17 First Impressions of Periscope, Twitter’s Meerkat Killer

The livestreaming video app is simple, powerful and a little bit annoying

Welcome to the tipping point, when livestreamed mobile video officially became part of our digital world's everyday social experience.

Today, Twitter officially launched Periscope, which it bought as a startup and rolled out publicly after a week of letting a few key influencers, tech journalists and viral content creators test the app. For now, Periscope is only available on iOS devices, though an Android version is reportedly being fast-tracked. 

A potent competitor to the rapidly embraced streaming app Meerkat, Periscope offers a few key differences from the scrappy upstart that won over early adopters at South by Southwest. But it also shares some of Meerkat's lesser-appreciated features, like constant notifications and questionably valuable content (the latter of which, of course, isn't the app's fault).

So what exactly makes Periscope one of the year's hottest apps? And will it, in fact, relegate Meerkat to the dustbin of digital obsolescence?

We rounded up some of the more pointed commentary from tech writers who've had some time to play with the app:

Overall Experience

"As far as livestreaming apps go, and there aren't very many so far, it's certainly the best I've seen. … It was admittedly sort of cool. And a tiny bit addictive."

Nicole Lee, Engadget

"It feels like the right platform and the right time. We all have smartphones now, with good cameras and fast LTE connections. And we're desperate for more unmediated access to the people we care about. … It's more immediate than Twitter, Instagram, even Snapchat. It's life, right now, through anyone's eyes I choose. It's intoxicating.

David Pierce, Wired

With just a few taps of the smartphone, users can start broadcasting their surroundings to the rest of the world. Like Twitter, this means Periscope has the potential to capture the mundane as well as the prolific moments.

– Yoree Koh, The Wall Street Journal

How It's Different From Meerkat

"Right up top are broadcasts that are currently live, but if you look underneath that, you'll see a list of recently recorded ones. That's right; unlike Meerkat, which doesn't let you view archives of past livestreams, Periscope lets folks keep their live broadcasts around for later replay. And because Periscope allows me to watch videos hours after the moment has passed, I get to see a lot more of them than I would with something like Meerkat.

Nicole Lee, Engadget

"With most streaming apps, from Meerkat to Livestream, there's a long gap between when something is captured and when it actually appears on your screen. It makes for awkward, asynchronous interactions, because one of you is way behind. Meerkat's commenting feature is crushed by that latency, which never goes below about ten seconds and often goes much higher; Periscope worked to get streaming latency down to as little as two seconds, which means you really can converse with the broadcaster in real time."

David Pierce, Wired

"I've been using the app for the last week. I do prefer the clean, fast and friendly design to Meerkat's lackluster interface, not to mention the fact that I can actually watch streams that are no longer live."

Joanna Stern, The Wall Street Journal

"Yes, both apps stream video with almost zero friction. But when you get down to it, Periscope is what Meerkat would look like with a little more thought put into it. It's cleaner, the chat function makes more sense and you can save your videos for later viewing. Plus, it features something that's sorely missing from Meerkat: the ability to line up a shot before streaming."

Roberto Baldwin, The Next Web

Key Features

"Perhaps the greatest part of Periscope—I certainly think it's a highlight — is the fact that you can send hearts to the broadcaster by tapping on the screen. Each tap will send a heart. Tap the screen multiple times and you'll send a flurry of animated hearts. … It's a very minor feature but it's one that I find rather delightful.

"Of course, Periscope is still very much in development. There's currently no support for landscape mode and you're not able to type in the comments section yourself—the idea is that you're supposed to speak to your viewers, not just type at them"

Nicole Lee, Engadget

"Periscope is all about the love: hearts are the service's most visible number, measuring not just how many people like your broadcasts but how violently they like them. There's even a list of the 'Most Loved' users."

David Pierce, Wired

"You can save videos for later use.While disappearing photos a la Snapchat are fun, disappearing videos, not so much. I've clicked on too many Meerkat feeds on Twitter only to discover the stream has ended. Eventually I've stopped clicking on any Meerkat links that are more than two minutes old. Periscope lets you save videos to watch later."

Roberto Baldwin, The Next Web

User Experience

"Broadcasting on Periscope is a very easy task as well. Simply hit the camera button and give the app permission to access your camera and microphone (which, duh, is necessary). From there, you can choose to enable or disable location sharing."

Nicole Lee, Engadget

"A lot of Meerkat users have already complained about its incredible notification spam. Periscope does have a bit of the same problem right now, though. I only follow a couple dozen people, and my phone's already dinging constantly with that weird Periscope-y chirp."

David Pierce, Wired

"As with Twitter, things can get noisy. Periscope sends you notifications not only when someone you follow starts broadcasting, but also when they recommend a stream by someone else. Unless the alerts system gets granular control, I'll probably have to turn it off so I don't succumb to notification overload."

Roberto Baldwin, The Next Web

"The big problem with Periscope and its peer apps, as I see it, is that crazy thirst for engagement. Imagine getting a push notification each time every single person you follow on Twitter tweeted. That's Periscope in a nutshell—but instead of easily digestible tweets the notifications lead to livestreams, some of which are many minutes long."

Casey Newton, The Verge

Is It a Meerkat Killer?

"Meerkat's already caught on with some important people, and Periscope isn't so obviously better that it will destroy the competition on impact. Especially not when the the competition has a slight head start. For now, having both Periscope and Meerkat on your phone is easy enough, and as people continue to learn about live-streaming in general, each probably benefits from the other. But eventually, as the apps try to build larger and more exclusive social networks, it's hard to imagine two live-streaming apps both winning out."

David Pierce, Wired

"Meerkat has traction. It has users. It has a term for streaming video, "Meerkatting." Sometimes, being first, even when the app isn't as polished as a competitor, is enough to keep you ahead of the curve. Even when a rival has the power of a social media giant like Twitter behind it.

"Remember Slingshot, Facebook's kinda-of-sort-of answer to Snapchat? It looked nicer and had a hook. Snapchat is ugly, the UI borderline unusable and OMG, that show they produced. But Snapchat was first and it won and continues to win. I'm sending a Snap right now."

Roberto Baldwin, The Next Web

"For everything it got right, Meerkat still looks like an app built in eight weeks — which it was. Periscope has been in development for more than a year, and the app arrives showing nice attention to detail.

"I'm not quite prepared to say the app is a Meerkat killer—Meerkat has been growing its user base at 30 percent a day, and it just announced a big new round of investment this morning. But for now at least, Periscope better matches the way that most of us actually use the internet. As of today, Meerkat has a lot of catching up to do."

Casey Newton, The Verge

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