90It was bound to happen. In a world of still-life selfies, the next logical step could only be live mobile-streaming video of you. Because, really, what’s more interesting to the planet than what you’re doing, right now this very second? And if cats are involved, it’s a million times better.
Live mobile-streaming video isn’t new, of course. YouTube, Ustream and countless others have tried to make a go of it. But in terms of capturing the zeitgeist, the app Periscope appears to be in the right place at the right time.
Acquired last March by Twitter for a reported $100 million, Periscope’s Web copy pitches the concept well: “What if you could see through the eyes of a protester in Ukraine? Or watch the sunrise from a hot-air balloon in Cappadocia? It may sound crazy, but we wanted to build the closest thing to teleportation.”
Crazy like a fox. In its first 10 days, it pulled in a million users. As of early August, that number was up to 10 million who were watching the equivalent of 40 years of stuff every single day.
If cramming 40 years into a day isn’t teleportation, we’ll eat our latex Spock ears.
A good bit of that success undoubtedly comes at rival Meerkat’s expense. A South by Southwest tech darling just a few months ago, Meerkat partnered with Twitter and, with an estimated 2 million users, appeared to be on a roll. But with the Periscope acquisition, Meerkat’s ability to tap into Twitter’s many social features got yanked in a hurry. Ouch. Kind of harsh, that.
But the reality is that Periscope offers more charm than Meerkat, starting with a clean, simple-to-use, feature-rich standalone mobile app. A fun touch: tapping little heart icons to express your approval of a particular video. Also, videos are ephemeral on Meerkat: Once they’ve aired, they’re gone, whereas Periscope keeps them up for 24 hours. (Predicting Meerkat’s extinction, however, may be premature. Rumors abound that Facebook may pick up the precocious mongoose any day now.)
Periscope’s content is as varied, unlimited, random (and yes, kind of creepily, albeit consensually voyeuristic) as the human imagination. Reporters file news conferences, average Joes walk their dogs, families share travel thoughts, nerds unpack iPads, girls give makeup tips, a guy babbles about his first day of work at a new job and so on.
Actor Elijah Wood visited an aquarium and posted a video titled “Jellyfish” starring the gooey underwater denizens. Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine posted a nondescript, blurry studio rehearsal segment in which nothing actually happened, but it still fairly fizzed with hearts. And some Periscopers even Periscope that they’re getting ready to Periscope, which is actually pretty brilliant.
So, yeah, there’s plenty of content out there. But it’s a task to find what’s meaningful to you. We can presume that Periscope is working on a more robust search feature but, as of now, about the best you can do is follow as many people as possible and just wait to see what develops. Or just turn on the new “Couch Mode” feature and flip through endless videos. (The temptation to add “potato” between those two words must have been overwhelming.)
Speaking of meaningful, stats attesting to Periscope’s success are annoyingly hard to find. A straightforward Google search — “How many people are actually using Periscope?” — brings up a marketing blog with an article titled “Keywords and Jargon” that cites a tweet rate of 110,000 messages a month. Not exactly definitive. Guess we’ll have to wait for the next Periscope news release to clear things up.
Content piracy is also a thorny issue. Periscope’s potential to broadcast live (and expensive) concerts and sporting events to the great unwashed for free is raising an online firestorm about copyright infringement. When several users took it upon themselves to air the fifth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones and the Mayweather/Pacquiao boxing match, the Internet fairly thrummed with handwringing.
But Katy Perry dismisses such concerns, saying simply, “Embrace the future.” Glad that’s settled.
The big deal is monetizing all this frivolity. In April, Target used Periscope to promote its Lilly Pulitzer line, resulting in consumer demand that helped sell out 90 percent of its offerings in just a few days. Disney’s in on it, too, which should tell you something, since the Rat rarely misses a trick.
This month’s New York Fashion Week event is also expected to generate a ton of Periscoping. July’s NYFW: Men’s event saw a bunch of designers posting real-time video, including Marc Jacobs, Burberry, DKNY and Rebecca Minkoff. To follow your favorites, seek them out on Periscope or check their websites for info about their live-streaming options.
Frivolity and economics aside, it’s worth contemplating the benefit that Periscope might provide in case of emergency. Had it existed on 9-11, for example, perhaps authorities could have been informed earlier and more completely, thus saving more lives.
The bottom line is this: If you’re done with yet another social media time-waster, run, don’t walk, from Periscope. Not that you’ll get very far. It’s here, hip, hot and happening. Resistance is futile.