May 12, 2015 · 2 minutes

Periscope is no longer limited to Twitter users. Now all people need to use the live-streaming app is a smartphone, wireless Internet, and a phone number.

Twitter acquired Periscope in January. It's not clear how much the app cost, but a quarterly earnings report lumps the live-streaming app with the Niche talent agency Twitter purchased in February, with a combined price of $86.6 million.

The app previously required a Twitter account to function. This allowed the app to help users find people to follow on Periscope, and gave it an advantage over Meerkat, a competitive service that lost access to Twitter's data back in March.

But many standalone applications from Twitter and Facebook don't require people to create accounts with their parent companies. Vine, the six-second video service Twitter launched in 2013, allows prospective users to sign up with their email accounts. Facebook-owned Instagram offers up the same option.

It makes sense for these standalone apps to have their own branding, and even more sense for them to allow people to sign up without an account for another service. (Well, besides email, but that doesn't really count for this discussion.)

Twitter and Facebook are trying to take over consumers' smartphones. Sometimes that requires them to update their existing apps with features, like daily notifications or search tools, that keep people coming back for more.

As I explained when Mashable reported that Facebook is experimenting with a new, more-involved version of the Notifications tab in its mobile applications:

[Twitter and Facebook] want to increase users’ dependence on their products. Every buzz in the pocket, every chirp from the table making people think they can just check the notification. Then, the next thing they know, they wake up in the middle of the desert because they had a prolonged social networking binge.

It might not work exactly like that. But it’ll be similar, with every notification dragging people into these services and trying to make sure they never leave. Sometimes that's enough. Other times, these companies need to find ways for people to interact with them without knowing it, which is where standalone services like Periscope or Instagram and their related applications come in.

Consumers might not want to install a bunch of Twitter- or Facebook-branded applications. So the companies release new tools that don't require a connection to their legacy services to function. People don't have to interact with Twitter as a company; all they have to do is use one of its services based on its own merits.

It's like the world's most expensive example of someone refusing to put all their eggs into one basket. Twitter and Facebook need to make sure they'll survive if their services fall out of favor. Severing the connections -- or at least loosening them -- between their new services and their old ones is a part of that strategy.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]