Coronavirus has wreaked havoc across the globe and every regional, as well as international authority, is urging people to practise social distancing. Amid this unprecedented crisis, one app is trying to bridge the gap — Houseparty.
Just like the name suggests, the concept is to host a virtual house party where users can join in whenever they want. The host, in this case, is you. The moment you log in, you’ve started a virtual “house party” where your friends and acquaintances can join in. It’s simple terms; it’s like Skype. But, you don’t have to add anyone manually to a group or team call.
How’s this app different from Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime?
- The moment you’re online, your friends who’ve you’ve added will get a notification that you’re online, ready to host a Houseparty. It’s much more than just a video calling platform. During the call it lets users play games like heads up, trivia, chips and guac, good or bad, quick draw, and much more. Keeping users engaged for hours is the point.
- Unlike WhatsApp, HouseParty lets you call eight people and not just four like video calls on Facebook-owned WhatsApp. Anyone can join a video chat room as long as any of their friends are a part of it. It also enables you to meet new people, who’re called “mutual” friends in Facebook terminology.
- Folks who need privacy can simply “lock” the room so no one can enter the room and disturb. Once you’re online, it’s your virtual house. Lock the doors when you want.
- The informal atmosphere is what makes it unique. A house party is a casual way of meeting new people. And the app succeeds in accomplishing precisely that.
- It sends out a notification when someone starts using the app, letting you know they are available to chill. There’s also a “wave” feature to get their attention. Remember the good old days of “poking” friends on Facebook?
- If your friends aren’t online, send them a facemail instead to grab their attention. In one sentence, the app is an open video chatting platform where you can talk to known as well as unknown people.
- Usually, we call our friends. But in times like these, calls can often get mundane. Folks in long-distance relationships shall understand this better. Similarly, the app offers a virtual meet, and when clubbed with in-built games, why go anywhere else?
Why is the app suddenly trending?
- Coronavirus. Multiple countries are on lockdown and urging people to stay indoors. The virus is easy to transfer, and the number of infected people is rising every minute across the world. While China says it has contained the virus, developed countries like the USA, Spain, and Italy still have an exponentially increasing count of victims.
- India is on lockdown for 21 days. People are strictly advised to stay indoors or isolate themselves. Humans are inherently socialising creatures. When was the last time you were locked in your house for days, if not weeks? The app aims to bridge this gap virtually by leveraging modern-age technology. Phone calls too, are a thing of the past. While introverts may be able to get by for a short period, at the end of the day, we all need someone to talk to.
- The app, which launched in 2016, was ranked 1450th for its popularity. But reported 2 million downloads last week alone and has become particularly popular among teenagers. Today, it’s the fourth most trending app on the AppStore. Schools and colleges are closed. Due to the sudden nature of the lockdown, barely anyone has assignments or projects to complete. Streaming is one way of passing the time, but how long will that be enough to entertain you?
- Not just Generation Z, but even the millennials have flocked the platform. Many of them work for companies that can’t have a work-from-home setup. Or, the entrepreneurs whose supply chains have come to a grinding halt. It’s just a matter of time before the Boomers also come along!
But, is the app safe enough? Are there any privacy issues?
- Online rumours alleged that downloading the app led to other services such as Netflix and Spotify getting hacked. Obviously, these were just rumours at large. The developer has confirmed there is “no evidence” to back up these claims.
- Keep in mind, the app is developed by Epic Games, the company behind infamous Fortnite. There’s no way a seasoned company and experienced company would lie about something like this. “We’ve found no evidence to suggest a link between Houseparty and the compromises of other unrelated accounts,” a spokesperson for Epic Games confirmed.
- As a confidence-building measure, Epic Games has announced a reward of $1 million. The first person able to share any evidence that links the app to other accounts getting hacked will get the bounty. White hat hackers, someone’s knocking on your doors.
- The app does not access third-party apps like Netflix or Spotify. When you install the app, it merely gives you the option to sign-in via services like Facebook. Something that’s standard across the industry today.
- To further enhance your experience, you can let it access your Facebook or Snapchat friends list. It makes it easier to discover friends who are already on the platform. If you’re still concerned about sharing your data with the app, search up your friends manually as you do it on any other social network. If you’re daring enough, select “nearby” option, and it’ll list all users who are close to your location and available for a virtual party.
- Lastly, if you’re worried about notifications being sent out to your friends when you come online, don’t worry. Just head to the “Settings” menu and disable the “Send Out My Notifications” and “Get My Friend’s Notifications” options.
- UPDATED: It has emerged that you can’t delete your Houseparty account on Android in case you want to leave the platform forever. The iOS variant of the app has an option under the privacy section that lets you wipe your presence on their servers. However, it’s not that easy on Android. You’ll have to manually send an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org from your registered email and ask them to get your account off. Obviously, uninstalling the app is always an available option.
During unprecedented times, unparalleled solutions are needed. And Houseparty accomplishes precisely this. Thanks to technology, you may be stuck indoors, but you’re still in touch with your friends, playing games, taking shots, and virtually hanging out. It’s a win-win for everyone. The app also offers users an incentive not to go out. This simple initiative can go a long way in saving lives and being together to fight a pandemic.