Up Periscope: a look at Twitter’s live-streaming app

Periscope has been getting a lot of attention in certain tech media circles for the last little while. So what does it actually do? The app allows users to watch and broadcast live video feeds from across the globe, from wherever there is an internet connection available. 

Shot from smart devices and streamed to phones, desktops, tablets – anything with browsing capability – you can be privy to a jubilant street party in the heart of Venice in one second, and in the next switching to views of the freakish tornadoes that have been ravaging parts of the US. 

Originally requiring a Twitter account, the latest update allows new users to only use their phone numbers. There’s a bunch of other things that come with the update, from changing profile photos to replying directly to people in chat. But why the furious hubbub over it?

Acquired by Twitter for more than USD$86 million (NZD$ 117m) earlier this year, it’s a serious competitor to Meerkat, the original live streaming app. In the first ten days of its official release back in March, it garnered over a million unique sign-ins.

But that early-adopter traction died down very quickly, with Periscope now having fallen way out of the top 100 iOS apps; Meerkat isn’t even in the top 500 anymore.

Data from social media search engine Topsy shows the relevance of both apps is declining, beside the small blip when the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight happened. And that’s more of an issue with HBO and Showroom’s pay-per-view model, and less of the individual apps’ actual user interest.

Instead, it’s been the furore of tech journalism. And that’s been critical to Periscope’s hype, as certain individuals have pointed out here, and here.

The app’s biggest criticism came after the night of the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, as people who had paid to see the fight began to live stream their own television. The Verge reports Twitter had received over 100 take down notices from copyright owners, and had to shut down 30 offending streams. Teeth were also gnashed after the season premiere of Game of Thrones. 

That’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it does raise significant issues concerning live streaming and piracy, and the giant overreaction from the PGA is playing right into that fear. 

How this technology will play in to the future is uncertain, as is whether anyone wants to watch poor quality footage from one angle when they’re accustomed to high quality footage from many. But it’s already being used by journalists to offer behind-the-scenes access. And another avenue of possibility is in the realm of citizen journalism.

As the old saying goes, if it exists, there’s porn for it. And while there have been a rash of stories about a flood of porn on these live-streaming apps and others like Snapchat, those sites do have anti-porn rules (it’s hard to police, however, and Twitter is already battling with this association after reports of 10 million NSFW accounts scared investors and advertisers). Live webcam performers have been round for years, so for them, as Nextweb wrote, it’s not particularly novel. 

As for advertisers, Joel Lunenfeld, Twitter’s VP-global brand strategy told Ad Age neither Vine or Periscope will feature traditional, force-fed advertising, at least in the near term. “Instead, Twitter is working with brands to promote content from these platforms within its core product, and serving as a middleman between brands and stars with major social followings.” 

Video is hard, and live video is even harder. Periscope isn’t doing anything excessively new, but it is however providing a platform for people to communicate via video. How we use this platform – and its potential for more banality or greatness – will be things to think about. 

The app can be downloaded for iOS only at this stage, with release on Android “soon”.

  • And edited version of this article originally appeared on idealog.co.nz

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