What is it about us that makes us do weird things on new apps? Just two days into the launch of the new live streaming app Periscope and showing off the contents of our fridge to thousands of strangers around the Internet is a thing. The hashtags #fridgeview and #showusyourfridge regularly pop up during live streaming events on Periscope.
This is a phenomenon that does not seem to exist on Periscope’s live streaming rival Meerkat, but the two share another common theme – streams of the mundane. I watched a guy show off his pineapple in the early days of Meerkat (meaning a couple of weeks ago). Over 700 people tuned in as this guy described a pineapple on his counter for several minutes. I have no idea why that many people were on the stream. Perhaps they were like me – they were waiting for there to be more to it than that.
Twitter went off in a similar food-themed direction as it started to gain in popularity. For some odd reason the prompt to answer “what are you doing?” on the site led people to tweet out what they had for breakfast.
Early tweets were even more mundane, beginning with Jack Dorsey’s now infamous, “Just setting up my twttr.” Long before the Arab Spring and other prominent news events, we were in a trying to figure this thing out phase.
We’re now in that same exploratory phase with live streaming, according to Meerkat founder Ben Rubin.
“When we were kids we had photos but we didn’t know what life stream (he emphasized that he calls it “life stream” and not live stream) was…so we didn’t have the tools yet to understand what’s a good life stream. When live video comes it’s still into an exploratory phase. We’re in an exploratory phase,” he said.
We’re in an exploratory phase. Ben Rubin, Meerkat founder
But why the contents of our refrigerator? “It says a lot about you, doesn’t it?” Rubin said. He then proceeded to FaceTime me on the phone and show me the near-empty contents of his own fridge. There was some juice, what looked like cottage cheese, a half stick of butter and not much else. “As you can see, I’m busy,” he said.
For Rubin the idea of a live streamed pineapple doesn’t have to be boring, either. “Done right, it can be hilarious,” he said.
Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover compares people’s odd Periscope and Meerkat mannerisms to the early days of Uber Pool and Lyft Line. “The social rules weren’t established then. You weren’t sure when you got in the car if you should talk to the other person.”
We’re still figuring the rules out with live streaming, according to Hoover. He says memes like the contents of your fridge are something that smooths the awkwardness and brings us together. “This whole fridge thing, it’s sort of this insider club that only certain people know about and it gives everyone a commonality,” Hoover said.
Of course it’s not just about overcoming awkward social moments with each other. Both apps have some serious potential to empower citizen journalists and upend live television broadcasting as well. We already saw Periscope flex its broadcast muscle on the first day of its launch last week when hundreds of users live streamed a building explosion in New York City’s East Village.
It’s early days for both apps and, like the early days of telling people what we are doing on Twitter, it may take us a while. In the meantime, there seems to be no end to dogs, cats and the contents of everyone’s fridge.