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Virtual parties fill the boredom gap

Last updated on May 8, 2020

With the lockdown and the need for social distancing, apps like Houseparty are enabling people to continue with their Saturday night plans 

Lockdown has forced the entire world to practice social distancing and in some areas has even led to lockdowns. Human civilisation that relies on physical contact then has been left with no option but to find alternative ways to connect with their friends and family. In this time of need, technology has come to the rescue and video calling is the closest mode of ensuring socialising without the risk of infection. 

This is clearly reflected in downloading trends of video calling applications like Google Duo and Skype which have for long dominated this sphere. But one app, in particular, has a lot of takers with its download numbers shooting through the roof, Houseparty saw 6,51,694 daily downloads as of 25 March. Compared to its earlier download numbers that came in around 24,795 on 15 February, it is the new favourite of users on the app stores.

Launched in 2016 by Life of Air Inc, Houseparty slowly gained popularity among the youth in India, which has made it the top trending app on both IOS and Android. The informal design of the app is attractive and user friendly, which makes it a favourite of young city dwellers who love partying. The early successes of the app during the time of lockdown has made it the talk of towns, especially in larger metropolises.

The popularity of the app stems from its features that allow users to host virtual parties comprising of up to eight friends. Joining the party is allowed only through invites. But what truly sets the app apart from other video conference apps is that it allows in-built games that users can play while on video call. These games include Heads Up, Trivia, Chips and Quick Draw, all of which can be played without downloading them separately.

The app sends notifications to users whenever their friends are online. Users can then join an ongoing video call whenever they wish and don’t need a separate invite. They can also walk out whenever they wish. The app also allows users to lock the screen and send private messages during a virtual party to ensure a private space during a party.

On 30 March, however, reports streamed from users aboiut security lapses in the app. They claimed that hackers were using Houseparty to steal sensitive personal data from their smartphones. They also complained that because of the security issues in the app, hackers were able to access other applications such as Instagram and Spotify, among others, in their smartphones. 

The official response from Houseparty as shared on Twitter said, “All Houseparty accounts are safe — the service is secure, has never been compromised, and doesn’t collect passwords for other sites.”

They later added that news of security problems with the app is part of a smear campaign and announced a bounty for proof of such a campaign, “We are investigating indications that the recent hacking rumours were spread as part of a paid commercial smear campaign to harm Houseparty. We are offering a $1,000,000 bounty for the first individual to provide proof of such information.”

Keeping in mind that the privacy policy and terms and conditions of Houseparty are very similar to those of other video calling apps, the likelihood of an application allowing security risks to run amok, that too with millions of users on-board, is highly unlikely.

When we tried using the app, though, there were some connection problems. Many users have also made similar complaints to which the admin esponded through a tweet. The failure to address this issue is one of its biggest shortcomings and the main reason behind it not being at par with behemoths like WhatsApp. The games available within the app also become boring after a point.

Overall, there are quite a few modifications that can be made to the Houseparty app to further increase its popularity. And looking at the current lockdown that requires social distancing and has provided people ample spare time, this might be the right time for the app to update and improve. However, despite its shortcomings, it’s a good app and is a fun way of connecting with friends and family.