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So, house parties are suddenly the new norm.

Launched in the second half of 2016, Houseparty was made by the same team behind Meerkat. The live-streaming app gained a tiny bit of momentum in 2015 but then lost out to its direct competitor, Periscope. It’s now owned by Fortnite developer Epic Games, who bought it in 2019.

Less than two weeks ago, it was the 1,450th most popular app on the App Store in India. Currently, it sits at first. On Google Play, it's currently trending at #1. In the UK, it's now ahead of Zoom as the most popular app.

The app itself is a twist on the group video call. Houseparty allows users to casually drop into a video chat room, play games with their friends, and then drop out of the chat again. 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.

“They've managed to create a really frictionless, boundaryless intimacy, which feels about as close to real life as it can be,” says Lore Oxford, global head of culture at We Are Social.

The beauty of Houseparty is that there are no formalities. It highlights freewheeling connection, and simply feels like a place for friends. The app also replicates how a real house party might work - conversations taking place in different rooms that any friend can then join (if it isn’t ‘locked’), or go to multiple ‘parties’ in one night.

Its CEO, Sima Sistani, touted it as the “next best thing to hanging out in real life” - but it is literally thanks to the pandemic that its declining downloads have picked up so significantly.

In order to maintain longevity when life returns to normal and self-isolation is no more, Houseparty would need to expand the current experience with additional games and other activities and focus on coming up with new features that won’t be borrowed or used elsewhere.  

Alessio Esposito, partnerships director at Social Chain predicts “a huge drop in new users and daily active users” once social isolation is over. People will be valuing real-life interactions more than ever and won’t need to rely on technology to have them. Houseparty will need to prove themselves a worthwhile app - and one way to do that would be to shift their marketing and social focus once everything dies down.

Houseparty will also need to consider a growing competitive market. Apps like Kast and Zoom are also making the rounds, and are proving themselves to be worthy apps to keep beyond the pandemic. Kast is treated by users like a ‘virtual living room’ and is primarily used for study groups, dating and remote working. Zoom is currently sitting atop of the iPhone and android download charts and in the last week, Zoom's mobile app was installed about 3.7 times more than Skype's and 8.6 times more than Google Hangouts. Whilst Zoom could find itself as the new norm for businesses after remote working, Houseparty will need to find a specific niche to jump on.

Currently, these group social experiences that Houseparty enables are essential for maintaining mental health and keeping a positive outlook. For now at least, Houseparty gives people a reason to groom themselves, look presentable every day, to see and have fun with their friends, and maintain a crucial semblance of normalcy during this difficult time. If nothing else, it gives me a reason to actually brush my hair.

Harry Clark, strategist at Wilderness.