‘Houseparty’ Zooms Past Competition as ‘Fun’ Video Chat App

As a third of the world population sits under lockdown across the world, by some estimates, one kind of app has zoomed past the rest: video calling. And one service has carved out its niche as the “fun” video chat app: Houseparty.

The app, which first launched in 2016, has enjoyed a flood of new users in recent weeks, reads a new report from OneZero. It darted up the Apple App Store charts to the sixth most popular app as of Tuesday morning (and has also cracked the top 50 on Google Play’s top free apps).

The app is easy enough: Users will see their face on the app once they’re done setting up, and in the upper righthand corner they’ll see a plus sign, allowing them to add contacts to a Houseparty group chat. The app allows up to eight people to be included on a video chat at the same time.

Instead of hitting the call button and manually connecting everyone, Houseparty allows you to just drop into a video chatroom as long as your friends are online. That makes it a lot more casual. It’s the kind of app that you keep open in the background, with friends dropping in and out. In times of social distancing and self-isolation, when we’re seeing much less of our favourite people, Houseparty can make things feel less lonely.

Houseparty has carved out its niche as the “fun” video chat app because it offers an array of games. The app’s dice icon, located along the top right corner of a user’s screen, includes a handful of games, including trivia, the Ellen DeGeneres-inspired “Heads Up,” and “Quick Draw!,” which is similar to Pictionary and lets your friends try and guess what you just doodled.

“There’s brilliant imperfection attached to the live connectivity — even the fact that you can like jump into other people’s house parties,” says Lore Oxford, global head of cultural insights at We Are Social. “They’ve managed to create a really frictionless, boundaryless intimacy, which feels about as close to real life as it can be.”

At the end of the day, Houseparty is just another group video call app — you could just as easily do with FaceTime, Hangouts, Skype, or Zoom — and it’ll be interesting to see how its ilk fare once we’re not cooped up in our houses anymore.