Meerkat is reducing its dependency on Twitter by integrating address books and letting users post live video streams to Facebook.
Installing the updated app now brings up an option to enter your phone number and give Meerkat access to your address book, so it can find other people who are using the live streaming service. The option to post videos on Facebook appears in Meerkat’s settings menu.
Meerkat became a sensation a couple months ago, after being crowned the breakthrough app of the South by Southwest Interactive festival. The app lets users stream live video through their phone’s camera, while automatically posting a link to the stream on Twitter.
But within a few weeks of the app’s debut, Twitter went on the offensive and stopped Meerkat from letting new users import their Twitter contacts. Without these contacts, users had no way to find live streams directly through the Meerkat app. In late March, Twitter released a similar live streaming app called Periscope, which it acquired shortly after Meerkat’s launch. (The company cited “internal policy” in cutting off Meerkat’s access to the social graph.)
In addition to the new connectivity options, a new “Mobbing” feature will automatically push popular streams to the main activity feed. Users who are viewing a live stream can also now react by briefly turning their face icons into Emoji.
Why this matters: The update doesn’t completely sever Meerkat’s Twitter ties. Users still need a Twitter account to sign in, and all video streams still post automatically to the network’s timeline. But by working with Facebook and adding address book integration, Meerkat at least gives itself an out. It’s not crazy to think that a future update would let users live stream without touching Twitter at all.