The world needs another Meerkat thinkpiece like it needs another Guns N’ Roses album. But, just as Axl Rose and company can’t (or won’t) stop making music, I can’t stop myself from commenting on the live-streaming service nobody in tech will shut up about.
By now you’ve probably had Meerkat explained to you more times than you care to count. It’s a streaming service that makes it easy to share live videos over Twitter. Everyone, from techies to celebrities to, you know, normal people, is talking about it. Gallons of virtual ink have already been spilt over Meerkat. It “won” SXSW; has the potential to change politics; has already been declared the future of journalism; and shows why it sucks when new tools are built on top of existing social platforms.
I’m not as sure Meerkat is going to be as transformative as others seem to be. How many “futures of journalism” have come and gone? Remember when people said that about Vine? Now it’s something people use to entertain themselves and their children.
And I don’t see Meerkat being something I’ll use on a regular basis. Watch a concert someone’s recording from their phone while they’re jostled by other people? I’ll pass. Listen to a TechCrunch writer talk for hours? There are laws to protect us from that kind of thing.
But I’ll be damned if I don’t admire Meerkat, if only for one reason: it’s about as authentic as social products can come.
You can’t import videos through Meerkat. You can’t shove them through the same filters used to make your life seem interesting on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter. Meerkat lets you point your camera at something, share whatever it captures with a bunch of strangers, and maybe save the video. That’s all there is to it.
Snapchat most closely resembles Meerkat’s authenticity. (I suspect this is part of the reason why their icons, which feature white outlines on yellow backgrounds, are so similar.) But even Snapchat has succumbed to the “need” for filters.
Which leaves us with Meerkat. In a world ruled by social media tools which encourage their users to present the best versions of themselves — as augmented by various filters and editing tools — the only thing Meerkat lets people share is reality. (That sentence best read in the stereotypical announcer voice.)
I’m not going to say Meerkat, or other live-streaming tools, are the future of social media. I’m certainly not going to claim that any of these tools will change journalism or politics or whatever some Medium writer thinks it will change next. But I will say that it’s nice to see some authenticity in modern tech.
And now, to apologize for another post about Meerkat, here’s a real meerkat: