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Meerkat adds Facebook support, 'mobbing' to iOS app

Mobbing means Meerkat will syndicate popular streams to its own feed to boost viewership and interest in popular streams.

Meerkat has gained a lot of buzz since launching in late February. Meerkat

Meerkat has made a significant change to its iOS app that could help it break out from its reliance on Twitter.

The app, which lets users live-stream video to friends, now includes support for Facebook. The feature, which was launched on Saturday, means users can announce their ongoing and upcoming live streams to their Facebook friends. The app also includes support for Address Book integration, allowing users to automatically connect using Meerkat with their contacts.

The update is an important improvement. Meerkat, which has been available for the last few months, previously relied exclusively on Twitter to publish streams to friends. So, when a user would start to live-stream, a link would be automatically sent to the person's Twitter account, allowing their followers to check out the streaming video. While the feature has proven crucial to Meerkat's meteoric rise in popularity, it has also been its Achilles' heel.

In March, Twitter announced the launch of its own live-streaming platform, called Periscope. Like Meerkat, the app automatically shares a live stream link with Twitter followers.

In the month or so that Periscope has been available, it's proven popular, according to Twitter. The company said on Wednesday during an earnings call that the live-streaming service had nabbed 1 million users within its first 10 days of availability.

Though it's unknown how Meerkat was affected by the Twitter launch, Twitter has a vested interest in seeing Periscope succeed and Meerkat fail, which could prove troublesome for the live-streaming startup in the coming months.

With Facebook integration, however, Meerkat is offloading its reliance on Twitter. While the service still publishes live streams to Twitter, having support from Facebook, the world's largest social network, could be the key feature that drives some growth. Better yet, it's unlikely, given that Periscope is owned by Twitter, that it will offer Facebook support anytime soon.

That point of differentiation -- support for Facebook -- is just the latest from Meerkat. Last week, the company announced the launch of its mobile app on the Google Play store. Although the app is still in beta and needs to have some kinks worked out, it brought the app to Android before Twitter delivered its Periscope to the Google platform, giving it a first-mover advantage to nab users and keep them put.

In addition to keeping users on its service, Meerkat is looking to promote some of the more popular live feeds with a new feature it's calling "mobbing." When a stream hits a certain level of viewership, Meerkat will syndicate it to its official feed. The feature appears to be an attempt to surface more feeds to the public to draw in viewership, as well as help to promote popular streams.

Meerkat co-founder and CEO Ben Rubin said that a "mob" develops when users hit a certain level of concurrent viewers.

"For a Meerkat stream to mob it needs to pass 50 concurrent watchers and meet a certain criteria of people's engagement and retention within the stream," Rubin told CNET. "As long as the the stream meets this criteria -- it will keep mobbing."

The updated Meerkat app is available now as a free download in Apple's App Store.

Update 8:47 a.m. PT to include Ben Rubin's comments on "mobbing."

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