A new social app, Meerkat, was introduced at the SXSW (South by South West) conference in Austin TX last week.  I discovered it through a tweet by Mashable who was using it at the conference to give a virtual tour.  Since then, I have checked in occasionally and experienced a live bike tour through the San Francisco water front and  a walk through New York in the recent snow storm.  It is essentially a moving webcam with sound.  It only runs on iOS devices and is one-way video.  That is, the person hosting the video can show what they want, but viewers only participate through text messages that appear on the screen for other viewers to see.

It is works with Twitter for users to post the link to the Meerkat session and uses Twitter account for the viewers to login.  Viewers’ Twitter icons appear in a scrollable horizontal stream at the top of the screen.  Touching an icon shows the Twitter user’s account name and short description that you normally see in Twitter.

Each Meerkat broadcaster has a score which appears to be related to the number of users that follow them in Twitter multiplied by the time they broadcast plus some factor of the number of real-time viewers.  They are displayed on a Leaderboard screen by this score.  At the present moment, the Leaderboard shows Mashable with the lead with jsneedles in hot pursuit, both with scores over 60,000.  Jeff Needles who is a producer at TWIT.tv is on a 24 hour Meerathon to try and become #1.  Notable other high scorers are Jimmy Fallon who shows his daily rehearsal and Guy Kawasaki who is promoting his new book. Jimmy, with his millions of users, does not need to be on very long for a high score, but Jeff with about 800 users needs the time accumulation.  KARE11 was also Meerkatting some of their news broadcasts the last few days but I haven’t seen anything today.  You could see the studio and off-air talk during commercials.

Any Twitter user can setup a Meerkat session which is suggested to be scheduled with a tweet to their followers.  If you fire up the Meerkat app, you will see some of the sessions in progress on the main screen. This seems like a little random or maybe being modified.  When I first connected to Mashable, I saw a list of about 6 more. Recently, I see primarily the ones that I follow.

Meerkat has its own Like list which you select from the Leaderboard and then can edit from your own profile.  When they first started about a month ago, they were using the Twitter “social graph”and were growing very fast.  Twitter recently bought a similar company/product named Periscope and cut Meerkat off.  Meerkat can still use Twitter for login credentials and promotion through tweets and probably will expand their services in future updates.  Expect Twitter to bring Periscope online to compete.

I discovered that when you click on a link like  in Twitter or Tweetbot which I use on my iPhone. you go to a web page showing the Meerkat session.  The screen shows the session apparently without adding you to the list of viewers.  You don’t have to download the Meerkat app.  I am not sure if you have to register through this mode since I found this after I had already registered through my Twitter account.  Meerkat appears in the iOS Settings for Twitter access.  You can also find sessions by searching for #meerkat in Twitter.

There is also a web site http://meerkatroulette.com that will show you a random Meerkat session from which you can switch to other sessions.  This best done on an iPhone since Meerkat is formatted for a portrait display.

Note that Meerkat sessions are not saved on their web site but are saved on the broadcasters device and could be posted somewhere later.  I haven’t tried broadcasting myself but it may have some use for our user group.

jsneedles is closing in on Mashable and may be #1 when you read this.

Please comment if you learn anything more or if I got anything wrong.