The live streaming app that started it all is making a major change


Meerkat, the plucky app that never really took hold but is largely responsible for Twitter and Facebook getting into the live stream game, is turning its back on broadcasting.

CEO Ben Rubin revealed the turn of events in an interview with Re/code and in a post on the company's blog.

The reasons are fairly simple: normal people - non-celebrities and media/news personalities - just aren't live streaming in the numbers Meerkat expected them to be. And, if they are, they're choosing the likes of Twitter's Periscope and Facebook Live to share their lives with the world.

"Mobile broadcast video hasn't quite exploded as quickly as we'd hoped," Rubin writes in an email to employees that he shared on the official Meerkat blog. "The distribution advantages of Twitter/Periscope and Facebook Live drew more early users to them away from us and we were not able to grow as quickly alongside as we had planned."

Rubin describes live video as an interesting feature on top of what Facebook and Twitter already offer, but one that hasn't developed into a "self-sustaining new network."

It's a candid observation and points to a larger issue with social media live streaming: people with significant followings are broadcasting (and even then, it's pretty occasional), but someone with a comparatively small following is less inclined to participate. They'll watch a stream, but not take the time and effort to participate. How these platforms grow users and keep people engaged is a key challenge for the future.

The colony isn't going anywhere

So, you might be wondering, is this the end of Meerkat? The answer is, no.

The app is still running, so live broadcasts are still possible. But the company is working on something new: a social network.

"We are investing in a new product that we think addresses some of the challenges and furthers our vision of bringing mobile live video to everyone [in] the world," Rubin writes.

Without going into specifics on the new product, Rubin says the company found that "the best Meerkat moments" were between people who already knew each other and connected live in real time. So, it could be a video chat service with a social media twist.

Meerkat started building its new product in October, and Rubin told Re/code it should be ready to reveal what's next in three months or so.

The colony, then, lives on. Just in a different form.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.