Meerkat: SXSWi 2015 Breakout App

SXSWi is all about live streaming video this year, with Meerkat being the absolute breakout app. The conversation between CEO and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk and former GE CEO Jack Welch, boasted more than 2,200 viewers via a live Meerkat stream. Not bad for an app that basically didn’t exist a week ago.

Meerkat allows you to live video stream through your camera phone to your Twitter followers. When you download the app, you login with your Twitter account and Meerkat turns you into an automatic broadcaster. Now it’s you and CNN, HBO and a bunch of YouTube influencers competing for the world’s attention on Twitter. Thankfully, since the service is new, you can get away with lower quality content as the novelty factor of something new kicks in.

It’s been fascinating to watch the Meerkat conversation build over the last 48 hours. Yes, only 48 hours. Up until yesterday, the app also grabbed all of the people you follow who are already on Meerkat and added them to your followers list. But Twitter, probably feeling threatened, is removing this capability.

What I love about the atmosphere at SXSWi is that it motivates you to get out of your comfort zone and play with technology. Even as a computer science major and someone who provides digital strategy for a living, it’s easy to fall behind the rapidly moving digital market.

To test it out, I started with a live stream of the performers at the famous Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar on 6th Street. I figured great piano playing of cover songs might help draw a crowd online. Cautiously, I hit “stream.” A few minutes rolled and no one was watching. I tried again, this time giving a description and adding “#SXSW” to pick up more traction. Then I panned the camera from the performers, to the bar, and landed on my unsuspecting colleagues.

People started to show up! Within a few seconds, four people had tuned in. The pressure was on. “Hold the camera steady.” I told myself. I panned around the bar, allowing the music to entertain. I forgot viewers could also hear me as I am explaining to my friends that they are actually live on the Internet.

Over the next few hours, I saw others start to experiment with streams– sitting in their hotel rooms, in bars with the friends, playing live with the app, on the Internet. Most of the people with them didn’t know what was happening. It was that wonderful, brief moment when an app is still innocent and experimental, and the content is more genuine and interesting as a result.

About 36 hours in, I found myself turning off the notifications on my phone for people launching new streams. Too many random live streams of dark bars and pedicab rides in Austin. The game is on, and I am excited to see where t this app lands. That is, before Twitter completely kills them.

I love the rules, and wish Instagram and Snapchat thought of this:

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