Meerkat works simply: log in with your Twitter account, hit the stream button, and it immediately starts broadcasting video from your iPhone onto the web and posts a link onto Twitter. The stream is only available while it's live — once you stop, it's gone. Ephemeral live video, if you will. It's a straightforward service, and while it's not yet widely used, the exposure it's seen at SXSW Interactive has dramatically raised its profile. While you might question the value of live video streaming from anybody's phone, it's worth noting that the value of 140-character messages was questioned as well, and Twitter gained traction under similar circumstances at SXSW in 2007.
But Twitter didn't rely on another service to propagate it's own. Apparently Twitter's not to keen on Meerkat using their service to vault into the public consciousness, and their taking steps to reign in just how much exposure Meerkat's going to get through Twitter. According to BuzzFeed:
It's not surprising to see Twitter doing this, even if it is disheartening. Twitter recently purchased a different live streaming startup Periscope (only available via invite right now), and has an understandable business interest in protecting their own assets and not offering a service like Meerkat free and unfettered access to everything Twitter APIs have to offer.
That's not likely to significantly hamper Meerkat, however, as the functions to start streaming and send out tweets about your stream are not tied to "social graph" access. If anything, doing so has generated more press for Meerkat — and positive press at that, while Twitter's bearing the brunt of the negative side of the story (just like in this very post). It remains to be seen whether or not Meerkat will see longer term success or be something of a flash in the pan.
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Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.