What Is Periscope? What You Need To Know About Twitter's New App

Periscope is the new video streaming platform that is taking the social media world by storm.

(Image credit: Rex)

Periscope is the new video streaming platform that is taking the social media world by storm.

Social media is a fickle beast. Already, the likes of Bebo, MSN messenger and Myspace exist only in our web history and with thousands of social networking apps out there, we simply can’t get excited about every one. But with Persicope it’s a bit different - we have a feeling this one is here to stay.

The video streaming platform is owned by Twitter and has only been running for three months. In that time it has gained over two million users and will soon be jostling for airtime alongside your much loved Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts. So what’s it all about? Here’s everything you need to know about Periscope...

What is Periscope? And what does it do?

Periscope is a “live video streaming platform”, which basically means you can transmit a live recording of yourself to your Persicope and Twitter followers. Imagine Skyping someone, but instead of video calling a single person, you’re instead linked up to the whole community. Not only that, whoever’s watching you can comment and ask questions. These show up on your screen whilst broadcasting making it easy to answer and interact.

That sounds just like a webchat or Google Hangout…

It basically is. The big difference though is that it's designed as a mobile app, so people use it frequently and off-the-cuff when they are out and about. Also, because Periscope is owned by Twitter, it automatically links up with your Twitter account. This means when you do a live transmission it appears on your Twitter newsfeed making it easier to build up followers from the word go.

Ok, give me an example of some of the videos that I might find on there.

We mean it when we say it could be anything. From someone sightseeing in Rome to a pedestrian filming a protest in New York. The Paris Opera Ballet has filmed rehearsals for its upcoming show and Hilary Clinton streamed her first presidential campaign rally. People show you the contents of their fridge. Musicians talk through their latest album, concert goers record live gigs. Davina McCall shows herself getting ready for the TV BAFTAs, Phillip Schofield shows us around The Cube TV studio, Ellen Degeneres lets you in on an ideas meeting. It can be mundane, funny, anecdotal, insightful and breaking news. The one common link though is that it is interactive, as viewers comment and the broadcaster replies back, making it a two-way conversation.

So how do I know when to tune in?

You get a notification anytime the people you’re following do a live transmission. Also you can re-watch any video from your followers for 24 hours after the live broadcast. After that they disappear and no one, not even if it’s yours, can watch it back. You can also click through to the ‘World Map’ tab which shows you where all the live broadcasts are taking place at that moment. This is where you find some weird and wonderful stuff as you eavesdrop into people’s lives from around the globe.

Two words: Chat Roulette. Will I will be disturbed by some of things that I might see?

Not that we’ve found. Persicope say that they have a team checking so things never get sordid, but, they don’t seem to have their work cut out. For whatever reason, the community using Periscope makes sure things are kept clean and appropriate - a bit like the way you wouldn’t find pornographic images on Instagram.

I’m not sure if I would want to go on camera myself...

The first time that we did a live broadcast we felt a bit self conscious, but you quickly get used to it and the more you watch other videos the more realise how unstructured they can be. You can be silent, answer questions, talk about what you’re up to, just show a view or a scene. Also, because it’s so interactive, you weirdly get a kick out of people ‘Liking’ your video and asking you questions when you’re live. Just like posting on Facebook or tweeting you quickly get over your initial reservations.

Where has Persicope got the potential to go?

It could be game-changer for how news is reported. From a protester capturing the action as it happens in Ukraine, to live streaming the moment Prince William and Kate step out with Princess Charlotte, anyone can instantly broadcast breaking news. Not only that, you can create private broadcasts by selecting the people you’d like to stream to. Imagine if your friend was getting married and you set up a broadcast for the friends and family that couldn’t be there. A word of warning, though, make sure you don’t record any copyrighted material. The app landed in hot water when people streamed the fifth season premiere of Game of Thrones and the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.

Are there other similar apps?

Yes there are. At SXSW everyone was very excited about Meerkat, which does exactly the same thing and launched before Periscope. In response Twitter quickly bought up Periscope for a reported $100 million in March.

Can you get it on Android as well as iOS?

Yep - last month they launched the Android version of the app and it’s free download on both.

Georgie Barrat is tech journalist and presenter, follow her @GeorgieBarrat.

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