Just as Meerkat was riding high on a wave of popularity, grabbing users en masse at the South by Southwest Interactive conference, Twitter pulled the rug from under its dancing feet.
Twitter, which confirmed its acquisition of Meerkat competitor Periscope for $100 million, has limited Meerkat’s access to the Twitter graph. Basically, it makes it harder (almost impossible) for users to find people to follow on Meerkat. Adding insult to injury, Twitter only gave Meerkat founder Ben Rubin a two-hour notice.
“We are not naïve. We knew it was coming,” Rubin told Fast Company. “We thought that we would at least get a week notice—a fair game.”
In an interview with Re/code, Rubin talked at length about his company’s future:
Rubin says his company was already working on “decoupling,” so clearly the plan hasn’t always been to rely so heavily on Twitter, but he makes a good point in saying that this could potentially leave a sour taste for developers who create innovative apps using the Twitter API. As other developers watch what has happened to Rubin and his app, it could result in Twitter taking a damaging PR hit. Developers could be more apt to go around the service.
The next logical point to the conversation will be around whether Meerkat can continue to compete effectively against Twitter once it launches whatever iteration of Periscope it folds into its service. Rubin hints to it in Re/code’s video, where he notes that his service will never stop allowing its user to post to Twitter.
What’s likely is that Meerkat will move to a Snapchat model, which uses phone numbers and handles to help users find a larger base to follow.
My prediction: Meerkat isn’t going anywhere, and certainly don’t expect it to fall into obscurity. That said, it’ll probably become a niche app with a healthy population of active users and some lurkers. Will it revolutionize news coverage and create an army of live broadcasters? As with anything in this fickle arena, time will tell.