“The future is live. The future is real-time. The future is now.” I wrote that in 2010 about live video innovator Justin.tv (which pivoted into Twitch.tv). Five years later it appears the future is now once again.
Meerkat has burst on the scene with a viral vengeance, so I became curious. Meerkat is throwing around a lot of live video. It must be chewing up cash at an early funding round crushing rate. How does it work?
Unfortunately, after digging deep, I found few specific details on their backend architecture. What do we know?
The cash burning surmise seems to be correct. Meerkat secured another $12 million in funding. The streams will continue to flow. Bandwidth is cheaper than it used to be, but it is still expensive. Aether Wu did made an estimate over on Quora: So let's consider a scale of 1m users online simultaneously. Every 20 minutes, it costs 100k gigabyte, which means $4k per hour/$96k per day/ $2.9m per month. So if we scale the business to 10 times bigger, it is about $1m per day?
Meerkat was three years in development by an Israeli based team of up to 11 developers.
Meerkat can handle thousands of live streams while maintaining good video quality. Perhaps implementation details were discussed in a Meerkat session, but, well, you know. Ben Rubin, the thoughtful and nearly ubiquitous founder of Meerkat, wrote on ProductHunt that “I'm in love with HLS. For Meerkat use case HLS is better despite the 10-15 sec delay as it giving advantages in stable, crystal clear quality. We can use it to shift stream to audio only when connection is low, or do all sort of tricks.” HLS is HTTP Live Streaming.
That’s about it. While the backend architecture remains a mystery, what I did find is still very interesting. It’s the story of how a team creatively hunts and sifts through a space until they create/find that perfect blending of features that makes people fall in love. Twitter did that. SnapChat did that. Now Meerkat has done it. How did they do it?