A child peers through a submarine periscope
PHOTO: Adobe
Down Periscope: Livestreaming App Shut by Twitter

In December 2020, Twitter announced plans to shut down its video streaming-focused Periscope app. Periscope was pulled from app stores, and the platform formally shut its doors on March 31, 2021. In its announcement on Medium, the Periscope team explained the decision was caused by several factors:

  • A fall in usage
  • Product realignment
  • A desire to eliminate the expense of app maintenance

The news signaled the end of an era and was a milestone for video streaming and social media.

The Periscope App's Fleeting Success

Kayvon Beykpour and Joe Bernstein founded Periscope in 2014. It, along with Vine and Meerkat, represented video streaming applications that operated outside the major social media platforms. Periscope users created a profile similar to that of Twitter. The app accessed the user's smartphone camera to livestream video to followers. Viewers could send "hearts" during the broadcast to show appreciation.

Periscope received a lot of attention upon its launch, gaining 10 million visitors within 4 months 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 pay-per-view events, circumventing viewing fees. Other entertainment venues, such as the NFL, became early adopters, streaming unique programs on Periscope.

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

Teleporting Viewers Into the Moment

Beykpour came up with the idea for Periscope in 2013 when he was traveling in Istanbul. While on his trip, protests broke out in Taksim Square. He turned to Twitter to find out what was going on. That's when he realized that while he could read about the protests, he couldn't see them. Smartphones were near-ubiquitous then, so the technology existed for people to record videos, there was just no practical platform to share them on.

Beykpour worked with friend and co-founder Bernstein to produce the live-streaming platform that became known as Periscope. They joked that the platform was a "teleportation service." Periscope allowed people to share what was happening around them at that moment with anyone in the world.

It didn't take long for the startup to attract interest from bigger social media companies. Just 11 months after Periscope was founded, and before it had formally launched, Twitter purchased the platform in an estimated deal worth between $75 million and $100 million.

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

The End of an Era

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, Twitter incorporated many of Periscope's features into the Twitter app, drawing users away. 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 the final decision due to disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the Twitter team announced plans to close the platform, they explained that it had been in an unsustainable maintenance-mode state for some time. By the time the announcement was made, most users had migrated away from the platform.

Part of a Broader Twitter Strategy

Twitter’s decision to close the Periscope app was a part of a broader strategy to streamline its features. Its aim is to offer a more convenient experience for users, making Twitter a single go-to app for communication.

The same month Twitter announced the end of Periscope, it launched an integration with Snapchat which allowed Twitter users on the mobile app on iPhone to share tweets in Snapchat. The company promised integration with Android devices at the time, but as of this writing, it is still unavailable. Twitter also introduced a similar integration with Instagram in June 2021, once again for iOS app users only, which allows tweets to be shared in Instagram Stories.

Consolidation among platforms to strengthen operations is an understandable move. Social media isn't the only technology niche to go through regular consolidations. Marketers have seen a consolidation of social media measurement solutions over the years too. One recent high-profile example was the discontinuation of Klout, as covered in a 2018 post.

Livestreaming Isn't Going Anywhere

So how does livestreaming work on Twitter? Twitter users can access video streaming through their smartphones by tapping the camera icon in the tweet composer, then selecting “go live.”

When a Twitter user does this, they'll have the option of putting a description that will appear as a tweet describing the stream. Livestream users can also invite guests before going live. Doing so allows a small audience for a broadcast to form, which can help to establish 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. Rather than developing a new tool for live video, Twitter took the route of improving what it offered on its own platform.

So many platforms compete for user attention today. On top of the social platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, we have video services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, all vying for the increasingly limited hours in a person’s day.

The spirit of Periscope livestreams will live on as part of Twitter, even if its closure went unnoticed by today’s social media users.