Thanks to Meerkat’s rapid rise, live mobile video streaming could be the next big thing in social media. But will Meerkat be able to fend off the competition?

That question looms large for the makers of the app that went viral at this year’s SXSW conference as Twitter on Thursday unveiled its own live streaming app, Periscope.

Periscope functions a lot like Meerkat with one notable difference: once a live stream is over, Periscope allows the creator to save the video to her camera roll and users can view a replay of the stream for 24 hours.

Meerkat doesn’t offer such functionality; once a stream is over, it’s done.

If Meerkat doesn’t add similar functionality, or add it soon enough, that could prove to be a key differentiator that gives Periscope a leg up.

Because Periscope is owned by Twitter, it not surprisingly allows users to tap into the Twitter social graph. Meerkat targeted that same social graph when it launched, but Twitter cut off access, forcing Meerkat’s creators to quickly build their own social networking functionality.

That too could prove significant as both services seek to capture market share.

Big opportunity, big money

Despite the fact that there are still many questions about the overall size of the mobile live streaming market, lots of people are rushing to stake out a position in the nascent space believing that it will be meaningful.

Twitter is said to have shelled out $100m to buy Periscope before it had even launched, and on the heels of its SXSW breakout, Meerkat was reportedly able to raise $12m from a bevy of prominent Silicon Valley investors, including Greylock Partners, an early Facebook backer, as well as investors with ties to the media industry and Hollywood.

Looking to play the opportunity from a different angle, Ustream, an established streaming platform provider, announced that it’s launching an API solution that will make it easy for developers to build their own Meerkat and Periscope-like apps. That could lead to a flood of copycats, some more innovative than others.

Not surprisingly, brands, which have become much more adept at and willing to embrace new platforms before they’re well-established in the mainstream, are also paying close attention and trying to figure out ways they can integrate Meerkat into their digital marketing mixes.

Investment dollars and brand adoption are both good news for Meerkat and Periscope, and there could very well be room for both in the marketplace. But it’s also possible that with its large existing social graph and large bank account, Twitter’s acquisition and quick launch of Periscope will enable it to defeat Meerkat before Meerkat is able to translate its SXSW hype into a strong foothold.