Move Over, Meerkat. Pack Your Bags, Periscope. Rhinobird Is Here.


Full disclosure: Felipe Heusser is a member of Civic Hall.

The livestreaming space is starting to feel more than a little crowded, with Meerkat and Periscope battling it out for users and honorifics like “the new killer campaign app,” but that hasn’t stopped a new breed of service called Rhinobird from stepping up and declaring itself a “people-driven TV network.” After launching a beta version just two months ago, Rhinobird.tv is ready for their close-up now. Today they celebrate their Open Beta release by—what else?—livestreaming scenes from the streets of New York City, following several New York City street musicians.

Felipe Heusser, the CEO of Rhinobird, tells Civicist that the platform has several advantages over their competitors, the most significant being a lag of less than one second. Rhinobird uses WebRTC, an open source project that enables Real-Time Communications (RTC). All a potential user needs to get started broadcasting or viewing is a WebRTC-enabled internet browser.

“The focus of this is really to open the live TV sector,” Heusser tells Civicist. “To reduce the barrier to producing or distributing TV.”

The one hiccup, Heusser acknowledges, is having to build an iOS-specific app, which he says is in the works but not yet completed.

Rhinobird makes it easy to get multiple perspectives on the same event(s) through “channels” created around hashtags. When streaming something tagged #timessquare, other streams with the same tag appear at the bottom of the screen.

Unlike his competitors, Heusser’s funding comes from the Knight Foundation, not venture capitalists. The project that eventually became Rhinobird.tv won the Knight News Challenge in 2012.

Heusser was inspired to build the platform in 2011, when student-led protests filled the streets in Santiago, Chile. Although many demonstrations were peaceful, the media covered what violence there was to the exclusion of everything else. To show the world the “real picture,” Heusser attached a camera to helium-filled balloons and sent it flying into the air. The video was livestreamed via Twitcasting and garnered more than 10,000 viewers during the 40-minute feed.

That spurred him along the path to Rhinobird. When asked about the name, Heusser explains that it refers to the symbiotic relationship between a rhinoceros and the birds that perch on its back, eating ticks. A rhinoceros will defend it’s territory, but with it’s bad eyesight the animal often depends on the bird to sound the alarm. This collaborative behavior is what Heusser wants Rhinobird.tv to be about: peer-to-peer broadcasting that increases the diversity of media and enriches the commons.

Scenes of summer in the city will be livestreaming starting today on Rhinobird.tv.