Twitter has launched Periscope, a standalone live streaming app designed to go up against the likes of Meerkat, a similar app that was recently launched at SXSW.

While both of these apps are completely new, they have been getting a lot of buzz. But what's the difference between them?

At their core, the two apps are very similar. Users can simply livestream video and audio directly from their smartphones, sharing a link to the broadcast on Twitter. People can click on that link to watch the stream, comment on it and share the link with others, building an audience for the stream.

There are, however, some key differences in the apps. One of the biggest features that Periscope has over Meerkat is the ability to save streams to watch later. This is a very important distinguishing feature. Once a stream is over on Meerkat, it's gone forever.

Another reason that Periscope is a little better than Meerkat is its design. Periscope was developed over the course of a year, and the design shows detail and care. Meerkat, however, was only developed in eight weeks, and it shows.

On Periscope, once a user logs in, they see a list of live streams that they can view. Under that, there is a list of recent streams.

Meerkat has certainly put itself in a difficult position. The service totally relies on Twitter, with which it is now in direct competition. Users have to sign in through Twitter, and actions taken on Meerkat are reflected on Twitter too. As Meerkat says, "Everything that happens on Meerkat happens on Twitter."

Despite this, because it is competing with Meerkat, Twitter has blocked some features for Meerkat. For example, Twitter does not allow new Meerkat users to see which of their friends are also using the service. Meerkat has worked around this by creating a list of the most popular Meerkat users.

Periscope works a little differently. Users can "like" a stream as many times as they want, essentially sending a small heart into the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. This system is an attempt to show users when others are engaging with the content.

Not only that, but Periscope also allows for streaming to desktop browsers as well as mobile users. When users comment on a stream, those comments do not show up on Twitter, keeping things a little separate than Meerkat.

Both Periscope and Meerkat are great new apps, but the fact that Periscope was in development for that much longer with the resulting advanced features gives it an edge. Twitter is experienced in social media, and having designed Periscope that shows, offering users more ways to interact with friends, such as through the hearts that show when a stream is generating buzz.

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