What happened to Periscope?

Periscope was a live streaming video app developed by Joe Bernstein and Kayvon Beykpour in 2013 acquired by Twitter in 2015 before it was launched to the public and was steadily absorbed thereafter. The official reason for Periscope to be discontinued was the cost for Twitter of maintaining it as a standalone app. Therefore, the failure of Twitter to maintain Periscope and to enhance its monetization determined its failure.

Background

Periscope was a live streaming video app developed by Joe Bernstein and Kayvon Beykpour in 2013. Beykpour became inspired to develop the app after reading about protests in Istanbul on Twitter without being able to see what was transpiring.

Before the app was even launched, it was purchased by Twitter in 2015 to address the rapid growth of competitors offering Meerkat. Periscope was an immediate success, surpassing 10 million accounts four months after release. Twitter also noted that users were watching the equivalent of 40 years of content on the platform each day.

December 2016 marked a pivotal point for Periscope as some of its features began to be integrated into the main Twitter app. Four years later, Twitter announced it would be discontinuing Periscope effective as of March 2021.

Let’s take a look at why Periscope met its end after just six years.

Rising maintenance costs

In a statement detailing the March 2021 shutdown, Twitter noted that the core Periscope app was “in an unsustainable maintenance-mode state, and has been for a while. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen declining usage and know that the cost to support the app will only continue to go up over time.

Maintenance costs were also high because Twitter had to maintain two separate apps with an overlap in functionality. As the user base for Periscope decreased, there was not a similar and appreciable decrease in operational costs. 

Twitter integration 

Related to high maintenance cost was the way in which Periscope was steadily absorbed into the main Twitter app. 

Integration started as early as 2016, with Twitter incorporating the Periscope Live Broadcast feature into its mobile app. That same year, Twitter made a deal with the NFL to stream Thursday Night Football games while relegating Periscope to streaming behind-the-scenes content only.

Effectively, the Twitter platform became as functional as Periscope but with a much bigger audience. 

Squad acquisition

Some argue the demise of Periscope was influenced by Squad – a video and audio chat service acquired by Twitter in December 2020.

The acquisition of Squad was less important than what Twitter planned to do with it. A company announcement regarding the acquisition stated that the Squad app was being retired with more immediacy and its video features absorbed by Twitter. 

That the similar acquisition of Periscope took so long was largely due to COVID-19 and other projects taking priority in 2020. But it did highlight Twitter’s preference to acquire companies and absorb their features into its platform completely.

Key takeaways:

  • Periscope was a live streaming video app developed by Joe Bernstein and Kayvon Beykpour in 2013. The app was acquired by Twitter in 2015 before it was launched to the public and was steadily absorbed thereafter.
  • For Twitter, the cost of maintaining Periscope as a standalone app became too high. What’s more, a decrease in the Periscope user base did not mean the app was cheaper to operate.
  • Twitter’s acquisition of video service Squad had little impact on the demise of Periscope. But in a broader sense, the Squad acquisition was representative of Twitter acquiring other companies to increase functionality.

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