Meerkat was all the buzz in the last few weeks due to this year’s SXSW. For those who don’t know, Meerkat is an iOS app that directly links with Twitter accounts, allowing for people to stream a live video to their followers. However, just this Thursday – Twitter launched their own live-streaming app – Periscope – which they bought earlier this year in January for a reported $100 million.
Live streaming is nothing new.
However, with the advances that we have in our mobile phones and wireless communication – we can be creators and consumers of live streams straight from our mobile devices.
Being the app nerd that I am, I downloaded Meerkat last week and played with it a few times (watching streams, not actually live-streaming my mundane life). I got to watch Jimmy Fallon rehearse for his show; random people interacting with their followers; and a panel about modern photography after a documentary screening. It was basically the same content on Periscope — mainly lots of brands and celebrities promoting themselves on these apps.
However, what happened on Thursday was fascinating (and scary) to me. I was on Twitter and saw a multitude of tweets about the NYC explosion in East Village. I quickly jumped on Meerkat and Periscope to see that people were live streaming the explosion. I was getting first-hand experience and updates from the streamers. The live chat feature on these apps allowed for their followers to comment and ask questions. Many of the broadcasters expressed how scared they were. Many of them had no idea what was going on and all had theories of what happened.
I have a tendency of searching up things on Twitter when I see crowds of people in an area. For instance, last week, there was police activity near where I live. I quickly searched up “police San Francisco” on Twitter and was getting several tweets that there was a shooting at Van Ness and Pine, but they all had no idea why. I had to wait about an hour later through a reputable news source to find out that there was an erratic driver that had to be shot down by the police. Seeing the explosion in NYC on Meerkat and Periscope made me think of the possibilities of what people might stream from their mobile phones during times like these. It was already disturbing enough to watch people take their phones out to document the explosion via the Mashable Periscope broadcast.
Would streaming events like these cause more fear and confusion in people with unanswered questions? Would these apps cause more of a bystander effect? Don’t get me wrong, as an information sponge, I love getting all this information in real-time. With more of these apps proliferating, we have the ability to be citizen journalists. We must be mindful and responsible of the information that we post.