The month of March belonged to Meerkat. The app, which lets users send live-streaming videos over Twitter, launched in early March and picked up steam when TechCrunch ran this feature. By the time SXSW rolled around on March 13, it was the most talked about app, and companies like Starbucks and Red Bull had already launched programs on the fresh platform. Meerkat had the spotlight until a little over a week ago, when it was eclipsed by Periscope, which offers similar functionality, but with the added benefit of being owned and endorsed by Twitter.
This is the ultimate showdown, but there can only be one winner when it comes to mobile apps. Kevin Weil, Twitter’s VP of Product, feels like they’re already winning. “They have about two to three weeks ahead of us, and I think in the grand scheme of things, the better product will win,” he said in a recent interview with Buzzfeed. "We have the better product.”
After reviewing both apps, we agree with Kevin. Periscope is a superior product, and here’s why:
The User Interface Is More Polished
Periscope is a lovingly designed app. It took more than a year to plan and launch, whereas Meerkat was created in a couple of weeks. It has a dashboard with multiple tabs along the bottom to watch live broadcasts, start your own video stream, or find people. Periscope also has a profile view that allows you to add an avatar and description about yourself. Meerkat is a little too simplistic –– there’s no menu bar or customization, and all you can do is schedule, post, and watch live broadcasts. Meerkat displays Twitter icons for anyone watching a particular stream, creating a lot of visual clutter compared to Periscope, which tucks the “who’s watching” data neatly away so you can focus on the video, uninterrupted.
Periscope automatically saves video streams for 24 hours, allowing anyone who clicks on the Twitter link to watch them at their leisure. That gives it a big advantage over Meerkat, on which video streams disappear once you stop recording, and are gone for good. Shoutout to Periscope for alleviating that fear of missing out. (Both apps let you save any video you shoot to your phone's camera roll.)
If you don’t want your Twitter followers to know you’re live streaming, Periscope gives you that option –– just click on the Twitter bird and select “Twitter Post OFF.” If you want to create private broadcasts and hide your location, tap the lock icon and select specific people who can see your live stream. It also lets you delete chats, replays, and any record of your video being shot, if that’s what you desire.
Discovery and Interactivity Is Lovely
Both Meerkat and Periscope allow you to like and retweet streams, and post comments that the stream broadcaster can see in real time. While these features are similar, Periscope syncs with your Twitter contacts, and makes it easy to keep tabs on the broadcaster; just tap the + icon to follow them in the app. Meerkat can no longer piggyback on Twitter’s identity, distribution, and communication systems, which makes finding friends and broadcasters within the app more time-consuming for the user.
The commenting and liking system on Periscope is clever, too –– double tap a stream and watch the cute, animated hearts bubble up. The more you tap, the more hearts (likes) the broadcaster receives.
Notifications, ugh. This is where both Meerkat and Periscope kind of suck. You get one every time someone new follows you, starts a stream, or shares one. Periscope’s advantage is giving users the option of muting a “serial streamer” for three hours so their notifications aren’t constantly showing up on your phone. Even with that option, you’re still flooded with push notifications and badges, until you decide to turn off push notifications for the app entirely. Presumably, future updates will give you more options to tweak those notification settings so it’s not so “all or nothing.”
‘Periscoping’ Sounds Better Than ‘Meerkating’
Of course, none of this means Meerkat is dead already. In fact, Meerkat could benefit from Periscope’s preoccupation with their app’s exploding popularity, giving them time to build better features and convert a few Periscope users in the process.