When it acquired Periscope last year, Twitter said the company’s live-streaming video would complement its text-heavy timeline with a new category of real-time content. Until now, though, it hasn’t been much of a complement: links to Periscope broadcasts appear on Twitter as plain URLs, without so much as a preview of the video being broadcast.
That begins to change today, as Periscope broadcasts start autoplaying (minus sound) in Twitter profiles, timelines, and individual tweets. (It’s not yet available for Moments.) The changes, which were sneaked into the last update of the Twitter for iOS app, are rolling out globally now. In-line broadcasts will be coming to Android and the web later, the company says.
A hybrid of the two platforms
In-line Periscopes are designed to look like a hybrid between the two platforms. "This brings the Periscope format to people who have never experienced Periscope, or don’t know what Periscope is," says Aaron Wasserman, a Periscope engineer. Tap a video in the stream and it will expand and begin to play sound. You can view the comments and hearts inside a broadcast on Twitter, but if you want to comment or send hearts yourself you’ll have to tap a button to open it inside Periscope.
At the same time, you can interact with the broadcasts the same way you can with other tweets: liking them, retweeting them, or replying to them. That last one is important: Periscope broadcasts are limited to 100 commenters; Twitter replies mean that big broadcasters are likely to hear directly from more viewers.
However obvious it may be — integration has been a top user request for months — the tighter integration between Twitter and Periscope is likely to benefit both platforms. Twitter gets a more vibrant timeline, and Periscope gets a powerful new source of potential downloads. (If you don’t have Periscope installed, you’ll be able to tap a link inside any broadcast to get it.)
Periscope has hosted 100 million broadcasts
The company won't say how many people are using the app, but more than 100 million broadcasts have been created to date on Periscope. The streaming app has been a bright spot for Twitter as it struggles to grow its audience. But Periscope faces a strong challenge from Facebook, the dominant social platform of the age, which is gradually bringing a live-streaming feature of its own into the core Facebook app.
Facebook’s advantage to date has been that broadcasts appear in the stream and on user profiles, enabling the broadcasts to reach more people. Users don’t have to download a separate app to see them. That’s now becoming true for Twitter as well.
Facebook’s remaining advantage is that videos are permanent, whereas Periscopes disappear 24 hours after they’re first posted. If a viral phenomenon like the British puddle happened on Facebook, it would still be available at its original location for everyone to enjoy. Periscope requires that people who wish to save their videos for later viewing remember to save it to their camera rolls and upload it elsewhere. And that's the only real flaw in the current Twitter integration. Once broadcasts expire, the in-line previews in Twitter convert back to plain links that, when clicked, take you to a page telling you the broadcast has expired.
But the company confirmed that it plans to soon give users the option of preserving broadcasts indefinitely. "We’ve seen far too many broadcasts of societal and cultural importance," says Kayvon Beykpour. It’s unclear whether the default will still be for videos to disappear — my guess is that it will be, at least to start — but Twitter will benefit from having more high-profile video stored on its servers. And after they preseve broadcasts, Periscope plans to let us embed them on the web, too.
In the meantime, many Twitter users who haven’t bothered to download Periscope will now see it regularly. If it isn’t everything that users have been asking for, it’s a start.