Both apps have netted exposure to the world at large. Meerkat received some prestige from celebrity early adopters including Jimmy Fallon, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and some weirdly game politicians like Jeb Bush and Newt Gingrich.
Periscope has gotten a boost thanks to some celebrity backers of its own. The Twitter-owned service also benefitted from a tragic explosion in New York City during which half the tech community bravely set aside their humanity and talked about how amazing technology is while 30 people were injured and many more terrified by a partial building collapse.
These apps feel like big things, like they matter. And there’s no question that Meerkat and Periscope will serve important purposes going forward. Even though live streaming isn’t new, it’s never been this easy. But does anyone outside of the obsessive tech community truly even care?
According to Twitter analytics tool Topsy, Periscope generated a buzz of about 51,000 tweets on the day of its launch and has collected nearly 111,000 mentions over the past month—mostly in the last few days. Meerkat has been steadily climbing since its launch and has accumulated over 200,000 tweets, though it’s yet to peak past 23,000 in a single day.Those aren’t small figures...until you compare it to things that really get traction. Add the 6 million tweets strong hashtag #AlwaysInOurHeartsZaynMalik, powered to the top of the trending category by teen angst caused by a member of One Direction leaving the band, and the streaming apps might as well not exist: And that’s just people talking about the two services (give or take a few tweets about actual meerkats and the small but surely strong presence of real periscope aficionados). Dig in to who’s using it and the numbers shrink.
Since both Meerkat and Periscope host the actual stream on external sites, a search for mentions of meerkatapp.co and periscope.tv—along with the respective default text that gets tweeted out to alert the world that there’s something to watch—reveals a rough estimate of how many people are actually broadcasting on these apps.On the day of Periscope’s launch, the apps had a nearly identical number of broadcasters going live, both hovering near 20,000. That’s great and also next to no one at all.
Facebook claims to have 745 million daily active users on mobile alone. 70 million pictures are posted on Instagram a day. That’s just the big players. The someone still in existence social network Path has 5 million daily users. Myspace manages 50 million monthly users who bother to log in and watch a digital tumbleweed roll across their screen.
According to statistics gathered by App Annie, Meerkat hasn’t cracked the top 200 in the iTunes App Store and sits at 25 in top social networking apps in the United States. Periscope gets a boost by being newer, but it’s barely inside the top 100 overall apps and 12th in social networking.
Even with all of the momentum in the world, Meerkat isn’t even the top rated free social networking app with a cat as its mascot. That honor belongs to Talking Tom for Messenger, a Facebook Messenger add-on app that allows users to record animated shorts with talking animals. (Yes, I know meerkats are a member of the Herpestidae family and not felidae, back away from the comment section.) There are games you’ve never heard of, services you’ve never used, and apps dedicated to nothing but producing fart noises that have more downloads and users than Meerkat and Periscope do. These apps are great and present interesting possibilities, even if they edge use a little closer to an Orwellian existence. But at the moment, they’re not as big as we’re telling ourselves.
Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III