Put simply, these apps allow you to live stream video from your smartphone to the world. At the same time, people interact with you and other viewers through the screen, using instant messaging, asking questions or saying just about anything they like. Meaning you, along with your viewers, are instantaneously connected to the world, live, via your smartphone.
Everything is seen and heard, live.
If you want someone to see what’s going on from your perspective, then you just turn on the app, and start filming. Users jump onto your live stream as you video from your smartphone, seeing what you see and what you are doing. They can comment and ‘like’ the video by double tapping the screen. You can choose to respond to them by speaking or just keep filming.
So let’s give it a go.
I walk to the window, open the app and start filming the rainy weather outside. It doesn’t seem that interesting, but immediately other users jump onto my stream and via the instant chat function they start asking me to do things and saying hello and naming where they happen to be watching from. All the commentary is public. Waving is a common ask. And it works – almost immediately. I am standing at the window, waving to someone in Moscow.
At the moment, the apps and the users are in the exploratory phase, meaning no one is quite sure where all this will go. There are no real ‘road rules’ and people are experimenting with the various uses. Some examples so far have been a live police event occurring in Philadelphia through to someone walking through Times Square. And there are a lot of cats – just like YouTube – there are always a lot of cats. Just as in the early days of Twitter, when there were no hashtags to help guide discussion, we are seeing the same lack of conventions on these two apps. Which is interesting to say the least.
These apps will reinforce how increasingly connected have become and in ways we previously thought unimaginable, largely due to the power of our smartphones.
The Periscope app launched on Thursday 27 March. Twitter reportedly acquired the company for $100 million a few months ago, whereas the competitor Meerkat is an independent platform working within the Twitter infrastructure. Currently, you use your Twitter account to log in to both apps.
The implications of these apps are vast. Whether it is live streaming a protest or uprising from a country which has media restrictions, a product launch, speech or any event of significance through to the most boring and mundane of activities, these apps put the power to live stream in three clicks of a button to the entire world. For free.
What does this mean for media broadcast rights at an event? Or privacy? Or anonymity? Or even the speed in which we will receive information in our already crowded media landscape?
Who will be the early adopters? And which organisations will see the commercial opportunities in these apps? Conversely what risks are likely to appear from these apps?
One thing is for sure, the inter-connected world we live in is evolving from text updates, to images and now to video.
This is no April Fool’s day joke and whatever the outcome, there is one constant and that is change.