Twitter limits access of fast-growing Meerkat live-stream app

The social network makes it harder for the live-stream video startup to reach Twitter users -- on the same day that Twitter announces its acquisition of a Meerkat competitor.

Richard Nieva
Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
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Meerkat has gained a lot of buzz since launching in late February. Meerkat

AUSTIN, Texas -- Twitter may be in self-defense mode.

Meerkat, a fast-growing mobile app that lets people live-stream a video feed to their Twitter followers, has gotten a lot of traction since it launched in late February, especially with the approach of the South by Southwest tech, music and film festival here in Austin.

But Meerkat relies heavily on Twitter's audience, and Twitter on Friday evening made it harder for the new app to reach its intended audience. The timing is a blow for Meerkat, as many young tech companies try to use the spotlight of SXSW and its 30,000 attendees to make a name for themselves. Buzzfeed first reported the news.

"We are limiting their access to Twitter's social graph, consistent with our internal policy," a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. "Their users will still be able to distribute videos on Twitter and login with their Twitter credentials."

Twitter's tweak prevents Meerkat users from automatically linking their Twitter followers to their Meerkat accounts. That restricts the number of notifications that can be received and sent out when Meerkat users are live-streaming their videos. The change comes the same day Twitter announced the acquisition of Periscope, a Meerkat competitor.

"Twitter's move here shows how significant Meerkat has become," tweeted Meerkat co-founder Ben Rubin.

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.

Twitter knows the power of SXSW more than anyone. Back in 2007, the social network sprang into the mainstream after a burst of popularity at the festival, which brings together the tech community, filmmakers and musicians. Festival-goers used Twitter to find out where their friends were having lunch or figure out which parties were worth attending.

Some venture capitalists were already predicting Meerkat's success at SXSW this year. Josh Elman, a partner at the venture firm Greylock, highlighted Meerkat as a potential standout app at this year's festival -- but that was before Twitter's move.