It’s 10.30pm on Monday night but Sara Haider isn’t tired at all. This is partly due to her sitting 12 hours behind the UAE in San Francisco, where the working week has just begun. But it’s also because the Periscope Head of Engineering is bubbling with excitement about the news that Twitter is bringing live video broadcasting to tweets.
Yesterday Periscope was in the spotlight when Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey live-streamed his interview with Edward Snowden via the service.
In an exclusive interview with #GNTECH via something called BlueJeans, the former Vine and Secretly staffer is keen to talk about what live video will bring to Twitter, a social network that built its name on 140-character text messages.
What was the thinking behind letting Twitter users tweet live video?
“Periscope popularised live video broadcasting for the masses. Twitter is the best place you can go to find out what’s happening in the world around you. We’ve never had an integration as deep as this one. When it comes to breaking news and what’s happening right now in this moment, adding video [enhances] the experience.”
This is becoming quite an exciting space. Facebook Live launched earlier this year. Do you see it as a potential threat?
“We’re very flattered that other people consider live video to be so important. Periscope was the app that popularised live video broadcasting, and I think it’s the platform for this.”
Can you give examples of turning points that took Periscope from fringe service to mainstream app?
“There have been a number of major moments around the world that have brought live video to the forefront. Just this year, we’ve seen news organisations turn to Periscope to bring their audiences breaking news, daily updates and special reports. An ABC News stream covering Hurricane Matthew had more than 760,000 viewers; over 119,000 people saw this live video during the Turkish parliament bombing; and a simple update from the Dallas Police account had more than 225,000 viewers.
There were also some genuinely awe-inspiring moments captured on the platform. More than 700,000 people tuned in to watch a guy climb Trump Tower.
How are people using Periscope in the UAE and wider region?
We don’t have specific figures, but the opening night of Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) was broadcast on Periscope [through a partnership deal with Twitter]. The Egyptian president used it during a youth conference. Ordinary people in the UAE use it while driving, cooking or just hanging out at home.
You’ve got 26,000 followers on Periscope. How do you use it?
“For me, it’s a mix between personal and professional life. [Last weekend] I broadcast buying a coffee with friends. When I was on holiday in Mexico, I broadcast a beautiful sunset.
“One of my first broadcasts when Periscope was still in beta was actually of a workers’ protest in San Francisco. That was really cool.”
“I loved Vine as a platform. Like you said, there was a lot of fun content and it was a great place to work. I can’t comment on how or why it closed.
Periscope is serious as well as fun. Kevin Hart, for example, does fun stuff on it.”
You’re releasing this Twitter on iOS and Android at the same time. How do you find the differences between them?
“I’ve worked pretty deeply with Android video over the past four years. Today’s tools are so much more sophisticated, whereas before we were a bit constrained by the tech. At this point, running Periscope on both devices is basically the same experience.”
Which do you prefer as a user?
“I like to use two phones at once, an Android and an iPhone. At the moment, these are a Google Pixel and an iPhone 7 Plus. People are often surprised to hear I’m broadcasting on the Pixel – they tend to assume it’s an iPhone, based on the camera quality.”
Rules and regulations differ between countries and territories when it comes to what you can and can’t stream online. The UAE has its own rules. How does Twitter/Periscope deal with this?
“We have tools to deal with hairy situations. Our guidelines are pretty easy to find on the Periscope website.”
How can social media influencers and brands benefit from live video on Twitter?
“Twitter allows you to build your reach. It’s already very powerful, and I think Periscope amplifies this through allowing a greater degree of engagement. Earlier this month, Fanta live-streamed its nine-hour @FantaMasters gaming competition and saw a total of 435,000 views. It used Periscope Producer, a tool that lets you stream video using professional video-capturing equipment to Twitter.”