Houseparty: Everything you need to know about the app taking COVID-19 lockdowns by storm
This video calling app from 2016 seems to be where everyone is during the coronavirus lockdown
Houseparty describes itself as a "face to face social network". And given that more than half the world is under lockdown the only app that seems to be on the top of the charts, besides delivery apps of course, are video calling apps.
Most people have been using Zoom for virtual meetings, lectures etc (more formal cases), and Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Blue Jeans etc. The more informal counterpart to all this is Houseparty.
About two weeks ago, it was somewhere way down there when it came to being 'popular' on the apps stores. Currently, it's at the fourth spot on the App Store in India and number one on the Google Play Store.
Sensor Tower reports put Houseparty ahead of all other video calling apps that have been downloaded this month.
So, what is Houseparty? And why is it suddenly so popular?
Launched in 2016, Houseparty is made by the same guys who made Meerkat. Meerkat was a live-streaming app that became quite famous in 2015 but faded when Periscope came up. Once Meerkat was shut down, the team moved on to Houseparty.
A video calling app? Ok. But what's different here?
Instead of hitting the call button to connect with anyone on your list, you can drop into a 'room' if your friends are online. For example, you get on the app and start talking to X, then Y logs in and sees you and X chatting 'in a room', Y can then just join that room. It's basically the Yahoo Chat Groups of yore but on video.
Don't want Y to join? Lock the room. It's literally that easy.
Houseparty is a kind of app that you can keep open in the background with people dropping in and out of rooms. There are also a couple of games you can play with your friends while you are chatting.
Houseparty allows a maximum of eight people to chat at a time so you don't have to worry about your 'room' getting overcrowded. Friends can invite their friends and Houseparty will warn you if you are dropping in on a chat and aren't friends with someone in the room.
Ideally, you might like to use Houseparty on your laptop or tab, it's better than keeping your phone infinitely occupied. Your WiFi should be seamlessly up to it as well. Many a times, while we tried it, one of the windows would go blank, stating the connection was weak. And such connection issues are not surprising in India during the lockdown.
Houseparty is available on Android, iOS and macOS, there is also a Chrome version, so everyone's covered.
Sure. At a time when we are all stuck at home it's (probably) nice to be able to casually chat with friends when you want. The UX is casual with a easy laid-back vibe, which is what has made the app popular now.
However, the notifications will drive you insane once all of your friends are on the app and logging in. We put notifications on silent literally 15 minutes after downloading the app.
The UX feels Gen Z, the icons look very Snapchat-like as does the whole interface, its text-based conversations are quite basic. Of course, you are not meant to "pass notes" (which is what the app calls text conversations), you are meant to video chat.
We ended up starting a video chat while trying to pass a note a few times, and trust us, morning work-from-home-mode is not a good look for anyone.
The games become redundant after a point unless you make drinking games out of them, but you didn't hear it from us. They definitely need more games.
In the end, it's not hard to see why Houseparty didn't amass users in the four years it has existed. It is a video call app, more casual than the rest, but a video calling app nonetheless.