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Meerkat is moving away from livestreams and toward being a video social network

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Remember Meerkat? If you were at SXSW last year, you probably do — but otherwise, perhaps not so much. The livestreaming app was something of a one-hit wonder. It catapulted the notion of mobile-based livestreaming to broader audiences, but somehow, somewhere along the way, Meerkat got outplayed. Twitter launched Periscope, Facebook Live became a thing, and when you’re up against two of the most established social networks in the world, you might call one a rock and the other an extremely hard place. So in response, Meerkat has come up with a solution of its own — they’re not shuttering, but they’re moving away from the livestream space, and moving towards a video social network instead.

In an email sent to Meerkat’s 48 investors, CEO Ben Rubin wrote, “The year started on a high note … But over the year, it became rougher waters. Mobile broadcast video hasn’t quite exploded as quickly as we’d hoped. The distribution advantages of Twitter/Periscope and Facebook Live drew more early users to them away from us and we were not able to grow as quickly alongside as we had planned.”

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And growth has been a key issue for Meerkat. While people seem more than willing to watch the livestreams (Rubin tells Re/code that audience numbers are still burgeoning), the number of people actually providing content has stagnated at around 100,000. So now, they’re shifting gears altogether.

While Rubin has stayed relatively mum on just what the new focus of Meerkat will be, Re/code reports that its plans “sound more akin to Google Hangouts or Skype, with a priority on smaller, group video chats with people you know versus strangers tuning in.”

So does this mean that Meerkat’s days are numbered? Not necessarily. As Mashable points out, it’s not at all uncommon for smaller, more nascent startups to pivot in their early days, especially when faced with such formidable competition. So don’t lose hope just yet, Meerkat lovers. The face may be changing, but the soul will (hopefully) stay the same.

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