Tech of the Week: the world of mobile live streaming with Periscope

You may be one of the vast majority who’s never heard of it, or have and not used it, but make no mistake in dismissing this app straight off the bat. It’s got potential, but the way it’s being used makes its relevance a little bit off-centre.

Periscope. It’s a nifty concept: an app focused on mobile live streaming. It’s been the most-talked about app in certain tech media circles for the last little while.

So what does it actually do? The app allows users to watch and broadcast live video feeds from across the globe, from wherever there is an internet connection available.

Shot from smart devices and streamed to phones, desktops, tablets – anything with browsing capability – you can be privy to a jubilant street party in the heart of Venice in one second, and in the next switching to views of the freakish tornadoes that’s been ravaging parts of the US.

Originally requiring a Twitter account, the latest update allows new users to only use their phone numbers. There’s a bunch of other things that come with the update, from changing profile photos to replying directly to people in chat. But why the furious hubbub over it?

Acquired by Twitter for more than USD$86 million (NZD$ 117m) earlier this year, it’s a serious competitor to Meerkat, the original live streaming app. In the first 10 days of its official release back in March, it garnered over a million unique sign-ins.

But that early-adopter traction died down very quickly, with Periscope now having fallen way out of the top 100 iOS apps; Meerkat isn’t even in the top 500 anymore.

Data from social media search engine Topsy shows the relevance of both apps is declining, beside the small blip when the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight happened. And that’s more of an issue with HBO and Showroom’s pay-per-view model, and less of the individual apps’ actual user interest.

Instead, it’s been the furore of tech journalism. And that’s been critical to Periscope’s hype, as certain individuals have pointed out here, and here.

The app’s biggest criticism came after the night of the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, as people who had paid to see the fight began to live stream their own television. The Verge reports Twitter had received over 100 take down notices from copyright owners, and had to shut down 30 offending streams.

That’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it does raise significant issues concerning live streaming and piracy, and the giant overreaction from the PGA is playing right into that fear.

How this technology will play in to the future is uncertain, but one avenue of possibility is in the realm of citizen journalism.  At the end of the day, video is hard, and live video is even harder.

Periscope isn’t doing anything excessively new, but it is however providing a platform for people to communicate via video. How we use this platform – and its potential for greatness – will be things to think about.

The app can be downloaded for iOS only at this stage, with release on Android “soon”.