The dream ends for Meerkat

This article was first published by

Not everybody gets to work their dream job. Generations of children went through years of school dreaming of becoming an author, read every book they could get their hand on, went on to earn a degree in English from their favorite liberal arts college, only to work in financial services, insurance, or teach. If there is any consolation for those who aimed for the moon, only to land in the stars it's that people are not alone in falling short of their dreams. Businesses too can stop short of the promised land, for a recent example look no further than Meerkat.

Just over a year ago, Meerkat was the hottest app is social media video broadcasting. Users downloaded the app to the iOS device, linked the service with their Twitter and Facebook feeds, and then broadcast live video from wherever they are via Wifi or cellular data plan. Meerkat rocketed from complete obscurity to millions within a month. As if that wasn’t enough, at the March 2015 South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) conference Meerkat was the talk of the town. The application got so hot that Iowa Governor Terry Branstad started using it to broadcast it's weekly press conference. It seemed every mobile user, developer, venture capitalist, and tech reporter was singing the praises of Meerkat, and if previous SXSW success indicated anything Meerkat was in for a stratospheric climb in user count and mobile relevance.

But then something funny happened, at the height of it's notoriety Meerkat’s dreams of social media superstardom were usurped. Periscope, ostensibly a carbon copy of Meerkat, was acquired by Twitter and immediately brought to the forefront of average social media user’s attention. Whereas Meerkat had to claw it's way onto the phones of early adopters and push it's way into the limelight of SXSW, Periscope built a more user friendly application and charmed the social media elite in bringing it to scale.

Suddenly the dream that was inches away from becoming Meerkat’s reality was ripped away and handed to Periscope. Twitter cutoff Meerkat’s access to user accounts and within a moments hesitation millions of users emigrated from Meerkat to Periscope. Now, adding insult to near mortal injury, Facebook is rolling out it's own livestreaming service to users dubbed Facebook Live. Between Twitter’s 300 million users and Facebook’s 1.2 billion, there simply isn’t enough room in sandbox for Meerkat to play.

So sadly, less than a year from it's SXSW coming out party, Meerkat has announced publically announced it's plan to abandon livestreaming and pivot to a high bred service of social networking and video conferencing. Pivot is one of the most bittersweet words in business, it means surrendering to the whim of the marketplace and moving on from an initial goal all while retaining a touch of dignity as you aren’t in such dire straits requiring a business to collapse.

Pivoting is a parachute of sorts for the startup industry of technology. Foursquare, at one time a goliath of location based social networking, has been trying to pivot for over a year to a social Yelp-like service. Sony once the king of premium media electronics decided in the early 2000s to pivot to consumer grade device making and is now attempting to pivot back to premium status. Even Twitter, the original SXSW tech champion, is enduring a minor crisis of user abandonment is looking to pivot to something beyond microblogging.
Still the concern is pivoting is not easy in many cases looks desperate. Sony, Twitter, Foursqaure, these companies are at varying stages of sink or swim mode. It's obvious Meerkat wants to continue swimming, but there’s no guarantee it won’t sink before achieving the dream of social media nobility.

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


Popular Posts