Unless you’ve been offline for the past few weeks, you know that live streaming video apps Meerkat and Periscope have been the talk of tech journalists. I’ve been toying around with both over that time, primarily as a viewer. There are a few things that jump out at me right away:
- Discovery is hard: It might be that I’m not following enough users (or that there aren’t enough users yet to follow), but I’ve had a difficult time discovering content. Sure, Periscope sends me notifications when people I follow are broadcasting. But I still can’t browse easily by topic, interest, or keyword. Cart before the horse, I know.
- Privacy will be challenging: Saturday afternoon, I started to lose interest in watching golf on TV and the Elite Eight games weren’t going to start for another hour. What did I do? I tuned in to an Oklahoma State men’s baseball game and watched it live from some box seats on Periscope. When I realized baseball is infinitely less interesting when not watching in person, I switched to a live feed of a magic show at a birthday party (the guy also was a ventriloquist—very talented!). In both of these scenarios, people were likely being recorded without their permission and without their knowledge. In the case of the birthday party, some of these people were minors. Do I care if someone streams me watching a ballgame? No. And I would like to think my friends are savvy and trustworthy enough to let me know when they live stream me (if it’s not obvious to me they’re doing it). Nonetheless, there is no five-second delay for live streaming. You don’t have even the three seconds between taking a photo and hitting publish that you do on FB, Twitter, or Instagram. You’re working without a net.
- Copyright might be even more challenging: My wife and I attended a live taping of Night Vale Station podcast on Saturday night (we were in over our heads, but that’s for another post). My first instinct was to live stream at least a portion of the show. But before things began, the MC made a request, almost a plea, with the audience not to record the show in any way because she wanted other cities to get the same experience without a preview of what was in store. I honored this request but I could tell others did not. This same challenge existed before easy live streaming, but the realtime nature of Meerkat and Periscope only exacerbate it. Sunday night, I watched Wrestlemania both live from the stadium and on someone else’s TV from their living room via live streaming apps. And WWE thought getting online subscriptions was their biggest challenge.
Overall, I’m bullish on the success and impact of live streaming apps (whether it’s Periscope, Meerkat or the next thing). Their adoption and integration into our lives will be just as tricky as the social platforms that came before them.