Periscope
Meerkat

Twitter Buys Live Streaming App Periscope

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If you looked at this week’s sudden Meerkat phenomenon and thought “hey, Twitter should buy this,” then you’re on the right track. According to sources we’ve spoken with, Twitter has been in talks to purchase live streaming app Periscope, which many private beta users have compared to Meerkat.

Update 3/13: Twitter today confirmed that it had acquired Periscope. Title updated to reflect the acquisition. Here’s our follow up story on how sources say Periscope works and how it’s different than Meerkat.

The talks are in early stages, but it’s clear that Periscope and Meerkat are doing similar things in a similar space. One source pegs a possible deal at around $100M, another source says the deal is worth a fraction of that. Live streaming on the backbone of the Twitter user graph is certainly intriguing, as the uptake of Meerkat has proven.

Periscope is a similar arrangement. It allows people to fire up live video wherever they are and broadcast it to allow people to watch it. The design is more ‘polished’ than Meerkat, which resembles Snapchat in its minimal — even roughshod — aesthetic. But the general principles are very similar.

It would be a natural fit for Twitter to acquire one of the apps in this space. It’s right in line with its real-time tentpole and feels inevitable. While much of Twitter’s efforts have been put toward ensuring that its bottom line benefits from users that don’t tweet, or even log into its service, offering core ‘creators’ a 1-to-many broadcast option a button away is certainly a no-brainer.

In many ways, a product like Periscope aligns with something like Apple’s FaceTime. It’s just video chat, which had been around for ages — but it’s the lubrication of that process that has made it so popular. When it’s institutionalized, in a platform like Snapchat, Facebook or Twitter, it becomes just another sharing option. If you’re one tap away from sharing a cool live experience, won’t you be more likely to try it out? Especially in a way that taps into the ephemerality and informality of Snapchat.

Over the past week I used Meerkat to stream a live roller coaster ride to around 30 people, which was a very interesting feeling. It had the same feel as a Twitch broadcast, but instead of a game, it was your life you were commentating. Periscope and Meerkat face the same challenges as any live-streaming product. There is a narrow window of opportunity for a live event, and it’s completely synchronous — unable to be consumed out of line with its creation. That’s both compelling and limiting. Live video like this seems like it would be incredibly difficult to scale, but that’s not a problem if you already have scale and you just want to leverage it in a new way.

Now is the right time for something like this to be a part of Twitter for a variety of reasons. High-bandwidth, mobile cellular networks are far more prevalent than ever before, as are powerful mobile devices with great cameras. There is also Twitter’s history of facilitating transparency in events like the Arab Spring, the Ferguson protests in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown and many others. Live video streaming would be a boon to activists, reporters and documentarians.

We have reached out to Twitter and Periscope and will update if we receive a response.

This story updated with more pricing details and disclosure.

Disclosure: Alexia owns less than 500 shares each of Twitter, Yahoo, and Aol stock.