Outmatched by Twitter and Facebook, Meerkat steps away from live streaming

Meerkat may have effectively kicked off the current livestreaming boom, but it’s looking to switch gears.  

ReCode reported Friday that Meerkat plans on moving away from the open, public livestreaming that the company is known for, and instead will focus on other video-centric social networking features.

Although Meerkat continues to attract lots of viewers, CEO Ben Rubin told ReCode, the company is struggling to maintain an active userbase of streamers. The company also cited competition from larger social companies such as Twitter and Facebook as a reason for the switch.

“While live video has become an interesting feature on top of Twitter and Facebook, it hasn’t yet developed into a self-sustaining new network as we hoped we would do with Meerkat,” Rubin wrote in a memo to investors that Meerkat posted to its company blog. “All of these platforms are struggling to create repeat broadcasters at a growing rate and the viewership isn’t much higher today than we thought it was last summer.”

The story behind the story: Meerkat made a splash at last March’s SXSW conference, and for a short time, it was the talk of the tech world. It did not take long for others to hop on the livestreaming bandwagon, though: Later that month, Twitter bought Periscope, then reintroduced it as its own take on livestreaming. And earlier this year, Facebook rolled out its Facebook Live livestreaming feature to the masses, allowing anyone to stream live video to their Facebook friends.

What’s next for Meerkat

In its memo to investors, Meerkat explained that, even though it’s de-emphasizing open livestreaming, the company still sees value in it. In fact, Meerkat hinted at a new spin on the concept that focuses on streaming to smaller groups of friends, family members, and acquaintances.

“We found the best Meerkat moments happened when people who knew each other (either in person or online) came together live and interacted in realtime,” the company’s memo reads. “We saw this in the conversations when the threads would go on and on and on. We especially saw this in cameo when broadcasters were able to see their audience and interact in a more human way, people passed around the camera for a campfire chat session.”

Exactly what that means is anyone’s guess at this stage, but ReCode says that it “sounds more akin to Google Hangouts or Skype”—a comparison that seems apt to us. Meerkat isn’t saying when we can expect to see the new version of its social network, but in the meantime, you can still download the Meerkat livestreaming app for iOS and Android and take it for a spin.

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