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PHOTO: Gene Bakner

Twitter announced it will shut down the video streaming app Periscope in March 2021. In its announcement on Medium, the Periscope team explained the decision came from declining usage, product realignment, and a desire to eliminate the expense of app maintenance. The news marks a milestone for video adoption in social media. 

Periscope's Fleeting Success 

Periscope was launched in 2015. It, along with Vine and Meerkat, represented video streaming applications that operated outside of the major social media platform. Periscope users create a profile similar to that of Twitter. The app accessed the user's smartphone camera to livestream video to followers. Viewing followers can send "hearts" during the broadcast to show appreciation.

Periscope initially received a lot of attention, gaining 10 million visitors within 4 months of launch according to Wikipedia.  Like many other apps, it changed how people viewed and engaged with their media. For example, some critics were upset that people could livestream a pay-per-view event, circumventing viewing fees.  Other entertainment venues, like the NFL, became early adopters, streaming unique programs on Periscope.

The discontinuation of Periscope highlights how far video adoption has come. As other social media platforms introduced video capabilities, dedicated livestreaming apps became redundant, drawing fewer users and engagement over time. Vine, which Twitter bought a few years before Periscope, was eliminated in 2019.  Meerkat saw an even more astonishing end, replaced within a year of its launch by another app.  Its replacement, Houseparty, was not as widely adopted.

Despite lasting longer in the market, many of Periscope's features were incorporated into Twitter, drawing users away from the app. The Periscope team noted that the technical debt to support its structure rose, increasing its operational costs. The team had looked to discontinue the app earlier in 2020 but postponed any final decisions due to disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related Article: From Broadcasting to Engagement: My Twitter Journey in 3 Phases

Part of a Broader Twitter Strategy

The decision also represents a part of a strategy for Twitter to streamline its features and capabilities. The end result is a more convenient experience for users, making Twitter a central go-to app for communication. An integration that shares tweets in Snapchat Stories has been rolled out to Twitter users who use their mobile app on Apple iPhone. Twitter users select the Snapchat icon in the share menu, extending the audience who can view a tweet. Another integration, tweets on Instagram, is forthcoming.

Another aspect to keep in mind is the maturity of the current successful social media platforms. Thus, consolidation among platforms to strengthen operations is understandable. For example, marketers have seen consolidation of social media measurement solutions over the years, such as the high profile discontinuation of Klout, which I covered in a 2018 post

Related Article: How to Tell if Twitter Is Right for Your Brand

Livestreaming Isn't Going Anywhere 

So how does livestreaming work in Twitter? Twitter users access video streaming through their smartphones by tapping on the camera icon in the tweet composer, and then tapping the live selector at the bottom of the screen. They also have the option of putting a description that will appear as a tweet describing the stream. Livestream users can also invite guest before going live. Doing so allows a small audience for a broadcast to form, beneficial for establishing an ongoing livestreaming schedule.

Instagram and YouTube have also adopted many streaming features that the dedicated livestream platforms carried, making them Twitter's main competitors in the livestreaming space. When you add TikTok, podcasts, and video services like Netflix to the mix, you can see how livestreaming will be a highly competitive fight for user attention, especially for a world weary of their pandemic-induced extended time at home.

So, the spirit of Periscope livestreams will live on in Twitter.  Periscope will be removed from the app stores on March 31. Current users can download their streams and responses until that time.