A woman using the Houseparty app. A woman using the Houseparty app. A woman using the Houseparty app. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

Is group video chat the next big Facebook trend?

The Houseparty app has skyrocketed in recent months, and the social media giant has taken notice.

Saturday evening is approaching, and you and your friends are trying to figure out what to do. Should you go to a bar? Maybe catch a new superhero movie at the multiplex? Or perhaps check out that new Mediterranean restaurant in town?

Until now, these conversations might have taken place over a group text with everybody weighing in. But what if there was an easy way to use your phone to have a live group video call with your friends? Moreover, what if you didn't have to plan the chat, but just always had a virtual room available where people can pop in and out? That's the point of Houseparty, an app which has been on the market for about a year, and is just now picking up steam. As one reporter described, "it lets small groups of friends drop into a video conversation as if hanging out in a dorm room."

First, here's a video explaining how Houseparty works:

The app is attracting angel investors from throughout Silicon Valley due to its prestigious pedigree. It's the brainchild of Ben Rubin, the 29-year-old wunderkind behind the popular Meerkat app. The Israeli tech entrepreneur's showstopping Meerkat app was the darling of the 2015 South by Southwest festival. It was one of the first apps to popularize live streaming videos, but when Facebook and Twitter copied the idea, Meerkat evolved into Houseparty. The new app is more focused on video chats for groups instead of broadcasting it to the world. (This is not to be confused with Glide, another Israeli tech startup, that focuses on video chat messages.)

Houseparty has more than a million monthly users and is currently in the top 20 social networking apps for the iPhone – behind LinkedIn, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Meerkat founder Ben Rubin and team have made the live streaming service available to Facebook users.Houseparty co-founder Ben Rubin is a graduate of the Technion Institute in Israel. (Photo: The DEMO Conference/Flickr)

Facebook has taken notice of Houseparty's success and, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, is planning to release its own group video chat app this fall called Bonfire. The social network giant, which now boasts 2 billion monthly active users, is constantly looking for new tools that encourage more time spent on its platform. An app that allows you and your Facebook friends to host a group video chat seems like a natural extension.

Facebook is moving aggressively into video. Earlier this month it launched Watch, its redesigned tab for video programming. That's in addition to Facebook Live streams, which have become exceedingly popular, racking up millions of views. The Silicon Valley company also plans on rolling out a feature called “go live with a friend,” enabling two people to broadcast together to the public, no matter where they're located. Think of a split screen approach you see on cable news and you get the idea.

As for Rubin, he's taking Facebook's interest in stride. "I have no problem with the copying," he said. “It’s just business. It’s just a distraction.”

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