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One of the biggest social media trends headed into 2017 is group video chat. Essentially, it means the ability to hang out with your friends or colleagues over video, all via your instant messaging app. If you’re using Facebook Messenger, for example, you can now use the brand new Group Video Chats to ring in the New Year with your far-flung friends from all over the world.
Rivals to Facebook
And it’s not just Facebook that has awakened to the power of group video chat. One of the hottest apps taking over college campuses these days is Houseparty, which the founders describe as a way to have “face-to-face conversations on the Internet.” The goal of Houseparty is to make these interactions via video as informal as possible. In fact, the first rule of Houseparty (no joking) is that “It’s a party.”
There are plenty of other “rules” that help to define the Houseparty experience, like the fact that there are “no randos” and “the more people, the more fun.” Also – and this is a big one – you can “show up or leave at any time.” Anytime you open up Houseparty, you’re immediately surrounded by your friends, so you don’t have to worry about hunting around for something to see (“one tap… and you’re with friends”).
There are plenty of other rivals, too, trying to win the group video chat space. There’s Sean Parker’s Airtime, for example, which bills itself as a way to “hang out with a group and share music and videos.” For example, say you’re chilling with your friends, and one of them says, “I just heard a great song yesterday.” Well, that person could send that song over Airtime to all the other participants, so that they too could listen to the song while chatting.
Where’s the innovation?
But, wait, you’re probably asking, what’s the big deal about group video chats? Haven’t we been using Skype for years now? Don’t people use Google Hangouts already?
Well, there are at least two big differences. One of them is that your messaging app is your new social network. In fact, Houseparty defines itself as what would have happened “if FaceTime was built as a social network.” That creates a much more lightweight experience. Think how easy it is to text message people every day. It’s so much easier than opening up a Facebook app and clicking around. And you don’t have to install any annoying software.
And there’s another big feature – and that’s the ability to share social content via the messaging service, and not via a social network. In the same way that you send people links to articles or stories via Facebook Messenger, you can now do all that while you’re having a group video chat.
And, finally, these new innovations take the formality out of face-to-face conversations. Think of how people use Skype – you have to send out an invite, and plan to meet at a certain time, and everyone’s upset if the call quality is not that great. And forget it if you try to add more than two people to a call.
In contrast, these new video chat apps are meant to be fun, informal and lightweight. Houseparty is perhaps the best example of this – it’s literally meant to be a party. Which might explain why it caught on first at college campuses, and not in the office suites of huge corporations.