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Twitter puts a damper on up-and-coming video app Meerkat

So far, the video app Meerkat seemed on the way to the next startup fairy tale: 120,000 users in two weeks, attention from influential technology blogs. Now the creators wanted to make it big at the "South by Southwest" festival, which is popular with the Internet elite. But on Friday the setback came: The short message service TwitterTwitter, on whose platform Meerkat is based, cut off the video app's access to important data about the social environment of Twitter users. Interestingly, Twitter officially announced the takeover of Meerkat competitor Periscope just a few hours beforehand. Everything about Twitter on

Meerkat - English for "meerkat", the animal is also adorned with the logo - is an app that can be used to transmit live videos from a smartphone. One reason for the rapid growth is likely to be its simplicity: the transfer can be started with just one click. Then a link to the live stream is sent to all of the user's Twitter subscribers. You can also announce upcoming broadcasts in advance.

The fact that Meerkat became a whiz kid may come as a surprise - there are already plenty of apps for live video. "Live streaming apps like Ustream, Livestream or Bambuser are almost as old as the iPhone itself," said the German journalist and blogger Richard Gutjahr, who broadcasts with Meerkat from "South by Southwest" from Austin (Texas). The functions have never been implemented so consistently and without frills: "One push of a button and you're on the air."

Meerkat is based on Twitter's developer platform Fabric, which is supposed to link other apps with the short message service. The video service picked up the information on Twitter about who was following whom on the short message service and transferred this social environment to its own platform. Meerkat saved users the hassle of maintaining their contacts in the app themselves, which made the experience even smoother.

At the same time, Meerkat was able to send information about video streams from contacts on the Twitter network. After Twitter cut the link, it will be a bit more difficult, at least for new Meerkat users, to hear transmissions. At the same time, the functionality for previous members is completely retained.

The restrictions were due to internal rules, a Twitter spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal, among others. The links to the live streams will still be sent via Twitter. And you can still log in with your Twitter account.

The restrictions are only a small obstacle for his app, wrote co-founder Ben Rubin afterwards on Twitter. But it is "a sad day for the Twitter developer community". The short message service had already had disputes with providers of apps for Twitter use in recent years, including when it came to brand names.

4 / this is a small bump for meerkat - a product built in only 8 weeks by one person

- Ben Rubin (@benrbn) March 14, 2015

Even then, Twitter was accused of slowing down developers for their own business: The service earns its money with advertising such as paid tweets in the users' stream of messages. The ads usually do not appear in the apps.

Now the action against Meerkat coincides with the purchase of Periscope - an app whose service is not yet publicly available. At first it remained unclear why Twitter initially tolerated a rule violation by Meerkat when accessing user data for two weeks. According to a tweet from Periscope, the company has been working under the umbrella of Twitter since January. In media reports there was talk of a purchase price of $ 100 million.

You may have heard some news: It involves a blue bird. # YouCanGuessTheRest # WeJoinedTheFlockInJanuary # AreWeUsingThisRight # IsThisThingOn

- Periscope (@periscopeco) March 13, 2015

Meerkat was written by his co-founder Itai Danino in just eight weeks, explained the 27-year-old Rubin. The team now has eleven people. The idea arose from a disappointment: After a year or so, Danino had mothballed his video app "Yevvo", which had 400,000 registered users but little activity. At the same time, Meerkat relies on the technical infrastructure left over from Yevvo.

Meerkat is likely to get through the current Twitter crisis despite the damper, but the question of a business model remains. It is difficult to offer added value to a casual user, warned the founder of the forerunner, Justin Kan, on the tech blog "The Verge". Kan eventually switched to broadcasting video game events with the Twitch service, and Amazon bought this service for almost a billion dollars.

Journalist Gutjahr definitely sees potential for change in the media industry. "Meerkat comes with the right offer at the right time," he said. "Today video has to be live, unvarnished and direct." Quality is secondary. "This immediacy creates closeness in a way that would never be possible on traditional television." (dpa / tc)