Meerkat says Twitter block is just a 'speed bump'

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Despite being blocked by Twitter from accessing its social graph, the founder of live-streaming service Meerkat, Ben Rubin, says he has no hard feelings towards the social network, and plans to forge ahead with or without them, calling the lockdown “just a speed bump”.

Meerkat integrates closely with Twitter, automatically announcing that a users’ stream is beginning by sending a tweet. It also streamlines account creation by letting new users sign in with the social network. But on Friday, the network blocked Meerkat’s access to its social graph, the data which shows who follows who on Twitter.

Without access to the graph, it’s impossible for Meerkat to offer the service it previously did, automatically following all of a user’s friends from Twitter who are also on the app.

But Rubin says that the view in the press, that Twitter’s move could be a fatal blow, is inaccurate.

“We never wanted to build a graph on top of Twitter,” he explained onstage at the South by South West (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas. Instead, Twitter was chosen because its real-time nature makes it perfect for the app’s needs, particularly the difficulty in making live-streaming on the go a conventional activity.

“We definitely knew that Twitter would be upset at some point. We didn’t know that Twitter would buy in another company in the space, [nor] that they would do it so soon,” he explained. Now, “it’s just a little bit harder for us to build a community around new uses. We’ve already put some solutions in place.”

Before blocking off the access to the social graph, Twitter and Meerkat had a cordial relationship. The way the app treats commenting initially triggered Twitter’s anti-spam mechanism, but Rubin says that “they worked with us making sure that” those problems were fixed. And earlier this week, he told the Guardian that “they know that our intentions are good. They will play fair as long as we play fair.”

Part of the reason Twitter’s lockdown came so suddenly is because it bought another live video streaming service, called Periscope, and began enforcing policies that prevent the social graph from being used by direct competitors.

It’s there that a note of annoyance does enter Rubin’s voice. “The policy of twitter is that you can have the graph but you cannot resell it and you can’t use it in a competitive way. What we didn’t know is that we’re competing against them because they bought a company in the space.

“They call it internal policy, which is funny because what is ‘internal policy’? Policies should be external when you’re working with developers.

“But at the same time it just proved how significant Meerkat has become.”

Meerkat’s rise has been astronomical. The app, which lets anyone stream video of themselves live to the internet, launched just 16 days ago – and on Saturday it gained its 100,000th user. Rubin also revealed that the number of clicks on links to Meerkat streams is now in the hundreds of millions, and that the app has a small number of hardcore users who watch a seemingly absurd amount of video: more than 20% of the people on Meerkat watch more than two hours a day; 8% watch three hours a day, and 4% watch four hours of video every day, according to Rubin.

But the potential for growth in the streaming video market is a large part of the reason why he doesn’t take Twitter playing hardball to heart.

“Put Meerkat aside: there’s not going to be one winner in this space. So we don’t look at it as a rival. In fact, we’re very happy to see a big company moving in this space.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Alex Hern, for theguardian.com on Monday 16th March 2015 17.13 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010