At any moment, you can open up Meerkat and start live-streaming a video from your smartphone, available for anyone to watch. Thanks to its popularity at SXSW and the backing of several big Hollywood players, the app just announced that it's receiving $14 million in funding.
Awesome right? Well, just hold on a second. Despite it's meteoric rise, Meerkat now has a major competitor. Twitter, the site that Meerkat has piggy-backed off of to gain popularity, has announced their own live-streaming app called Periscope, available right now for free on the iOS App Store (Android version to follow).
Similar to Meerkat, you can watch and create your own live streams through Periscope, but it differs in that you can go back and watch these videos after they've gone down, something that Meerkat can't offer.
Logging into Periscope is straightforward—it's a Twitter-owned app so you simply log in using your Twitter account. As is usual with any social media app, Periscope will offer a myriad of suggested users to follow the first time you log in, ranging from popular users to those you follow on Twitter.
Once you finish the process of following people, you can get to the action. On your timeline, you'll see a grid of video previews as well as smaller blocks of text, all of which are live streaming videos.
Swipe down on the screen to refresh the page—you'll see different first-person perspectives every time. My first time using the app, I was able to view what was going on inside Twitter HQ, what some Mashable writers were up to, someone fighting two robots, and a chef cooking.
Inside of a live-streaming video, you'll be able to view the user streaming the video, the location where the video is being shot, and you'll also have the ability to share the broadcast with friends and family.
By swiping up the menu at the bottom, you can view more details about the live stream, such as how many viewers are currently watching. If you swipe right, you can leave a comment which will briefly show on the right side of the video for everyone to see. Finally, you can double-tap on the video to show some love.
If live video in the palm of your hand isn't enough, Periscope one-ups Meerkat in that you can replay any live video that's been streamed, at any time. When a Meerkat link goes dead, you can never view that video again—not so with Periscope.
Instead, you can go back and watch any video that has been live streamed, as long as the original poster doesn't post the broadcast as private. Either do it through the bottom of the Watch timeline or by going to "View All Recent Broadcasts." You can then hit play to watch the video.
Capturing your own footage for a live stream is easy as can be—just tap on the broadcast button at the bottom (in the middle), enable the camera, microphone, and location, and you're ready to go.
Give your broadcast a title and decide whether you want your location tagged, if you want the video to be private, and if you want it shared to your Twitter account for others to click on and view.
Once you start a broadcast, you'll be able to see who's viewing your video and whether or not they like the broadcast or have any thoughts through a comment. At the end of your recording, you can choose to save your video and check out statistics such as total viewers and view retention.
Unlike Vine or Instagram, Meerkat and Periscope provide something that's been lacking in social media—live video. Instead of getting news shortly after it has happened, you can be inside of it as it's happening. Be there when an event happens, when a fight occurs, and while a play unfolds.
Best of all, everything is uncensored, so you don't have to watch the watered-down, subjective version of events that the news will feed you.
It just boggles my mind that I can watch events around the world unfold in real time directly on my iPhone. Thanks to Periscope, Meerkat, and these sort of apps, I'm pretty excited for the future of live streaming. How 'bout you?