Image credit: Houseparty
What if you could throw a virtual party whenever you want that your friends from around the world could attend at a second’s notice? That’s the idea behind Houseparty, an iOS and Android video chatting app designed for spontaneous conversation.
Houseparty has a tremendous following with tweens, but I hadn’t heard of it until around six months ago.
The way it works is pretty simple: When you launch the app you create a chat room of sorts, and then your friends who also have the app can drop in. Your friends can set things up so they’re notified whenever you launch the app (if they definitely don’t want to miss you), and you have the ability to invite friends into a chat room that don’t make it there on their own.
Six years ago I moved to a new city, and I’ve found the app to be an amazing way to stay connected to some of my best friends that aren’t nearby. There are infinite ways to video chat someone these days, and we use those too, but there’s something nice about being able to say “Oh, Kayla is online” and drop in for a chat.
With other video chatting options like Skype, Facetime, and Google Hangouts I always feel like I need to ask before I call, or set up a time with friends ahead of time. Video chatting is just not something I’m comfortable doing casually without some sort of planned chat set up before I dial. With Houseparty, I can be drinking a beer alone at home, decide I want company, and instantly invite all my friends who have the app to join me.
Sure, sometimes that means I’m still drinking that beer alone. However, more often than not, some of my friends are also somewhere where they could video chat for a bit and a virtual party emerges.
For instance, one recent evening I ended up chatting for an hour with friends from NYC, Chicago, North Carolina, and Los Angeles. We were all friends in college, but haven’t been in the same room in over a decade. Even though the hangout was on my tiny phone screen, it was pretty amazing to have us all in the same place at the same time, and we didn’t plan it at all.
Rooms can hold up to eight people, and you can have multiple rooms open at the same time. The idea being you can float between different “rooms” at the party and chat with different groups of friends.
You can lock rooms if you want to have a private chat. Otherwise, they’re open to anyone who is friends with someone that is already in the room. For instance, if I’m talking my friend Paul in NYC, then his friend Sally, that I don’t know, can join our room as well. I’ve actually met a few people this way that I’ve later hung out with in person.
Using the app requires your friends to have the app too. However, it’s fun enough that once you get a few buddies on there it spreads through your friend group pretty quickly. When I started, I had maybe three friends using the app and now I’m up to over thirty, upping my odds for finding that late night drinking buddy.