Every year at South by Southwest Interactive, there's a small competition to be the "it" app of the show. Although such buzz has dubious long-term value (cf. Highlight), it's still a fun game to play. This year, the app everybody assumed would take the mantle is Meerkat, the live video streaming service that piggybacks off of Twitter so you can automatically have a ready-made social group within the app. And just as SXSW is getting started, Twitter is cutting off Meerkat's automatic access to that social graph, Buzzfeed reports.
"We are limiting their access to Twitter’s social graph, consistent with our internal policy," a Twitter spokesperson told Buzzfeed. "Their users will still be able to distribute videos on Twitter and log in with their Twitter credentials."
3/ twitter's move here shows how significant meerkat has become.— Ben Rubin (@benrbn) March 14, 2015
That means that when you begin a Meerkat live video, you'll still be posting an alert to Twitter, but some of the things that have made Meerkat compelling could degrade significantly. Since the app won't be able to create a map of friends right away, new users will get fewer push notifications when their friends begin broadcasting — and also will likely not get Meerkat notifications when their other Twitter friends sign up for the service.
Essentially, Meerkat will either need to work harder to help its users find friends within its own app or hope that those users will be watching Twitter closely enough to know when those broadcasts start. Given the signal to noise ratio on Twitter, the latter is not a very good long term strategy for survival.
Twitter's decision isn't exactly a surprise — the company recently acquired Periscope, a Meerkat competitor. And Twitter, like Facebook, is protective of its social graph, the network of friend and friend information that is a big part of what makes any social network sticky for users.
Ben Rubin, Meerkat's CEO, took to Twitter Friday night with several tweets commenting on the news:
4/ this is a small bump for meerkat - a product built in only 8 weeks by one person— Ben Rubin (@benrbn) March 14, 2015
5/ and a sad day for the Twitter developer community who build amazing products that help us connect with each other ( @fabric )— Ben Rubin (@benrbn) March 14, 2015
6/ And lastly, THIS is just the beginning for Meerkat. --The revolution will be live streamed.— Ben Rubin (@benrbn) March 14, 2015