DISCLAIMER: Houseparty is actually referring to a new app that has become extremely popular, not actual house parties! (Click here to read a fellow classmates post on clickbait)
While on a trip down to New Jersey with a few cars worth of friends, I suggested that we download a walkie talkie app to stay entertained and connected during the trek. I was overruled by one friend in favor of Houseparty, an app that few of us had heard of before. Within just one week of using the app, I have seen a tremendous growth in the apps popularity. And its justified!
The Details and A Whole Lot of Secrecy:
Houseparty is essentially the crossroads between Facetime and group chats. The app allows you to join into a “party,” which is essentially a Facetime call that between 2-8 users. When you click on the app, a notification is sent to all of your friends saying that you’re “in the house.” If no one is online, you can “wave” to specific users, which sends a notifications inviting them to join your chat. Occasionally a friend of a friend will join your chat. The app notifies you with a banner warning of “stranger danger!” When the users video connects a temporary option to add the user as a friend pops up in their portion of the screen. You also have the option to lock a group once you are in it to restrict others from joining. Below are some actual examples of the app in action:
I have grown to love the app, and spend quite a bit of time in “the house.” So much so that a friend of mine has started taking screenshots every time she gets a notification “Tyler O’Neill has entered the house.” Once I heard about my reputation for my active participation in the app, I decided to look a bit deeper into the history of the app. What I found was shocking!
The company that built Houseparty is called Life on Air, and this is not its first attempt to enter the live stream market. An article I read about the app claims that Life on Air “turned live-streaming into a sensation last year” with its app Meerkat. Meerkat was the first mover in the live-streaming market, but after gaining popularity and raising $12 million in funding at South by Southwest they quickly were targeted by competitors. Twitter released a more polished live-streaming service of it own called Periscope and Facebook implemented a live streaming service too. When designing Houseparty, Life on Air took a new approach.
In order to avoid criticism they decided to launch their new app under a new name, Houseparty. They also listed the developer as Alexander Herzick, the name of an employees husband, instead of themselves. He was chosen due to “his almost nonexistent social media profile.” As the app grew in popularity the company built fake Facebook and LinkedIn to support the illusion. The company would respond to emails from potential venture capitalist “by send them Daft Punk GIFs.” Only recently has it been revealed that Life on Air was the company responsible for making the live-streaming app.
The app seems to have a positive snowball effect. Once a small group of users come online it quickly develops into a full “party,” and can even spill over into multiple smaller groups. The big question for Houseparty is “can it last?”
Can It Last?:
Personally I think that the app will last. The app provides a service unique to other social media, which require posts or messages. Houseparty allows you to instantly connect with your friends, in real time, anywhere! Ben Rubin, the CEO of Life on Air, explains his former app Meerkat with two words: “spontaneous togetherness.” Although his words sounds somewhat ~hippie~ and Houseparty is a different app, it’s actually provides accurate description of Houseparty. Also, while you’re alone in a “party” waiting for people to join, it generates a compliment or fun fact to ease your wait. And let’s be honest, who can complain about that?
I have found that a full chat of 8 is typically a bit too hard to handle with different people speaking over each other and a variety of background noises. There also seems to be issues with lag/freezing and connection as the party size increases. A “party” of 4-6 seems to be ideal for enabling the awkward, entertaining, and ultimately fun conversations as friends continuously enter and leave. Rubin claims the idea “is to create a live, always-on place that you can dip in and out of whenever you want … it’s the best part of live streaming, minus the social anxieties the come from calling someone or initiating a FaceTime call.” The innovative app provides users with a truly unfiltered way to connect and share with friends and family instantaneously. Ultimately, Houseparty employs the fun, back-and-forth banter, of group chats combined with live video to provide a competitive advantage that differentiates the app from its competitors.
I also believe Houseparty will endure the tests of time because its promotion to college students, its target market, has been extremely successful. This new way to connect has provided a new and unique form of communication that has fit the needs of college students well. It allows students to make plans before going out to bars on weekend nights, relive their stories the next day with friends, and even collaborate on homework assignments and projects. Once the app was released on iOS and Android the company sent employees to college campuses in Alabama, Ohio, and Arkansas. These employees met with fraternities, sororities and student groups to show them how the app worked. The app has a feature where you can invite friends to join by sending them a text message, leveraging the network effect to gain popularity. This has proved to be extremely successful. Houseparty peaked as the number two spot on the App Store’s top download chart, and as of the end of September it was approaching over 1 million users in all fifty states and abroad.
friend who overruled me (and is to blame for my addiction to Houseparty): Dan K.
friend who takes screenshots: Anne D.
friends who joined my “party”: Holly W., Sarah P., Nick P., Mark P., Zac B., Collin R., Regan M., Galen O., Tara K., Connor vC., Christian B., Gigi M., Morgan “A$AP” H.