Last week, I’d never heard of Houseparty. And chances are, you hadn’t either. Unless you’re a teenager who’s also got a handle on TikTok. Today, I’m on it, my friends are on it, my colleagues are on it, my family are on it…even my gran is on it!
For the uninitiated, Houseparty is an app that lets you video call your up to 8 of your contacts at a time. You can play mini-games, leave video messages and even have the ‘door’ open or closed to let people join or leave the party as they please.
I was a little sceptical at first. That’s not to say I thought it had an agenda or seemed dodgy…or at least I didn’t at the time. I was just a bit like, “another app? Really?”
But, with little else left to do in my two-bed flat, I downloaded it. And I was shocked at just how seamless the whole experience was. Within minutes, I’d added all the contacts I would ever really want to talk to on my phone and could see who else was ‘in the house’. No fiddling about with usernames or QR codes. It was easy.
As it happened, my friend Dan was online. So, I gave him a call, we had a chat, played a couple of rounds of Heads Up and said our goodbyes. Neither of us even brought up the fact that we were conversing on this platform that was brand-new to us. It was that intuitive.
So, where has Houseparty come from? A little Googling tells me it launched in 2017 to some success, which led to Facebook trying to buy the app in 2018 (but dropping out over privacy issue concerns). Instead, Epic Games (owners of Fortnite) picked it up in 2019. However, with the rise of Instagram Stories, the success tailed off.
But, now, as if from nowhere it’s shot from obscurity to an essential part of everyday life. Ok, maybe not essential, but it’s been pretty good for keeping in touch and staying sane in lockdown Britain.
Houseparty’s seemingly overnight success is both a testament to our eternal need to be together and our eternal fear of missing out.
What happens to it post-pandemic? We’ll see.
Written by Jack Glasscock
April 2, 2020