To the victor go the streams. (Photo: Via Periscope)
Social media is no longer something people check on for the occasional update. It follows us — on our desktops, smartphones, and connected devices — at all times of the day. Recently that feed of tweets and Snapchats and Facebook posts has evolved into a tool that allows us to continuously broadcast our lives via phone, in real time: the live-stream app.
This is evidenced by two iOS rivals currently battling for attention from the masses: the recent media darling Meerkat and Periscope. The latter debuted Thursday morning; it was acquired by Twitter earlier this month for a reported $100 million. Meanwhile, Meerkat’s CEO has defiantly vowed to “build our own social network.”
As popular as Meerkat has become over the last few weeks, it’s clear that Periscope is a much more complete and intuitive app in its design, functionality, and compatibility with Twitter. Below, a brief overview of its superiority.
A cleaner ecosystem
Boiled down to their essential functions, Meerkat and Periscope do the same thing: stream video from your phone’s camera to the public. But they differ on one essential point: the ecosystem.
Meerkat’s rule is, whatever happens on Meerkat happens on Twitter. Meaning, as soon as you start broadcasting video, your handle automatically tweets a link to your timeline, which can be seen in a disfigured desktop mode or much more clearly on a smartphone. If you want to comment on a Meerkfat feed, your comments show up as an @ reply on Twitter. It’s a smart way to get people’s attention, but after a few boring links make their way into your feed, you’re trained to ignore them. They become an annoyance.
Periscope, however, smartly gives you the option of live-streaming an experience only to people who follow you on the mobile app. As a result, it limits the amount of Twitter spew and keeps otherwise out-of-context comments within the app. If you want to be notified that someone you’re following is streaming, you can opt to receive push notifications on your phone. Otherwise, there’s a feed — accessible by tapping a TV icon — that shows you a list of live-streams from people you’re following and also from strangers. If you’ve suddenly stumbled onto something more newsworthy than your adorable cat, you can always tap a small Twitter icon above the Broadcast button to share your feed with a wider audience. That being said, Periscope’s desktop view is no easier to watch.
Intuitive and fast
Though Meerkat’s charm is its ruthless simplicity, it comes at the expense of understanding how to use it. Over the past couple of weeks, many people have expressed to me how jarring they found the jump to streaming, admitting that they hadn’t expected to immediately go live as soon as they tapped Meerkat’s Stream button. And because your screen goes automatically to filming, viewers and streamers often experience choppy buffering issues based on connectivity.
Periscope addresses this problem via a smart design. When you tap the camera icon at the bottom center of your screen, it immediately takes you to a view that shows the frame of your smartphone’s camera (helpful, as you may not realize where you’re pointing). As you decide what to name your “broadcast,” the app takes a moment to start your video stream, making it more stable. You also have the option to disable your current location or stream only to a private few.
An uninterrupted broadcast
Live-streaming on Periscope is much cleaner than on Meerkat. When you’re streaming, Meerkat fills your screen with Twitter icons and comments that permanently float on a layer above the video feed. As a result, your view is partially blocked.
Periscope, on the other hand, has opted for a less intrusive social feedback system. Your followers’ Periscope handles pop up and then subtly fade to nothing.
The same goes for comments, which stick around on the screen for a second or two and then disappear. This way, if someone joins the broadcast later, she won’t see a reference that doesn’t make sense.
When it comes to “liking” a broadcast, Periscope is also smarter. Rather than having one static “heart,” viewers can continually tap the screen to demonstrate their love of separate moments within the feed. This shows up in the form of disappearing hearts and provides immediate feedback to the streamer, who might adjust her filming choices based on how many hearts are fluttering at any given moment.
When you’ve finished your feed, Periscope gives you the option to download a replay of what you just filmed, just like Meerkat. But Periscope’s process here is much more automatic, immediately beginning the large download to save time and allowing you to cancel if you’d rather just never see the subpar thing you created again. It also allows you to post your stream directly into the app’s social feed, so you can browse who’s broadcasted what. Meerkat doesn’t have a replay feed because, as the CEO says, it aims to be “evanescent.”
The summary of your stream is also presented in a much cleaner way. When you’ve wrapped up, Periscope shows you a colorful display of the name of each person who watched, along with the number of times he liked the feed and the total number of hearts overall.
Meekat got onto the scene first. But Periscope is a much more thought-out product. It favors intuitive navigation over simplicity, its design is better, and it’s easier to use. If you have to choose, I’d recommend burying that adorable land creature and raising up your Periscope.