Though you might not know it yet, there’s a livestreaming revolution brewing just around the corner. As social media juggernauts like Twitter look past pre-recorded video and into the world of “live as it happens” streams, the apps that make it possible for users to instantly get moving images off their phones and into the ether are starting to flood in.
Plus, with all the news of cops confiscating cell phones and deleting entire albums worth of evidence from the scene of the crime, nowadays it’s more important than ever to have a way to get an event out to the eyes of the world as quickly, safely, and effectively as possible.
Here’s our list of the best apps you can use to show the world your point of view in realtime.
The originator, the original, and still one of the best, UStream holds the title of being one of the very first applications to enable users to stream events as they were happening right from their laptops, phones, or tablets.
Founded in 2007, the service first gained notoriety during the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2012, where the platform was used by hundreds of activists to broadcast the news of the day from the ground of Zucotti Park.
As the corporate media continued to skew the message of the group to protect their own interests, members of Occupy kept their Ustreams going 24/7, complete with a full set of hosts and personalities who gained notoriety on social media as a beacon for the truth that hadn’t been filtered through anyone else’s agenda.
While the cops made a special effort to box out all journalists and cameras when they finally descended on Zucotti, the world was privy to a first-person perspective as SWAT teams blasted tear gas into the crowds and tore down tents with bulldozers throughout the night.
The Occupy Protests were the first sign of what live streaming could do for grassroots organizations, and UStream was the app that made it all possible from the very beginning. You can get your hands on UStream for iOS by visiting the iTunes page, or download it for Android at Google Play here.
Inspired by UStream’s role in Occupy and the court’s verdict in Ferguson, Missouri, recently the ACLU announced they would be developing its own streaming app, which allows you to immediately begin uploading video to its servers with just the tap of a button.
Unlike other streaming apps listed here, MobileJustice is specifically designed for the recording of cop encounters-gone-sour with the help of a few unique features. First, if anyone starts recording, the app will immediately alert other owners of the app within a two-mile radius that something is going down and give them the location so they can join in.
Next, the video is uploaded to a team of ACLU lawyers and representatives, most of whom can text you advice as the event plays out so you’ll know exactly how to handle an unruly arm of justice that’s harassing bystanders or demanding that you stop recording.
For now, the app is only available to Android and iOS users in California, Oregon, Missouri and New York, though the ACLU says they’re currently in negotiations with multiple state legislatures to expand coverage soon.
Both the Android and iOS loadouts are still state specific, but you can find the app that correlates to your home base on the organization’s homepage here.
Meerkat was the first of the new breed of streaming apps, designed to take full advantage of cell networks that can handle video quality higher than that of a moldy potato.
Following in Ustream’s footsteps, Meerkat integrates the power of social media right into the core of its platform, allowing Twitter users to chat with streamers, share the video with friends, and even join in on the fun by streaming their own view back at the same time.
These features can be especially useful during local environmental disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes, or floods where the act of finding loved ones and collaborating on search and rescue efforts benefits from the ability to see what’s happening through each other’s eyes.
Meerkat is still in beta, though with industry heavy-hitters from Tumblr and Twitter being hired on by the handful, it’s clear the company plans to stay in this market for the long haul.
Speaking of Twitter, not but a few months after Meerkat was announced, a team at the micro-social blogging site announced they had their own video streaming app in the works, called Periscope.
Periscope works in identical fashion to Meerkat, save for a few name changes for its features including the ability to both stream and record video at the same time, and use Twitter to link to a stream as soon as it goes live.
Twitter has been touting Periscope as the “next revolution in mobile streaming”, disregarding the fact that the app already found itself in a bit of hot water when lawyers from HBO and Showtime descended on their offices during the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight in May.
As it turns out, members of the crowd had been using the app to stream their angle of the fight right from their phones onto people’s desktops and laptops. The problem was that no sooner would one stream shut down that another would pop up, ad-infinitum for the arena’s 15,000 attendees.
If Persicope (or Meerkat) want the public to grab hold of their technology and run with it, effective copyright protection methods will be a must for any app worth its salt. Ustream already holds the patent on live copyright detection, and if either company wants to knock the current king off its throne, they’re likely going to have to lease out a patent or two for the privilege.
Periscope for iOS is out now, while a completed Android build is expected to drop sometime in the next month.
These days, it’s easier than ever to use the lens on the back of your cell phone to broadcast what you see to the rest of the world in an instant. There’s an app for every situation, whether it’s keeping grandma Betty tuned in to a wedding in Hawaii, or preventing a cop from overstepping his bounds during a routine traffic stop.
While realtime streaming may not be all the rage just yet, as big names like Twitter throw their hat into the ring, it could only be a matter of time before we’re all blasting the minutia of our daily lives out to no one in particular, just because we can.