In the coming weeks, we will be inundated with a laundry list of stories about the “best


In the coming weeks, we will be inundated with a laundry list of stories about the “best of” everything from 2015. Add to that list the best of social media.

When compiling my list of 2015’s best social media, a peculiar theme emerged. Many more people are sharing their daily routines, experiences, opinions and expertise through live-streaming media.

Live streaming is the equivalent of watching a live sporting event. You never know for sure what’s going to happen next. Think of live streaming as a super hyper version of Facebook, but with video and sound, and with posts, pictures and videos appearing in real time.

If you watched a live stream in the early 2000s, chances are your computer wasn’t fast enough, or the Internet connection was too slow. Streamed video was often pixelated and fraught with long pauses for content buffering.

As technology improved, so did our access to streaming content. And as access improved, so did our ability to stream our own live content.

Many of the best social media platforms for 2015 have something to do with live streaming. Although we will surely read reviews of other great apps, this year requires a quick look back at the new live-streaming services and apps. Some of these apps and platforms have been in development for a long time, but it was only in 2015 that they gained mass adoption.

Here are the apps that set the tone of the live-streaming phenomena:

Periscope. Launched in January 2015, Periscope gives smartphone users the ability to broadcast from just about anywhere in the world. So after its launch, Twitter acquired it, giving the platform social media legitimacy. Users can tweet out links to their videos, also called “Scopes,” and make those streams available for everyone, or limit the view to select users.

Periscope added additional features over the year, and my favorite is the ability to (finally) stream in landscape mode. One of my first Scopes was of a closing ceremony, and streaming in the portrait mode (my only option) looked terrible. Periscope will roll out additional features in the coming months.

Meerkat. Every great app needs competition, and although Periscope made a relatively bigger splash in 2015, rival platform Meerkat had its moments. Meerkat and Periscope have the same basic function, allowing users to stream video from a mobile device. But in recent months, Meerkat has added many new features, such as integration with GoPro cameras. Imagine a bike ride through Mill Creek Park, a GoPro camera strapped to your helmet, streaming the entire ride to your Meerkat followers. Meerkat also provides options for polling viewers and publishing streaming links to Facebook.

Blab.im. Having the ability to stream your daily life is interesting, but when you can simultaneously stream with other people all over the world, the possibilities are endless. Blab.im allows other users to add their video to your stream, creating real live conversations for the world to see, while other users can join in the conversation via a chat feature or Twitter. Additionally, users can capture “Blab sessions” for playback.

Other options similar to Periscope, Meerkat and Blab.Im include apps such as Stre.am and YouNow. Both apps are free and provide even more possibilities for live streaming.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is chairman of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Read his blog at adamearn.com and follow him on Twitter at @adamearn.

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