What is Meerkat, and Why is It Blowing Up on Twitter?

If you use Twitter, you may have noticed a recent flurry of tweets containing mrk.tv links. Much as I would love for them to be my own personal vanity project, they are in fact links produced by a new iOS app. It is called Meerkat, and it is designed to bring live video streaming to the Twittersphere. If early impressions are anything to judge by, it looks likely to be a hit.

Where Vine’s six second videos succeeded through their snappiness, Meerkat hopes to make realtime broadcasts just as popular. It is an obvious move in a world in which we all want to broadcast our highlight reel as it happens. Like Vine, Meerkat is a network in its own right, but with close ties to Twitter. Your followers become your contacts in the app, and you can flick through any livestreams currently being filmed by the people you follow. However, the real key to Meerkat’s early success is its tweet-linked simplicity. When you want to broadcast, you simply write a message describing what you’re about to film, before hitting the record button. The link is then pushed out on your Twitter account, and anyone can click it to tune in and comment in tweet form. It should make for some great two-way broadcasting.

Surfing through some of the early streams tells a different story. Most users simply seem to be playing with the new technology — bloggers trying out a new way to interact with their readers, travelers showing their followers where they are, etc. These streams all seem to have no more than a dozen viewers. But then, for most people, livestreaming on your Twitter account was never going to match the dizzying heights of YouTube stardom. It’s okay that it is more intimate.

The only thing is, I’m not sure who is going to sustain Meerkat into the future. Clearly, the Scobles of the world will find an audience, but those of us with less star power may struggle to engage our followers with live events. It will be interesting to see if the app can build a community of creators who are as engaging as the vloggers of Vine.

You can download Meerkat from the App Store free.

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