March 31, 2015

Twitter Launches Periscope, Social Noise in Our Lives Reaches Crescendo

News

Major social networks have been known to either unbundle their functionality into multiple apps, or buy other apps and not integrate their functionality into the main one: e.g. Twitter acquiring Vine. The point of the latter is to offer more services under the same login. The latest example of this is Twitter acquiring and releasing Periscope, a one-to-many livestreaming service.

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What’s funny is that Twitter bought Periscope before it officially launched. The official narrative now is that a young ambitious man named Kayvon Beykpour accidentally witnessed Taksim Square protests when traveling to Turkey, and decided to design an app that would facilitate documenting such events. Twitter bought it for over $100M and gave it its social graph, greatly expanding the addressable market. You don’t need to search and make new friends when you install Periscope; people you follow on Twitter are already there. You can broadcast publicly or privately, receive or block comments and “hearts”, and save videos for further replay.

As LTE coverage and the quality of smartphone cameras get better, it was only a matter of time before videostreaming apps became viral. In fact, there were attempts at creating such apps before (e.g. uStream), and the closest Periscope competitor, Meerkat, recently took off like crazy, prompting Twitter to speed up the release.

In theory, all those apps are in demand: there’s a lot of genuinely interesting things going on every minute of every hour. Revolutions and public protests spark every now and then, buildings explode and collapse, Apple releases new products, puppies and kittens perform their furry duties.

Not all of those things get sufficient coverage by professional TV & video reporters. But it’s important to remember that it’ll take a while before the noise on the new social network dies down, and truly interesting content pushes mundane stuff off the front page.

By no means is livestreaming going to kill or even revolutionize traditional media: it had been promised many times before, like when Twitter became mainstream or image sharing apps took off, but never materialized. The role of media as a noise filter will become even more important, and with the advent of streaming apps, reporters and editors have to do an even better job curating content.

People are not supercomputers; we’re are not natural big data crunchers. Consider that before touting yet another revolution.