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Initial Thoughts on Meerkat and Live Mobile Video

In just a little over 4 days, I have a developed a love-hate relationship with Meerkat and the discussion surrounding it (more to come on this second topic in another post tomorrow).

I’ve been a fan of what this team has been building for over 9 months. I posted the team’s original app, Yevvo, to Product Hunt after originally discovering it, of all places, from an Ashton Kutcher Tweet:

Despite relatively little adoption of that first app, major props to this team on continuing to crank and make the necessary minor tweaks to get some initial traction on the latest iteration of its core product. Minus a few caveats, I am a big believer in live mobile video, and as my friend Ryan Dawidjan pointed out in his post last night, the timing, from a technological capabilities perspective, seems to be ideal. I think there are myriad use cases for this type of product (Meerkat or otherwise), and Ryan highlighted a couple. I also threw out this reply to Libby Brittain over the summer when she asked about specific tools for conflict-zone journalists.

It’s important to remember that this product, for all intents and purposes, is only four days old, and most of the people using it are subjectively “bad” at it. This isn’t exactly what the product was built for:

The closest comparison I can think of is Vine. Most people are terrible at creating Vines — there’s an art to making one well. But when you put a new tool in the hands of immensely talented or creative people, they will create something uniquely special. The same can be said, to an extent, for Snapchat Stories. Use Meerkat for interviews, behind-the-scenes at an awards show, in a locker room, reporting on the ground in the Middle East, and things start to get really interesting. Get it in the hands of someone like Jerome Jarre or Casey Neistat, and I can’t wait to see what happens. Casey did a great job cataloging the aftermath in Ferguson via a Snapchat Story in nearly real-time, but it could have been even more powerful live.

My main gripe with the Meerkat product itself at this point is that comments on someone’s stream get pushed to Twitter. I understand that as a growth-oriented decision, but for followers of those people on Twitter, it’s a subpar experience and feels a little Socialcam-y. Additionally, Matt Mazzeo smartly pointed out the potential harm that the social leaderboard may cause when it comes to authenticity of creating content / using the product.

Of course, the live mobile video space is on the verge of gaining significant momentum. The much-hyped Periscope is waiting in wings, Betaworks launched Upclose, a friend recently pointed me to a company called Visor, and everyone seems to be forgetting about YouNow, probably because post-1990 Millennials — not VCs and Product Hunt devotees — make up the majority of its steadily growing user base. Predecessors like UStream and Justin.TV were arguably just too early — there is clearly something going on here. And I still wouldn’t count out Snapchat from building in this “live” feature. But, who knows, maybe Snapchat Stories are the happy medium between live mobile streaming and YouTube?

When it comes to the live mobile video space, there is a tremendous onus on the host, not too dissimilar from Turntable.fm (a name that has been thrown around during the last few days of Meerkat mania). As a viewer on mobile, which will likely be the primary use case in the near term because discovery of streams is occurring via Twitter, you need to have sufficient service, have headphones in, and catch the Tweet soon enough to ensure you see the stream (but most people aren’t in their Twitter feed non-stop). There are a lot of variables that make this space tricky, but they aren’t insurmountable by any means, as YouNow has proven. I net out relatively positively when it comes to Meerkat and live mobile video as a whole and am excited to see where it’s headed, and so I would welcome additional conversations with people building in this world on either Twitter or email (adam [at] deepforkcapital [dot] com).