online collective consciousness, Meerkat suffered a dramatic fall from grace after Periscope launched, and the two apps continue to move like trains on the same track but heading in opposite directions.

"The Meerkat phenomenon definitely helped Periscope," says Adobe's Sutter. Periscope also benefits from some unique features that aren't available to Meerkat users, including the ability to watch previously recorded broadcasts and a more Snapchat-like approach to disappearing or short-lived content.

Video is a promise left unfulfilled

Vine and Instagram both created initial buzz around their social video functionality, but the early excitement quickly waned, just as it has for Meerkat, Sutter says.

"Video hasn't quite jumped to the use that we might've expected," she says. "I see video obviously taking a broader part of the Facebook experience, but I don't think Vine has broken out separately like that. I don't feel like Instagram has done a lot for that yet."

Traction's Kleinberg points out that the same basic process — innovate, differentiate, automate and monetize — plays itself out in every industry. "The pace of change is so fast when you're talking about a feature in software so we focus on it more in social media," he says. "But the reality is that happens in every industry."

One thing almost everyone agrees on is the tough slog Meerkat faces now that Twitter and its hype machine are working overtime on video.

Can Twitter dominate social video?

"Twitter really jumped in on this at the right time [and] was able to extend its power behind it and push out any would-be competitors," says Sutter. "It's probably one of the smartest things Twitter has done for a long time to be honest."

Sutter compares the state of social video to the early battle between Foursquare, Gowalla and others for prime positioning among the location-based check-in apps. "Not many apps came into that space afterwards because there's just not room enough for all of them," she says.

Companies such as Meerkat can try to raise more funding, but more pressing questions still exist, according to Sutter:. "Will their server load hold up under the demand? Can they grow to the extent and build out the futures something owned by Twitter can? The answer's most likely no."

 

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