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Meerkat's CEO has no hard feelings toward Twitter

Days after Twitter cut the live-streaming app off from easily reaching Twitter's audience, Meerkat's CEO says it's "grateful" to Twitter for helping jump-start the service.

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Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin said the company is already moving past dependence on Twitter. Richard Nieva/CNET

AUSTIN, Texas -- The talk of the South by Southwest festival here has been Meerkat, a fast-growing app that lets people stream live videos from their phones, and its tussle with Twitter.

But Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin says he doesn't blame the social networking giant.

"We would not be sitting here if it wasn't for Twitter," said Rubin, onstage during a Yahoo Tech event. "We need to be grateful for that."

To recap, Meerkat has been the recent darling of the tech industry, exploding to more than 100,000 users since the app launched in late February. The service initially had a tight integration with Twitter, depending on Meerkat users to link their accounts to their Twitter followers. But on Friday, Twitter said it was cutting off Meerkat's ability to pull information from a user's collection of Twitter followers, or the "social graph." On the same day, Twitter officially announced the acquisition of Periscope, a Meerkat competitor.

"They worked very hard to build their graph," Rubin, 27, said of Twitter. "It's their house. We need to respect that and be the best guests we can be."

Live video could become an important element for social networks, as people put more of their personal lives on the Internet. There are also potential revenue opportunities as marketers look to how they can advertise with individualized video feeds.

Rubin on Sunday touted the brands already using Meerkat -- from Red Bull to American Idol to the Miami Dolphins. Other clever uses have been a secretary of commerce live streaming his swearing in ceremony, a New York City broker streaming an apartment showing and a church streaming a worship service. (Rubin himself was live-streaming the chat from his phone to more than 360 viewers on his phone.)

He said it was never the intent to keep Meerkat dependent on Twitter, but that using Twitter seemed like the best way to "jump-start" the community. Since Twitter cut off Meerkat two days ago, Rubin said the company has already started to move beyond its leaning on Twitter, though he didn't go into specifics.

Facebook, the world's largest social network, is for now a less compatible platform for Meerkat because only 12 percent of people see your post within 24 hours, Rubin said. Since Meerkat is about immediate viewing, the network is less relevant. But he said Facebook is still interesting as a way to distribute Meerkat content.

Rubin also addressed some users' complaints that videos disappear after the live stream has ended, so people can't go back and watch videos if they missed the live broadcast. Rubin said the reason for that was to make people comfortable with the potentially foreign act of live streaming -- so they wouldn't have to worry about their videos being watchable on the Internet forever. But he said that could change after people get more at ease with live streaming.