Although social networking has more than once changed shape throughout human evolution, it’s basic composition is ingrained in our biological makeup. Whether or not we continue to move from face time to FaceTime, the need for community and social interaction between humans is innate. We are social beings by nature, and what once meant gathering around a watering hole or telling stories around a fire, now means sharing status updates, exchanging comments and sending snaps. It’s much different, but also much the same.
It’s evident in the fact that we aren’t the only species that craves communal interaction. While we’ve moved our communities in a digital direction, our more primitive companions still seek similar exchanges. Baboons, for example, groom each other as a means of bonding. Meanwhile, meerkats live in colonies to satisfy their social needs. In fact, meerkats are one of the most social animal species in the kingdom.
Why is it called Meerkat?
Their display of social networking is so great that it became the sole symbol behind the most recent live-streaming mobile application called Meerkat. At least that’s what Meerkat Founder Ben Rubin recently told Tint. “My co-founder, Uri thought about the animal, [the] meerkat,” Rubin shared. “He was like, ‘It’s fun to do… like this animal. It’s the most social animal in the world…’ Meerkats. Like they put their hands on each other. They’re chilling. They’re very advanced.”
It fit for a reason, since advancing social interaction was Meerkat’s main goal as well. They stuck to the premise by striving for what they admired most in the meerkat: its playfulness, “[We] thought it was an interesting animal because [a meerkat] doesn’t take itself too seriously,” Rubin told the Daily Dot.
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Not taking themselves too seriously, though, wasn’t the only characteristic that contributed to their success. Capitalizing on habits – like socializing – also proved to be imperative to Rubin. He confessed that despite his preferences for horizontal video, filming vertically was much more natural to the user. He claims, “In every consumer product, the default is the most important thing. To unlock the habit, you need to make it very easy for people to contribute.”
But making it easy wasn’t as easy as it sounds. For years, Rubin had worked on a similar but much more complex streaming platform, Yevvo (which later rebranded to Air), before launching Meerkat. In the interview with Tint, he recalled that “nothing was sticky because the product was trying to do too much and was not focused on doing one simple thing good.” Yevvo focused on streaming but included a number of features like tagging and comments.
What Yevvo didn’t have, Rubin told The Verge, was “spontaneous togetherness,” something Meerkat had plenty of. When the new interface finally launched at SXSW on February 27th, 2015, the level of social engagement was undeniable. This time the streaming software was dramatically simplified, offering only two options: stream now or stream later. Users log in via Twitter and a tweet is sent automatically to their followers when their broadcast begins. Conversation takes place in the form of real-time tweets, often dictating the direction of the show. Meerkat filled a gap that Yevvo couldn’t quite reach. According to Rubin, “There [was] no other service that lets the audience take over a stream. There is now.”
3/ twitter’s move here shows how significant meerkat has become.
— Ben Rubin (@benrbn) March 14, 2015
Fans and followers overwhelmingly agreed immediately with the Meerkat Guidelines, which boasts its video streaming as “the best way to experience life live.” Unfortunately not everyone was equally thrilled, namely Twitter. Meerkat had wisely leveraged Twitter to gain instant and mass popularity, and when Twitter realized the streaming potential, it wanted in. Shortly following the Meerkat hype, Twitter not only blocked Meerkat from its social graph, but also purchased its biggest competitor, Periscope for $86.6 million.
Rumors that it would be the death of Meerkat circulated as quickly as word of its success; however, the application isn’t running from the threat just yet. Whether or not there’s room enough for both applications in the virtual jungle remains to be seen, but, as far as instincts go, we’re sure to share social commentary one way or the other.
Thanks for reading Why is Meerkat called Meerkat! What do you use to get your real-time news? #whyisitcalledMeerkat
Annelise Schoups is a contributor at Rewind & Capture. With a degree in journalism, experience in public relations, and an education in travel, she is passionate about cultivating knowledge and storytelling.