Twitter is cutting off Meerkat's ability to port people's social networks over from Twitter to its own service — the so-called social graph. That means when new users come on board, they will no longer be automatically connected to the other people they are already following on Twitter. This comes not long after Twitter purchased a competing live-streaming service, Periscope, and just as the South by Southwest festival is getting underway in Austin.
Meerkat is a live-streaming video service that automatically tweets when you start recording. But it essentially piggybacks on Twitter's network. Not only do new users sign in via Twitter, but the app also connects you with all the Meerkat users you are also connected to via Twitter, and you then have the same follower and following relationship on Meerkat that you do on Twitter. Which means once you have the app installed (and assuming you have notifications turned on) every time someone you follow on Twitter starts live-streaming a Meerkat video, you get a notification.
Several people have noted the danger in this strategy for Meerkat, especially now that it is competing with Twitter.
Friday evening, BuzzFeed News learned from a source familiar with the matter that Twitter was taking steps to break Meerkat's ability to access its social graph. When we tried adding other accounts, such as the BuzzFeed SF and BuzzFeed FWD Twitter accounts, we noticed lots of inconsistencies with the follower graph numbers.
A Twitter spokesperson confirmed that Meerkat had been cut off.
"We are limiting their access to Twitter's social graph, consistent with our internal policy," the spoeksperson said. "Their users will still be able to distribute videos on Twitter and log in with their Twitter credentials."
This won't totally kill Meerkat — people will still be able to use it to announce on Twitter that they are streaming — but it will seriously kneecap it. It means that new users won't automatically be notified by the app when friends are broadcasting unless they manually build out their friend networks. This hurts the app's ability to keep people on Meerkat itself.
The move comes just as SXSW is starting, where Meerkat seemed poised to be this year's breakout app.
Mat Honan is the San Francisco bureau chief for BuzzFeed News. Formerly a senior staff writer at Wired, he has been writing about the technology industry and its impact on society for nearly 20 years.
Contact Mat Honan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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