What’s Meerkat? Why do you need it?


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Erin Lawrence

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By now you’ve at least heard of Meerkat and possibly wondered what everyone was so excited about.

In short, Meerkat is an app that gives you the ability to send live video to the world via Twitter. It’s like opening the curtains of your home and showing the whole neighbourhood what’s happening in your living room and your life. You’ve been warned.

Why would I want to do that?

Concerts, meetings and forums, or major public events, like parades and celebrations are all examples of things you can share via Meerkat.  Is it someone’s birthday, but some key family can’t be there?  Meerkat lets them take part and watch the festivities in real time. (Granted, so can anyone else who follows you on Twitter, so take note!)  Big car crash on the highway?  You (if you’re the passenger, of course) can Meerkat that crash to your feed and who other drivers what they’re in for, and give them a real time look at the traffic backup.  The possibilities are endless, and will probably also include tweens Meerkatting what they’re having for breakfast.

The original meerkat.

The original meerkat.

Amazingly this app is picking up serious steam, despite the fact it was only launched in February 2015.  Famously, Jimmy Fallon ‘Meerkast’ a rehearsal, and numerous public figures have used it to do live interviews with media. It’s unique in that once the stream ends, it’s over.  The stream ceases to exist, and that’ not unlike another app darling, Snapchat.  Something to keep in mind is that your cell phone bill may skyrocket using Meerkat.  Transmitting large amounts of video data over a cell network isn’t without its costs. In a recent Mashable article, the company said, “Streaming video from Meerkat uses about 4 megabytes of data per minute, while watching a stream uses 2.3 megabytes per minute.”

The Rules of Meerkat

Yes, Meerkat has rules.  Here they are according to the company’s website:

  • Everything that happens on meerkat happens on Twitter.
  • Streams will be pushed to followers in real time via push notifications.
  • People can only watch it live. No reruns.
  • Watchers can re-stream any stream to their followers in real time.
  • Scheduled streams will be distributed in the community by their subscribers.
  • Your own streams can be kept locally on your phone, but never on the cloud.
  • Everyone can watch on web.
  • Be kind.

The response to Meerkat has been amazing in the month since it started getting attention worldwide after making a big splash at the South by Southwest tech conference also known as SXSW. Yes, it’s getting major hype, but some are already expressing frustration with how it works.  It’s all too easy to click on your pal’s tweet of a Meerkast, only to find it’s already ended; a constant complaint. There are also complaints about the quality level of audio and video.  But inevitably, Meerkat will grow, improve and probably find ways to alleviate users complaints.  It’s going to be interesting to see where Meerkat goes in its next month of life, and beyond!


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