Houseparty Chat Expands Beyond Teens to Wider Audience

Zoom has gotten a lot of attention as the popular video chat platform that’s soared in usage since the COVID-19 shutdown. But Houseparty is another video chat platform with free mobile and desktop apps that’s gaining traction. Originally targeting teens, Houseparty offers features designed to encourage interaction, such as jumping into a conversation or playing trivia games remotely. In the last month, Houseparty has had 50 million signups, about 70 times its typical number in some markets, said cofounder and chief executive Sima Sistani.

Bloomberg reports that, according to App Annie, Houseparty “has been the most-downloaded social networking app in Apple’s U.S. App Store every day since March 20 — ahead of Facebook’s trio of Facebook, Messenger and WhatsApp — and it was the second-most downloaded app of any category over Easter weekend behind only Zoom.”

The four-year old Houseparty raised $70+ million in venture capital, and in a 2016 fundraising round was valued at around $150 million, according to PitchBook. Last June, Epic Games acquired Houseparty, with which it had a “shared vision of enabling more live interaction, an increasingly prevalent goal in the gaming industry.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic, Sistani, who “sees Houseparty as a more intimate alternative to [social media] feeds,” has “seen the app used for everything from happy hours and fitness sessions to engagements and gender reveals.” “I just think any kind of activity that would usually be in person with your loved ones, people are moving to Houseparty,” she said. Rather than rely on advertising, Houseparty is “looking at offering in-app purchases, though that business is still nascent.”

“It’s not about capitalizing on this moment,” she added. “That is not how we’re thinking about it at all.” The startup that created Houseparty was known earlier for livestreaming app Meerkat, which “was the 2015 breakout hit at tech and media conference South by Southwest.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that, “Houseparty is being invaded by aging newcomers stuck home with a younger generation … [and they] alternately entertain and annoy everybody with their new video-chat habit.” Having once chided their children for spending too much time with screens, parents are now holding Houseparty Happy Hours and chatting with friends multiple times per day. As one teen said about his mother, “she video chats so much it was giving us a headache.” “She never used to do videoconferencing,” he said. “Now she does it even more than I do.”

WSJ notes that, “unlike Zoom or Google Hangouts, video-chat programs popular with schools and businesses, Houseparty not only offers to connect to users’ phone lists but also to their social-media contacts so they can become ‘friends’ over the app.” Once the user opens a chat, up to eight of her Houseparty friends can join. The app also “automatically lists the usernames of strangers when typing a letter or character into the search bar, making it possible to send ‘friend’ requests to anyone.”

Sensor Tower reported that, in March, Houseparty “gained 17 million downloads world-wide … [and] was also “among the top 10 downloaded apps in 17 countries … including Canada, France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain.”

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