Wales

Periscope: Anglesey man behind video streaming app

Geraint Davies Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Anglesey man Geraint Davies is the coding expert behind new social media app Periscope

The ever-changing landscape of media and how we consume it has taken yet another turn and one of those behind it is Anglesey man Geraint Davies.

Born in Stockport to a Welsh father and English mother, the 54-year-old is responsible for the video element of Periscope, an app that allows live, real time video streaming to be shared with whoever cares to watch.

Boosted by support after Twitter acquired it in March, Periscope has rocketed up the download app chart since its launch.

It has already demonstrated its potential by capturing world events including the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, the fire in San Francisco's Mission District and even going behind the scenes at Britain's party leaders debate.

Mr Davies says the initial idea came about when co-founder, Joe Bernstein, took a year out to go travelling.

Mr Bernstein wanted to know how other people were viewing their environment, what they were seeing and how to share that view with people around the world in an instant.

With the idea in place, he and the app's other founder, Kayvon Beykpour, had to make it happen.

Image copyright Periscope
Image caption The Periscope team hard at work to get the app up and running

This is where Mr Davies comes in, as he has been working on digital video for 27 years.

"A few years ago I wrote some basic code that demonstrated how to do video streaming from an iPhone and put it on the internet," he said.

"Then, when Kayvon and Joe started looking to put Periscope together, they found my sample online."

'Intellectual puzzle'

In a team of 11, Mr Davies is the video engineer, meaning he is responsible for all the coding and video architecture that makes Periscope what it is - a live, real time video broadcaster.

And it is the coding element that keeps him interested.

"For me it's always been the intellectual puzzle of getting the programming working and that's what appeals to me."

Image copyright Periscope/BBC
Image caption Viewers can send hearts by tapping the screen if they like what they see

Like other social media apps, Periscope offers its users the opportunity to provide commentary and instant feedback - in this case to the broadcaster.

"What's key to the app is interactivity," said Mr Davies. "Viewers can type and text feedback that the broadcaster can respond to."

The computer programmer cites a moment from the app's testing stage that involved a certain Twitter-loving astronaut.

"My favourite piece was a little bit before the release in the beta stage, when we had a broadcast from Chris Hadfield.

"He was going on a business trip and was packing, putting his clothes in a suitcase and just chatting and answering questions. But it was great and worked really, really well."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield was one of the early testers of the Periscope app

But that was the beta stage and involved only a couple of hundred testers. Now available to everyone, those interactive discussions involve a lot more people.

Mr Davies agrees this is what Periscope was meant for but he thinks the app works best when smaller groups use the interactive feature, adding "you can't have thousands of people asking questions".

And therein lies Periscope's main problem because, while its interactivity invites comment, discussion and questions, it also (unintentionally) opens it up to abuse, discrimination and bullying.

Celebrities

And this is possibly the biggest problem facing the digital age and one all social media giants share - moderation.

Despite the good intentions of Facebook, Twitter and others to create a sort of online democracy, the open forum platform inevitably attracts comments from people who cross the line.

The problem for Periscope and others is where to draw the line? When does opinion cease to be fair comment and become abuse?

Mr Davies acknowledges the problem of moderation is not an easy one, but says Periscope is working on a solution.

"That's something we take very seriously. We're testing something right now that will make it easier for people to block users."

Despite being in its infancy, high-profile names using the app include actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, singer Mary J. Blige, Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul, model Tyra Banks and illusionist David Blaine.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Arnold Schwarzenegger was an early user of Periscope

Mr Davies said that, since the app's launch, the reaction has been "fantastic".

Asked about what the future holds for the app and its potential use, Mr Davies admits he has no idea, adding: "We're just beginning to see what people are going to use it for."

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