The teardown of a 50-plus-year-old ice cream plant across from Network World's Framingham, Mass., headquarters today practically screamed to be live streamed via Twitter's new Periscope app for the iPhone. So I took my iPhone 5 into the parking lot during lunch and brought the action live to a whoever happened to stumble across it.
I actually did the same thing last week with last week's hot live streaming app, Meerkat the one that really took off in Austin at the SXSW event and that everyone was worried Twitter was going to cut down at the knees so that its new Periscope acquisition might flourish. (Though note that this kat doesn't have just one life Greylock Partners, some Hollywood types and others have just sunk millions into the venture.)
I won't attempt to give you a truly in-depth review of the free Periscope app, but I can give you a quick-and-dirty one based on my tooling around with it today (Lance Ulanoff at Mashable got early access to the app and runs through his testing of it if you're looking for all the gory details). One thing Ulanoff points out is that Twitter probably would have held off rolling out Periscope a while longer if Meerkat hadn't taken off, but as both he and I can attest, the standalone Periscope app seems pretty much ready for action right now.
Periscope is well integrated with the microblogging platform. When you first load the app you are required to hook it up to a Twitter account, and then you'll be offered the chance to sync up with people you follow on Twitter via Periscope as well. The Periscope app also suggests an assortment of movers and shakers to follow on the app, and lets you otherwise scroll through the most recent video streams, many of which are called "Untitled," but others of which have intriguing titles such as "Will he get electrocuted" and "A pint in Dublin."
Among those bigshots already using the app are T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who is never one to shy away from a camera. As Legere shows in a video upon arriving at the carrier's Salem, Ore., call center, you can use periscope to aim your camera in front of you or on yourself.
As for creating a livestream with Perisciope, it's simple and intuitive. You start by clicking on a camera icon, which brings up a screen labeled Broadcast Now. There, you are invited to type in a few words about what you'll be showing. My debut stream boasted the hefty headline: "Sealtest ice cream factory being razed to make way for fancy fitness club across from Network World office in Framingham." Hey, I wanted to let people know what they were getting into.
A red button then appears inviting you to Start Broadcast after you give permission for the app to access your camera, mic and location.
You can keep the stream private among certain Twitter followers or let it all hang out. You end the broadcast by swiping down on the app, something that wasn't immediately apparent to me.
One other rookie mistake I made was not to click on the little Twitter birdie icon just before starting my broadcast. As a result, a Tweet never went out informing my followers that I was about to begin a Periscope livestream. I re-did the stream a couple of hours later, and did hit the icon, but this time I got an error message from Periscope at the top of the screen warning me about problems with my Twitter post (nevertheless, a couple dozen people found it, with some sprinkling the video with little hearts of approval). So I tried one more time, and the third time was indeed the charm, as you can see here. And this time, more than 30 people were treated to the stream, including those from places as far away as Denmark and the Dominican Republic.
If you weren't among the lucky few dozen that caught the live stream from my @Alphadoggs Twitter account or on Periscope itself, be aware that a replay of "Meltidown! 50-yr-old ice cream factory being razed to make way for fancy fitness facility" is available for 24 hours -- and that clock is ticking! Periscope live stream creators can choose to allow a replay or not. Meerkat, by comparison, doesn't give you that option, but does let the person who created the stream save it on their own device (I did you the favor of capturing that video on Instagram as well).
As various reviewers (including the Verge) have noted, Periscope was in the works longer than Meerkat and is much slicker in appearance and use. Though Meerkat does have features that separate it, including a game-ified leaderboard and the ability to run the app on the iPad.
Android users, if you're feeling a little left out, you can give leave it to the iOS users to work out the kinks. Android versions of both apps are said to be in the works.