Media & Entertainment

Periscope sunk without Twitter’s wings

Comment

Periscope’s app is slipping beneath the waves. It has steadily dropped from No. 23 on the overall iOS app charts in January to No. 441 this weekend. Now Twitter is adding Periscope’s live streaming abilities to its own app, something it should have done from the start. Taking 21 months to build broadcasting into Twitter feels painfully slow, considering the fast-moving live-stream market and Twitter’s insistence that live video is its future.

Twitter tried to operate its early 2015 acquisition of Periscope independently, the way Facebook successfully did with Instagram. However, there are fundamental differences that torpedoed Twitter and Periscope’s sovereignty plan while working swimmingly for Facebook and Instagram. Periscope deserved its own real estate, but that didn’t prohibit Twitter from building streaming into the tweet composer much sooner.

periscope-ios-app-charts

Here’s why Periscope and live streaming didn’t have the characteristics that benefited Instagram as an independent app:

No Existing Community: Periscope was acquired pre-launch by Twitter, so it had no user base to build on. Instagram had 30 million registered iOS users and 5 million on Android when Facebook bought it, though Facebook paid roughly 10X more for its acquisition.

No Similar Feature: Twitter had no live streaming option when it bought Periscope, but was ripe to become the natural home for real-time, see-it-as-soon-as-it’s-broadcast content. Facebook already had a thriving photography feature, but that was differentiated with an algorithmically sorted feed, so it made sense to run them distinctly.

Intense Competition: Periscope launched on the heels of Meerkat, which had already established itself as the pioneering mobile live-streaming app. Periscope looked almost identical, just slicker. And while Meerkat faded quickly, Facebook Live soon barged in, baked within Facebook’s wildly popular main app.

A Parent Company in Need: Facebook was thriving when it bought Instagram, having added around 200 million monthly users in the previous year to reach 900 million at the time. It had a winning formula it didn’t need to change. Twitter had added about 50 million monthly users in the year before buying Periscope to reach 302 million, and its growth was starting a long plateau. It could have used the extra firepower.

Not for Everyone: Everyone knew how to easily take and share photos on Instagram from the get-go, but there wasn’t a great dedicated mobile social network in which to do it, just creation tools like Hipstamatic and archives like Flickr. Instagram had room to win as a full-fledged social network. Live streaming was a relatively new concept many people still don’t understand; it takes a ton of effort and skill to do well, and most people don’t feel compelled to broadcast regularly. It proved difficult to institute itself as a must-have app.

periscope-twitterCombined, these factors signal part of why Periscope has failed to maintain momentum as an independent app.

Live streaming may have functioned better as a feature of Twitter, as well, or instead as a separate app, the way Facebook Live works. Twitter only added native viewing for Periscope streams this January, a button to open Periscope this May and broadcasting directly from Twitter today. By betting on a separate silo, Twitter squandered nearly two years when it couldn’t afford to take its time.

Instagram has grown to more than 500 million monthly users, while Periscope hasn’t announced a user count since reaching 10 million registered users in August 2015.

But Periscope’s download stats wouldn’t have mattered if it had been fully integrated into Twitter, with its own app as just a power-user interface. Instead, what would matter was total watch time of Periscopes. That hit 110 years per day in March, and the company hasn’t updated the stat since.

Hindscope is 20/20

Perhaps this independent structure was the only way Twitter could convince Periscope to come aboard via acquisition. But it was a costly compromise. At the very least, Twitter should have heavily integrated Periscope into its main app immediately or as soon as possible, not 21 months later as it did today.

Unfortunately, Twitter had only added video uploads at the start of 2015, and its infrastructure might not have been prepared for fully native live-streaming support. Twitter spent 2014 and 2015 mired in leadership changes and decision paralysis, hesitating to make important changes to its app in terms of Periscope and everything else. There were surely large engineering hurdles to this integration, but with more than 3,000 employees, the timetable seems sluggish and detrimental.

livevideo1
Twitter added a live-streaming option powered by Periscope to its main app today

With the right mandate of engineering resources, Twitter could have built Periscope-powered broadcasting into the tweet composer at launch or soon after, and added stream discovery to its… Discover tab. It could have simultaneously operated a separate Periscope app, with the dedicated broadcast browsing by category and location, search and stream management features it has today.

Instead, the already confusing-to-some Twitter product’s video offering was fragmented, with users having to maintain another social graph in another app with Periscope. It seems many people didn’t give the Twitter family an additional home screen slot for an activity too exhaustingly performative and foreign to use regularly.

In retrospect, Twitter may have been better off never acquiring Periscope and instead building its own native live-streaming feature. Or at least finding a more cohesive model for running the two apps in parallel.

Facebook Live, Periscope, and Meerkat (from left)
Facebook Live, Periscope and Meerkat (from left)

Now the question is whether Twitter can reinvigorate Periscope despite the competition, or have its own app carry the live-streaming torch, and whether the separate app will languish as a superfluous tool or if Twitter will shut down Periscope as a discrete product the way it announced it will do with Vine.

For now, at least, a Periscope spokesperson tells me, “There are no plans to shut down Periscope; the team will continue to invest in building out the app.” And today’s integration is a big step in the right direction.

Standalone apps can be great for focused user interfaces and unique branding, or as a hedge to a parent company’s longevity. But marooning a feature on a separate island without the population of the mainland can end up as a shipwreck.

More TechCrunch

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

23 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

1 day ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares