April 14, 2015 - Comments Off on Will real-time video streaming with Periscope take off?

Will real-time video streaming with Periscope take off?

In the last six weeks there have been two apps released that let anyone with a smartphone become a broadcaster. Meerkat and Periscope let you stream live, real-time video from your phone, via Twitter, to anyone who wishes to watch. So should you be excited or nervous about this emerging technology, and will it take off?

Meerkat and Periscope are essentially the same thing – the difference being that Meerkat was released first (at the end of February). It populated itself using Twitter, but then Twitter put a stop to that and then released their own live streaming app, Periscope, just weeks later – a move that Eric Jackson at Forbes already reckons will be the death of Meerkat.

But the two co-exist for now. Madonna used Meerkat to broadcast a world permiere of her Ghosttown video on Wednesday 8th April to around 1,000 followers. But due to the nature of live video streaming, it’s not something you can go back and watch – so I have no idea how it worked, or what the experience was like.

See what others see – or show them what you see – all in real-time

I downloaded the Periscope app at the weekend. I spent a few minutes exploring it, choosing people to follow and dipping into live streams from across the Atlantic. A man I didn’t know was showing me around his town on the coast of South Carolina. I could tap the screen to send hearts – a visual indication to him that I liked what I saw – and I could see messages that other viewers were sending him.

It was a level of interaction I didn’t expect – and, to tell you the truth, the whole experience felt pretty surreal. I considered trying a broadcast myself – it looked simple enough to do. But then I had no followers, and what’s live streaming without an audience?

Since Periscope has been developed by Twitter, it automatically links into it. It trawls through the people you follow on Twitter and suggests you follow them on Periscope – if they’re on it. When I begin a broadcast, it’ll notify my followers, and they can tune in. But I only have a very modest following (and that’s putting it lightly).

Potential broadcasting issues of real-time live streaming

It got me thinking… I was back in Grimsby for a football match. Say I had a sizeable following on Periscope. What’s to stop me broadcasting some of the match from my phone? Over in America the National Baseball League has already moved to dismiss reports that it would ban fans from using Meerkat or Periscope at stadiums.

I doubt it’ll be a stance that will be adopted universally. Certainly here in the UK, in my experience, clubs, sporting venues and broadcasters are very precious and very protective over their ‘product’. People have been ejected or banned for attempting to take pictures and videos without an official press pass – although with this type of technology, it’s going to be increasingly difficult to police.

Iffy content and issues of moderation

The other problem with real-time video streaming is the very fact it’s live – anything could happen. Who’s to say you’re not about to witness something graphic, violent or upsetting? Even the person recording, with innocent intentions, can’t guarantee what happens next.

Users are never sure of what they’re going to see beyond the title of the stream, and it’s this lack of guard against ‘iffy content’ that may be putting big brands off from using Meerkat and Periscope, for the moment at least. It’s just another layer of complexity to the thorny issue of censorship and parental control that demands some level of moderation. Having said all that, Periscope are currently working on this issue.

Periscope in the future

Whether brands will choose to add real-time video streaming to their social armoury is yet to be seen, but for now it looks to be another interesting development in the world of social technology (and I plan to give it a proper go – as soon as I think of something genuinely interesting to broadcast that doesn’t involve a cat).

Who’ll use it? How will it be used? Who knows how big it’ll be? The only way to know is to check it out for yourself and wait a few months to see whether the world has adopted it.