Meerkat story: how to take off using a third-party platform and suffer from it
The Meerkat app has become one of the most talked-about startups in recent weeks, generating a wave of interest in video streaming via mobile devices. However, it is interesting in one more respect: his example shows that tightly linking your service with a popular foreign product can be both the most important competitive advantage and the Achilles heel.
Meerkat was actively discussed at the beginning of March: a mobile application that allows you to easily broadcast what is happening around, was gaining momentum with gigantic speed. Whereby? In part, the right moment has come: the spread of LTE Internet and the improvement of cameras in smartphones have reached the point where it is possible to conduct high-quality broadcasts on the go. However, services for this have existed for years - why did they suddenly get around a newbie?
The success of Meerkat is explained by how closely the creator of the application linked it to Twitter. The idea was this: users log in using their Twitter accounts; they automatically subscribe there to the same people they follow on Twitter; when the user starts broadcasting, the application automatically publishes a tweet about it, and viewers comment on what is happening on Twitter replays. Twitter is known as a platform for what is “happening right now”: when something amazing happens before a user’s eyes, he writes a tweet about it, not a Facebook post. When the user gets the opportunity, as if in the same service, to show this to everyone in real time, this combination feels very natural. The ideology of projects combines well: both of them try not to cram as many functions as possible into the interface,
As a result, when Meerkat began to rapidly gain popularity, the two services began to seem like the perfect combination. Many people started talking about the fact that Twitter should buy Meerkat on its own and make it its part. But even if he doesn’t buy it, it’s obvious that he should be very happy with the project, which makes people use Twitter more actively, right?
It turned out not so. Looking at what was happening, Twitter really bought the video streaming application the other day - but not Meerkat, but a similar project Periscope, which is in beta. And then, a few hours after the announcement of this purchase, he limited the possibilities of Meerkat: now through the application you can’t automatically subscribe to all your Twitter friends. The very connection due to which the new project took off was partially destroyed. This does not make Meerkat pointless, but limits growth opportunities.
The project’s founder does not despair and intends to act briskly on. However, in a situation where Twitter will implement its own solution for the same purposes and will obviously play along with its own version, the future is in great question. In part, we already went through this with photographs: when Twitter did not have its own photo hosting, users willingly resorted to third-party projects to post pictures there, and now they don’t even remember about them.
Although it is still unclear how the Meerkat story will end, it has already become indicative in two respects at once. On the one hand, it shows how a startup can get rapid growth, "sitting on the tail" of a larger project. On the other hand, it is clear that this inevitably makes the project dependent on a large one, and a sad fate may turn out to be a foregone conclusion by a giant’s decision that cannot be influenced.