Meerkat is a carnivorous mongoose native to Africa, but if you've been within ten metres of a Twitter account the last two weeks, this little guy's name has been appropriated for something else entirely: a new iOS app, hard lined straight into Twitter, that brings live streaming to the social network. So what exactly is it, and why all the buzz?
The app is painfully simple. After connecting Meerkat with your Twitter account, you've got two options: stream and schedule. Stream lets you immediately broadcast live straight from your camera to the internet. Schedule, well, that seems self-explanatory. You also have "following" and "followers" just like Twitter.
Once streaming, you can slowly watch people trickle into your feed, and whatever replies they share on Twitter is channelled directly into your livestream, so you can see what people are saying. As long as someone has your link, they can view your stream on an iPhone or desktop. It's as simple as that.
After tinkering around with Meerkat on my colleague Meg Neal's iPhone and accidentally posting several livestreams to her Twitter (sorry), Meerkat feels like a social media blessing and a curse, depending on what type of person you are.
If you're always doing fun stuff and you thrive on Twitter attention, Meerkat is software mana from the gods. If you have friends or co-workers who sit next to you named Ashley Feinberg who livestreams you without permission, you will curse Meerkat's very existence.
Whatever side of the fence you see yourself on, it's undeniable that Meerkat fills a need that Twitter, as of now, has left vacant.
Right now, the app is an idea shoved out into the social media world with a sort of "here, do what you want" intention, and no one is exactly sure what to make of it. The few Meerkat videos I have discovered have been of pets, people saying "isn't this weird? Yeah, this is weird, right?" or just dead streams entirely. I can only assume that porn and dick vids are on the way, or already here in the dark recesses of the Twittersphere where I dare not tread.
In other words, it's all new. Whether or not Meerkat will be the latest flash in the pan or survive this early hype period to become a social media mainstay (remember Ello?) is unclear, but what is clear is that Twitter will adopt livestreaming in some form. Especially after the company reportedly talked with Periscope, a streaming app similar to Meerkat.
No word yet if meerkats will sue for unlawful use of their likeness.