The Sinking Periscope App

The once promising Periscope app is now steadily dropping in popularity. In fact, it has dropped from No. 23 on the overall iOS App charts in January of this year,  to No. 441 this weekend. Now Twitter is adding Periscope’s live streaming abilities to it’s own application format, reaching far more users quickly.  Taking 21 months to build broadcasting into Twitter feels painfully slow, considering the fast-moving live-stream market, and Twitter’s insistence that live video is its future.

Twitter tried to operate its early 2015 acquisition of Periscope independently, the way Facebook successfully did with Instagram. However, there are fundamental differences that wreaked havoc with Twitter and Periscope’s plans while working swimmingly for Facebook and Instagram. Periscope deserved its own web space, but that didn’t prohibit Twitter from building streaming into the tweet composer much sooner.

Periscope was acquired pre-launch by Twitter, so it had no user base to build on. Instagram had 30 million registered iOS users, and 5 million on Android when Facebook bought it, though Facebook paid roughly 10X more for its acquisition. It’s all about that base in tech town.

Twitter had no live streaming option when it bought Periscope, but was ripe to become the natural home for real-time content. Facebook already had a thriving photography feature, but that was differentiated with a different feed, so it made sense to run them distinctly.

Periscope launched on the heels of Meerkat, which had already established itself as the pioneering mobile live-streaming app. Periscope looked almost identical, just slicker. While Meerkat faded quickly, Facebook Live soon barged in, nestled within Facebook’s wildly popular main app.

Facebook was thriving when it bought Instagram, having added around 200 million monthly users in the previous year to reach 900 million at the time. It had a winning formula it didn’t need to change. Twitter had added about 50 million monthly users in the year before buying Periscope to reach 302 million, and its growth was starting a long plateau.

Everyone knew how to easily take and share photos on Instagram from the start, but there wasn’t a great dedicated mobile social network to do it. Live streaming was a relatively new concept; it takes a ton of effort and skill to do well, and most people don’t feel compelled to broadcast regularly. It proved difficult to make it a “must have” app, hence it’s sink into the deep app ocean.