The Rise of Group Video Chat and Truly ‘Social’ Media


The majority of Gen Z’s interactions with friends occur through, or at least from behind, the screen. But they still, whether out of habit or formality, go to the effort of dragging their bodies around to meet up with each other. 

The advent of live group video chat, however, promises to make this inconvenience a thing of the past. No longer do younger generations have to leave their house to catch up or hang out with their friends. If they want, they don’t even have to get out of bed or change from their pyjamas.

Apps like Houseparty, Tribe, and Facebook Messenger are offering users an ultra-modern-day version of the internet chatroom, complete with full HD video functionality, space for up to 50 people, and all the features, filters, and emojis one could ever wish for.

You could say these are the apps that are finally turning social media into a social experience. Rather than a bunch of independent and faceless people tapping away from behind their screens while they browse the web or watch Netflix, in group video chat, users can see and interact with eachother while playing games, sharing doodles, and even watching YouTube videos. Regardless of who they are or where in the world they may be. This makes social media much more about the experiences and relationships it affords than the appearances and connections it exhibits.

But whatever your stance is on group video chat, there’s no doubt it’s going to become more and more popular in the coming years and appear on the radar of the majority of digital businesses. For this reason, it’s worth taking a minute or two to find out more about the apps leading the trend and discover just what is it that makes them so popular.

Houseparty: The virtual gathering

Houseparty is the app that can be given much of the credit for the spawning of live group video chat. Just like Skype or Facetime, with Houseparty, you can have a live video conversation with someone wherever they are in the world. But unlike Skype and Facetime, you can do it with up to eight people at once and have several ‘parties’ going on at one time.

Houseparty has become so widespread it’s one of the most downloaded apps in the App Store, with over 20 million users and half a billion video calls made. It’s reported that 60 percent of Houseparty users are under the age of 24 and spend an average of nearly an hour a day chatting in the app. To understand why this is so impressive, compare it to Snapchat’s users who spend on average 30 minutes a day in the app. And Facebook’s users who only spend 50 minutes per day on Instagram, Facebook and Messenger, in total.

Facebook Group Chat: The bigger, open-door party

Messenger, the standalone app from Facebook that’s now used by over 1.3 billion people each month, launched it’s own group video chat feature in late 2016. At only a year old, the app has already logged a total of 17 billion video calls.

Messenger group chat differs from Houseparty in a number of ways. First, calls aren’t restricted to a mere 8 people, but 50. Which makes it unique from every other video chat app on the market. Each chat has a link that can be shared so new users can join the call. And like it’s text-based chat, it also features reactions, filters, and a range of effects that can be laid onto the people in the call in real time.

There are a few other group video chat apps out there worth noting, like Tribe. Tribe is soon to launch it’s version 2.0, featuring advanced voice recognition technology that picks up on ‘magic words’ and phrases and allows users to act on them during the call. For instance, the app may recognise when someone says the name of a movie and suggest a link that instantly directs you to its trailer. Not to mention Airtime, another app which has a few of its own USPs like its signal feature that notifies friends to join the call when someone is about to do something ‘cool’.

It’s clear, though, that the fight for the top will be between Messenger and Houseparty, the two apps with the largest user base — a crucial factor for a service based on getting all your friends together in one place.

Just as instant messaging replaced email and the text-based chatroom, group video chat may eventually replace instant messaging. What exactly that means for marketers and digital businesses going into 2018 is unsure. But as a much more engaging, shareable, and multidimensional way to interact with others than current social media platforms and messenger apps, it’s certainly not something you want to miss out on.

Joseph Pennington is a freelance writer and long-term traveller from the North of England. Find him on Medium exploring remote working, technology, spirituality, meditation, and everything in between.