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Meerkat Drifts Further From Twitter, Cozies Up to Facebook Instead

Meerkat is tapping into Facebook's social graph to help grow its user base.


Meerkat has a new friend.

The livestreaming app that took off around South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, earlier this year, is distancing itself from Twitter, the company Meerkat initially depended on to sign up new users and help them find people to follow. Instead, Meerkat is turning its attention to Facebook in the hope of fueling growth.

Meerkat no longer requires users to sign up with a Twitter account, offering them the option to use a Facebook account instead. Perhaps more importantly, if you connect your Facebook account to Meerkat, it will automatically connect you with all of your Facebook friends already on the app. In other words, it’s tapping into Facebook’s social graph just a few months after Twitter blocked Meerkat from accessing its graph in favor of its own livestreaming service, Periscope.

For Page owners — a.k.a. brands and celebrities — this means anyone following your updates on Facebook will also follow your Meerkat account, according to CEO Ben Rubin. For publishers with massive Facebook followings, like CNN or BuzzFeed, that could mean thousands if not millions more followers overnight.

It’s not the only update Meerkat launched on Wednesday. The company also unveiled a feature called Cameo, which allows a broadcaster to hand over its stream to a follower for 60 seconds at a time. For example, a celebrity doing a Q&A on the service could actually select people watching to appear on the feed and ask their question over video instead. When a user takes over a stream, their followers will be notified and encouraged to tune in, another attempt by Meerkat to get people watching.

It’s a lot of news for Meerkat, which has been somewhat overshadowed by Periscope ever since Twitter choked off its social graph earlier this spring. Rubin admits that the move hurt Meerkat’s growth, but says that people are spending more and more time watching live broadcasts with each passing month. He wouldn’t talk about total users, but believes the Facebook integration could help increase that “time spent” metric, especially if it gives bigger publishers more incentive to publish.

Facebook seems to be interested in Meerkat. A few weeks back, Rubin tweeted that the social network was polling its users on how they use Meerkat, and Facebook had to approve Meerkat’s request to have users auto-follow the Pages they’ve liked. “Facebook has been very nice and we have friends there that are helping us,” Rubin told Re/code. “They’ve been supportive and very transparent.”

As we noted before, the partnership is interesting in that it seems to imply Facebook is not building its own livestreaming product. If it were, it probably wouldn’t be so helpful to Meerkat. There’s also a chance that the social network is taking Meerkat for a test drive before an acquisition bid. Facebook has never been good at spurring conversation around live events the way Twitter does, so a service like Meerkat could help with that.

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